The policy of the Board is to manage the affairs of Oxford Biomedica to the highest standards of corporate governance and in accordance with the principles of good governance and code of best practice as set out in the Financial Reporting Council revised UK Corporate Governance Code in July 2018 (the “2018 UK Corporate Governance Code”).
A copy of the code is available from the Financial Reporting Council’s website at www.frc.org.uk.
The current governance framework comprises of the Board and the Senior Executive Team, and their respective sub-committees, are as set out below:
Further information regarding governance at Oxford Biomedica can be found in our 2021 Annual Report.
The Board is collectively responsible for promoting the success of the Group by directing and supervising the Group’s activities to create shareholder value. In doing so, it ensures that there are robust corporate governance and risk management processes in place.
The Group considers that it was largely in compliance with the terms of the Corporate Governance Code during 2021 but acknowledges that it did not comply in full throughout the year. The Group has highlighted throughout the 2021 Annual Report areas where the Group has not been in compliance with the Corporate Governance Code. Specifically the Group acknowledges that it is not currently in compliance with the requirement in Provision 38; namely, that the pension contribution rates for Executive Directors should be aligned with those available for the workforce. The Executive Directors have received written notification that, from 31 December 2022, their pension contribution will be reduced to align with the wider workforce. Furthermore, the Group did not comply with the requirement in Provision 41 to engage with the workforce in September 2021 to explain how Executive pay aligns with the wider Group pay policy. In particular, the Workforce Engagement Panel (WEP) received a briefing on the role of the Remuneration Committee and the key highlights from the 2021-2024 Remuneration Policy, including the underlying context for increases in base pay and adjustments to the maximum bonus and long term incentive (share based) opportunity. In addition, WEP members received information relating to recent trends in executive pay and the WEP members were given the opportunity to provide feedback and discuss the topic with their respective wider teams.
The Company also acknowledges that it was not in compliance with the requirements of Provision 11 of the Corporate Governance Code for a period of two months at the beginning of 2021. However, the Board initiated searches for additional Independent Non-Executive Directors during the course of 2021 which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, took slightly longer than expected.
The Board’s powers and responsibilities are set out in the Company’s articles of association and it has a formal schedule of matters reserved for the Board’s approval which can be accessed here: Schedule of Reserved Matters.
The Board also takes a close interest in Quality, Health, Safety and Environment and Risk Management. Each of these areas prepare reports for the Board ahead of each Board meeting.
Factoring stakeholder engagement into Board decisions (section 172 of the Companies Act 2006)
By thoroughly understanding the Group’s key stakeholder groups, the Group can factor their needs and concerns into Boardroom discussions (further information on the Group’s stakeholders is on pages 18 to 19 in the 2021 Annual Report available here. The Board’s procedures have been updated to require a stakeholder impact analysis to be completed for all material decisions requiring its approval that could impact on one or more of its stakeholder groups. The stakeholder impact analysis assists the Directors in performing their duties under s.172 of the Companies Act 2006 and provides the Board with assurance that the potential impacts on its stakeholders are being carefully considered by management when developing plans for Board approval. The stakeholder impact analysis identifies:
- potential benefits and areas of concern for each stakeholder group;
- the procedures and plans being implemented to mitigate against any areas of concern; and
- who is responsible for ensuring the mitigation plans are being effectively implemented.
In accordance with s.172 of the Companies Act 2006, the Group communicates and consults regularly with employees throughout the year. In addition, the Group has designated Non- Executive Director, Stuart Henderson, as its representative for gathering the views of the workforce and to oversee employee engagement.
Certain responsibilities are delegated to three Board Committees – the Audit, Nomination and Remuneration Committees. These Committees operate under clearly defined terms of reference, which are available here.
Each director is provided with an appropriate induction on appointment.
All Directors and the Board and its Committees have access to advice and the services of the Company Secretary, and also to external professional advisors as required. The appointment and removal of the Company Secretary is a matter for the Board as a whole to consider.
The Board meets regularly with the meeting dates agreed for each year in advance. In addition to the regular Board meetings, the Board (or an appointed sub-committee of the Board) also meets on a number of other occasions to consider other ad hoc matters such as the approval of financial statements and the interim financial results.
The Chair holds meetings time to time with Non-Executive Directors, without the Executive Directors in attendance.
The Chair sets the agenda for the Board meetings in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer and the Company Secretary. Board papers, covering the agenda and taking into account items relating to the Board’s responsibilities under s.172 of the Companies Act 2006, are circulated several days ahead of each meeting. Regular Board papers cover Research; Quality; Process Research and Development; Client Programmes and Alliance Management; Analytical Services; Clinical Development and Regulatory; Digital Strategy and Business Change Projects; Business Development; Finance; Investor Relations; HR; Operations; and Safety, Health and Environment; and Risk Management.
