As an AIM-listed company, ReNeuron intends to adopt as far as possible the principles of the Quoted Companies Alliance Corporate Governance Code (the “QCA Code”). The QCA Code identifies ten principles to be followed in order for companies to deliver growth in long-term shareholder value, encompassing an efficient, effective and dynamic management framework accompanied by good communication to promote confidence and trust.
The sections below set out the ways in which the Group applies the ten principles of the QCA Code in support of the Group’s medium to long-term success. The QCA code can be found on the QCA’s website www.theqca.com.
1. Establish a strategy and business model which promote long-term value for shareholders
The strategy and business operations of the Group are set out in the Strategic Report on pages 08 to 33 of the Group’s 2020 Annual Report.
The Group’s strategy and business model, and amendments thereto, are developed by the Chief Executive Officer and his senior management team, and approved by the Board. The management team, led by the Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for implementing the strategy and managing the business at an operational level.
The Group’s overall strategic objective is to develop best-in-class cell-based therapies in its areas of therapeutic focus.
The Group has a balanced portfolio of cell-based platform technologies and therapeutic programmes targeting significant, unmet or poorly met areas of medical need. The Group deploys its financial and other resources towards gaining clinical validation for its therapeutic programmes, via well-designed clinical trials in well-regulated territories. Ultimately, the Directors believe that this approach will deliver significant long-term value for shareholders if the resulting clinical trial data are compelling.
At the appropriate stage of development, the Group may choose to realise monetary value in a therapeutic programme via high-value out-licensing deals with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies with interests in the relevant therapeutic field and/or geographical territories. The out-licensing in April 2019 of the development and commercialisation of the Group’s hRPC and CTX products to Fosun Pharma in China represents a successful manifestation of this strategy. Alternatively, and if resources permit, the Group may choose to advance a therapeutic candidate through late-stage clinical development unpartnered in order to retain the full value of the programme within the Group.
The Group has adopted a portfolio approach to its strategic assets and is not dependent on one particular platform technology, having developed therapeutic programmes around its CTX neural and hRPC retinal stem cell assets, as well as its CTX-derived exosome nanomedicine platform. The Directors believe that this approach helps to mitigate the risk of failure in any one particular programme.
The Group operates in an inherently high risk and heavily regulated sector and this is reflected in the principal risks and uncertainties set out on pages 30 to 33 in the Group’s 2020 Annual Report. In executing the Group’s strategy and operational plans, management will typically confront a range of day-to-day challenges associated with these key risks and uncertainties, and will seek to deploy the identified mitigation steps to manage these risks as they manifest themselves.
2. Seek to understand and meet shareholder needs and expectations
The Group seeks to maintain a regular dialogue with both existing and potential new shareholders in order to communicate the Group’s strategy and progress and to understand the needs and expectations of shareholders.
Beyond the Annual General Meeting, the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and, where appropriate, other members of the senior management team meet regularly with investors and analysts to provide them with updates on the Group’s business and to obtain feedback regarding the market’s expectations of the Group.
The Group’s investor relations activities encompass dialogue with both institutional and private investors. The Company is a regular presenter at private investor events, providing an opportunity for those investors to meet with representatives from the Group in a more informal setting.
3. Take into account wider stakeholder and social responsibilities and their implications for long-term success
The Group is aware of its corporate social responsibilities and the need to maintain effective working relationships across a range of stakeholder groups. These include the Group’s employees, partners, suppliers, regulatory authorities and the patients involved in the Group’s clinical development activities. The Group’s operations and working methodologies take account of the need to balance the needs of all of these stakeholder groups while maintaining focus on the Board’s primary responsibility to promote the success of the Group for the benefit of its members as a whole. The Group endeavours to take account of feedback received from stakeholders, making amendments to working arrangements and operational plans where appropriate and where such amendments are consistent with the Group’s longer term strategy.
The Group takes due account of any impact that its activities may have on the environment and seeks to minimise this impact wherever possible. Through the various procedures and systems it operates, the Group ensures full compliance with health and safety and environmental legislation relevant to its activities.
4. Embed effective risk management, considering both opportunities and threats, throughout the organisation
The Board is responsible for the systems of risk management and internal control and for reviewing their effectiveness. The internal controls are appropriate to a business of this size and complexity and are designed to manage rather than eliminate risk and provide reasonable but not absolute assurance against material misstatement or loss. Through the activities of the Audit Committee, the effectiveness of these internal controls is reviewed annually. Key elements of the system of internal control include:
- setting and communicating clear strategic goals;
- a comprehensive budgeting process is completed once a year and is reviewed and approved by the Board;
- the Group’s results, compared with the budget, are reported on a monthly basis;
- the Group reforecasts the budget as necessary during the financial year, with the results reviewed and approved by the Board;
- working within a defined set of delegated authorities, approved by the Board; and
- all material contracts are reviewed by an Executive Director of the Company and external legal advice is taken as appropriate.
