Given the well documented UK and sector challenges in 2019, I can only congratulate the people who run and work in our Agencies on a remarkable performance that delivered on forecast revenue and profit growth, thereby maintaining the upward progression that has been the hallmark of the rebirth of our Group for the last ten years.
2019 was undoubtedly a transitional year for the Group. Following the appointment of James Clifton, formerly CEO of our Agency bigdog, as Group Chief Executive in April, MISSION has undergone a repositioning to reflect its coming of age as a real and credible challenger to the established agency networks. Our entrepreneurial spirit, driven culture and diverse offering makes MISSION more relevant than ever as brands seek alternatives to the traditional agencies.
MISSION’s new identity has put business development at the heart of the Group, driving greater multi-Agency collaboration. At the same time, we have refined our business structure to create a simplified, more effective service offering. This has included mergers of some of our Agencies across the UK, including bigdog and krow. The new-look MISSION celebrates and drives forward the Group’s open, collaborative culture whilst aiming to retain the entrepreneurial spirit on which it has been built.
Profitable growth delivered during 2019 once again came from increased mandates from existing Clients, new Client wins and assignments and a continued focus on operating costs and margins. We are also very pleased to see continued good progress from our Pathfindr and wider Fuse initiatives. Giles Lee formally took on the role of Commercial Director at the start of the year, and new centralised initiatives and structures are already protecting and fuelling margin performance.
As well as the appointment of James Clifton as Group CEO in April 2019, we also welcomed Barry Cook, one of the founding directors of krow, to MISSION’s Board in June. krow has been a terrific addition to the Group and I have every confidence in our leadership team and their ability to deliver going forward.
The Board adopts a progressive dividend policy, aiming to grow dividends each year in line with earnings but always balancing the desire to reward our shareholders via dividends with the need to fund the Group’s growth ambitions and maintain a strong balance sheet. When we published our Trading Update in January, it was our intention to pay a final dividend of 1.53 pence per share, bringing the total for the year to 2.3 pence per share, representing an increase of 10% over 2018. The Board has proposed a resolution for a final dividend in its AGM Notice, recognising how important the dividend is to our shareholders. However, in the light of the current economic uncertainty as a result of the impact of Covid-19 on the global economy, we will make a final decision as we approach the AGM on 15 June.
OUTLOOK AND IMPACT OF COVID-19
2020 began well for MISSION and whilst we have been delighted with the early progress we have made against our plans, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented global trading environment to which few businesses are immune.
The health and well-being of our teams is our priority and we have taken decisive steps to protect them, in line with the Government guidance. The majority of our staff are used to working remotely therefore causing minimum disruption for our Client service and day to day operations.
Whilst the impact of Covid-19 on the global economy will inevitably impact on the Group’s performance in the current financial year ending 31 December 2020, MISSION has a strong balance sheet and a resilient business model servicing a broad range of Clients operating across numerous sectors and geographies. As such, the Board is confident that MISSION is well placed to continue to serve our Clients’ needs and benefit from future opportunities when normal conditions return.