The Group’s regulated activities are governed by appropriate Standard Operating Procedures. Staff behaviour is governed by appropriate policies including an Anti-Bribery Policy.
The Group maintains appropriate insurance cover in respect of actions taken against the Directors because of their roles, as well as against material loss or claims against the Group. The insured values and type of cover are comprehensively reviewed on a periodic basis.
The senior management team meet at least twice monthly to consider new risks and opportunities presented to the Group, making recommendations to the Board and/or Audit Committee as appropriate.
A summary of the principal risks and uncertainties facing the Group, as well as mitigating actions, are set out on pages 26 to 28 of the Group’s 2019 Annual Report.
5. Maintain the Board as a well-functioning, balanced team led by the Chair
The Board currently comprises six Non-executive Directors, and two Executive Directors.
All of the Directors are subject to election by shareholders at the first Annual General Meeting after their appointment to the Board and will continue to seek re-election at least once every three years.
Directors’ biographies are set out here…ReNeuron Board of Directors
The Board is responsible to the shareholders for the proper management of the Group and meets at least six times a year to set the overall direction and strategy of the Group, to review scientific, operational and financial performance and to advise on management appointments. All key operational and investment decisions are subject to Board approval. A schedule of Matters Reserved for the Board may be found here…
A summary of Board and Committee meetings held during the year ended 31 March 2020 is set out in the Group’s 2020 Annual Report.
The Board considers itself to be sufficiently independent. The QCA Code suggests that a board should have at least two independent Non-executive Directors. All of the Non-executive Directors who currently sit on the Board of the Company are regarded as independent under the QCA Code’s guidance for determining such independence.
Until February 2019, Professor Sir Chris Evans sat on the board of Arix Bioscience plc who, by virtue of its ownership of Arthurian Life Sciences Limited, has an interest in 9.5% of the share capital of the Company. This is beneath the 10% threshold the UK Corporate Governance Code suggests when determining independence.
Non-executive Directors receive their fees in the form of a basic cash fee and an equity-based fee which takes the form of nominal price share options under the Company’s Non-executive Share Option Scheme. To avoid any incentive effect that may influence the Non-executive Directors’ independence, these share options vest over three years on a straight-line basis and are not subject to performance conditions. The option grants concerned are not deemed to be significant, either for any individual Non-executive Director or in aggregate. The current remuneration structure for the Board’s Non-executive Directors is deemed to be proportionate and was subject to a shareholder consultation process prior to its implementation.
6. Ensure that between them, the Directors have the necessary up-to-date experience, skills and capabilities
The Board considers that all of the Non-executive Directors are of sufficient competence and calibre to add strength and objectivity to the Board, and bring considerable experience in scientific, operational and financial development of biopharmaceutical products and companies.
Directors’ biographies are set out here…ReNeuron Board of Directors
The Board regularly reviews the composition of the Board to ensure that it has the necessary breadth and depth of skills to support the ongoing development of the Group.
The Chairman, in conjunction with the Company Secretary, ensures that the Directors’ knowledge is kept up to date on key issues and developments pertaining to the Group, its operational environment and to the Directors’ responsibilities as members of the Board. During the course of the year, Directors received updates from the Company Secretary and various external advisers on a number of corporate governance matters.
Directors’ service contracts or appointment letters make provision for a Director to seek personal advice in furtherance of his or her duties and responsibilities, normally via the Company Secretary.
7. Evaluate Board performance based on clear and relevant objectives, seeking continuous improvement
The Board has a process for evaluation of its own performance, that of its committees and individual Directors, including the Chairman. This process is conducted biennially and last took place in May 2019. The Board utilises the services of an independent third party organisation to manage the evaluation process, analyse the results and report back to the Board for subsequent follow-up. Evaluation criteria include Controls and Procedures, Strategic Aims, Entrepreneurial Leadership and Communications and Relationships.
The Board may utilise the results of the evaluation process when considering the adequacy of the composition of the Board and for succession planning.
8. Promote a corporate culture that is based on ethical values and behaviours
The Board seeks to maintain the highest standards of integrity and probity in the conduct of the Group’s operations. These values are enshrined in the written policies and working practices adopted by all employees in the Group. An open culture is encouraged within the Group, with regular communications to staff regarding progress and staff feedback regularly sought. There is an Employee Engagement Group and a Staff Engagement Survey has been introduced which has delivered positive feedback. The Executive Committee regularly monitors the Group’s cultural environment and seeks to address any concerns than may arise, escalating these to Board level as necessary.
The Group is committed to providing a safe environment for its staff and all other parties for which the Group has a legal or moral responsibility in this area. The Group operates a Health and Safety Committee which meets monthly to monitor, review and make decisions concerning health and safety matters. The Group’s health and safety policies and procedures are enshrined in the Group’s documented quality systems, which encompass all aspects of the Group’s day-to-day operations.
9. Maintain governance structures and processes that are fit for purpose and support good decision-making by the Board
The Board has overall responsibility for promoting the success of the Group. The Executive Directors have day-to-day responsibility for the operational management of the Group’s activities. The Non-executive Directors are responsible for bringing independent and objective judgement to Board decisions.
There is a clear separation of the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Non-executive Chairman. The Chairman is responsible for overseeing the running of the Board, ensuring that no individual or group dominates the Board’s decision-making and ensuring the Non-executive Directors are properly briefed on matters. The Chairman has overall responsibility for corporate governance matters in the Group and chairs the Nominations and Corporate Governance Committee. The Chief Executive Officer has the responsibility for implementing the strategy of the Board and managing the day-to-day business activities of the Group. The Company Secretary is responsible for ensuring that Board procedures are followed and applicable rules and regulations are complied with.
The Board has established an Audit Committee, Remuneration Committee and Nominations and Corporate Governance Committee with formally delegated duties and responsibilities. Dr Claudia D’Augusta chairs the Audit Committee, Simon Cartmell OBE chairs the Remuneration Committee and John Berriman chairs the Nominations and Corporate Governance Committee.
The Audit Committee normally meets twice a year, which the Board deems to be sufficiently frequent in order for the Committee to discharge its responsibilities in the normal course of annual events. It has responsibility for, amongst other things, planning and reviewing the annual report and accounts and interim statements involving, where appropriate, the external auditors. The Committee also approves external auditors’ fees and ensures the auditors’ independence as well as focusing on compliance with legal requirements and accounting standards. It is also responsible for ensuring that an effective system of internal control is maintained. The ultimate responsibility for reviewing and approving the annual financial statements and interim statements remains with the Board.
A summary of the work of the Audit Committee during the year ended 31 March 2020 is set out in the Audit Committee Report on page 46 of the Group’s 2020 Annual Report.
The Remuneration Committee, which meets as required, but at least once a year, has responsibility for making recommendations to the Board on the compensation of senior executives and determining, within agreed terms of reference, the specific remuneration packages for each of the Executive Directors. It also supervises the Company’s share incentive schemes and sets performance conditions for share options granted under the schemes.
A Summary of the work of the Remuneration Committee is set out on page 45 of the Group’s 2020 Annual Report.
The Directors’ Remuneration Report is set out on pages 48 to 56 of the Group’s 2020 Annual Report. The Directors believe that this, together with the above mentioned summary of the work of the Remuneration Committee, constitutes sufficient disclosure to meet the QCA Code’s requirement for a Remuneration Committee Report. Consequently, a separate Remuneration Committee Report is not presented.
The Nominations and Corporate Governance Committee, which meets as required, but at least twice a year, has responsibility for reviewing the size and composition of the Board, the appointment of replacement or additional Directors, the monitoring of compliance with applicable laws, regulations and corporate governance guidance and making appropriate recommendations to the Board.
A summary of the work undertaken by the Nominations and Corporate Governance Committee during the year ended 31 March 2020 is set out on page 45 of the Group’s 2020 Annual report.
The terms of reference of the above Committees are set out in the Company’s Corporate Governance Policies, which is regularly updated and can be found here…
The Corporate Governance Policies also contain a schedule of matters specifically reserved for Board decision or approval and sets out the Company’s share dealing code and its public interest disclosure (“whistle-blowing”) policy and procedures. The background to the Corporate Governance Policies is set out in the Corporate Governance Memorandum.
10. Communicate how the Group is governed and is performing by maintaining a dialogue with shareholders and other relevant stakeholders
The Group places a high priority on regular communications with its various stakeholder groups and aims to ensure that all communications concerning the Group’s activities are clear, fair and accurate. The Group’s website is regularly updated and users can register to be alerted when announcements or details of presentations and events are posted onto the website.
Historical annual reports and other governance-related material can be found on the Group’s website in the relevant sections in the Investor Centre section of the site.
The results of voting on all resolutions in future general meetings will be posted to the Group’s website, including any actions to be taken as a result of resolutions for which votes against have been received from at least 20 per cent of independent shareholders.
The Group’s financial reports can be found here…ReNeuron Financial Reports
Notices of General Meetings of the Company can be found here…ReNeuron financial calendar
The results of voting on all resolutions in future general meetings will be posted to the Group’s website, including any actions to be taken as a result of resolutions for which votes against have been received from at least 20 per cent of independent shareholders
Click here for Annual Report 2020
Click here for ReNeuron Group plc Corporate Governance Policies
Click here for ReNeuron Group plc Corporate Governance Memorandum
Date of last review: August 2020