Review of performance
In compliance with the Corporate Governance Code, the Company Secretary commissioned an external evaluation of the Board’s performance covering the period from January 2021 to the fourth quarter of 2021. The review process comprised the completion of an anonymous questionnaire covering the various aspects of Board activities and Committees and interviews with each Director individually by the external evaluator. The resulting report was discussed at the Board meetings in January and March 2022 and the Board plans to implement appropriate changes based on the discussions of the report.
Retirement of Directors
In accordance with the articles of association and to ensure compliance with the Corporate Governance Code all Directors are subject to annual re-election at each Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The Group supports the principles of the Hampton-Alexander Review on gender balance. During 2021, the Board comprised three woman and seven men (30%) and, therefore, did not meet the FTSE Women Leaders’ recommendation that 33% of the Board for FTSE350 companies consists of women by the end of 2021. The Board was delighted to welcome Namrata P Patel to the Board as an Independent Non-Executive Director in April 2022, and following Ms Patel’s appointment, the Board comprises 36% women and is in compliance with the recommendations of the FTSE Women Leaders Review.
The Group believes that members of the Board and senior management should collectively possess a diverse range of skills, expertise and should come from a diverse range of ethnic and societal backgrounds. In terms of the next level of management, during 2021, the SET, excluding the Executive Directors, totalled seven, of which there were two female members. In the gender pay gap report for 2021, the Group had more females than males at the Head of Department level and senior management level, thereby meeting the FTSE Women Leaders Review’s recommendation that 33% of senior leadership roles (defined as the SET and their direct reports) be held by women at the end of 2021. Part of the Group’s strategy will be to maintain and improve on the targets, so that the objectives of the FTSE Women Leaders Review will be continued to be met during 2022/2023.
The Board is aware of the recommendations of the Parker Review on Ethnic Diversity. The Parker Review set a target for companies to have at least one Board member from an ethnic minority background by 2021. Whilst during 2021 none of the serving Board members identified as belonging to an ethnic minority, the Nomination Committee had initiated a search with external search consultants, Spencer Stuart, for an additional Independent Non-Executive Director targeting female and ethnically diverse candidates whilst taking into account suitability for the role to ensure that the Group has the right mix of skills, experience, independence and knowledge for the Group’s strategic objectives. Namrata P Patel’s appointment to the Board in April 2022 further strengthened and diversified the Board and aligned the Board's composition with the recommendations of the Parker Review.
Communication with shareholders
The Board recognises the importance of effective communication with shareholders and potential investors. The primary points of contact are the Interim Chief Executive Officer and Chair, and Chief Financial Officer, but the Deputy Chair and Chair of the Remuneration Committee are also available for meetings with investors, if required. For more details of the Group’s shareholder communications, please see page 90 of the 2021 Annual Report.
The Board is responsible for determining the nature and extent of the risks it is willing to take in achieving the objectives of the Group and it reviews current key risks at every Board meeting. The Audit Committee monitors the conduct of the risk management processes within the Group whilst the SET is accountable for those processes, identifying the risks facing the Group and formulating risk mitigation plans. The active involvement of the Executive Directors in the management subcommittees allows them to monitor and assess significant business, operational, financial, compliance and other risks.
The Directors are responsible for the Group’s system of internal control and for reviewing its effectiveness. The system is designed to manage, rather than eliminate, the risk of failure to achieve business objectives, and can only provide reasonable, and not absolute, assurance against material misstatement or loss. The Audit Committee annually reviews the effectiveness of all significant aspects of internal control, including financial, operational and compliance controls, and risk management.
Senior Executive Team
The Board retains overall responsibility for, and control of, the Group. The Interim Chief Executive Officer is Dr. Roch Doliveux, and the Chief Financial Officer is Stuart Paynter. Operational management is conducted by the Executive Directors who, together with James Miskin, Kyriacos Mitrophanous, Nick Page, Jason Slingsby, Dave Backer, Matthew Treagus, Tim Kelly, Ravi Rao, Lisa James and Natalie Walter form the SET. The SET meets every week, has daily update meetings and has an extended SET meeting held every two weeks, with the agenda covering the full range of activities of the Group, including financial performance, organisational and employment matters, risk management and Safety, Health and Environment.
There are three SET sub-committees covering the major business operational areas. These sub-committees meet monthly and are attended by SET members and other relevant senior managers from the business. These sub-committees are:
- Product Development Committee (PDC) – covering the development of new gene and cell therapy products from initial concept through to clinical development;
- Technical Development Committee (TDC) – covering the development of new and improved assays and production and other processes, including cell and vector engineering; and
- Extended Operational Leadership Team (eOLT) – incorporates the Quality and Manufacturing Operations Committee and covers quality, operational and manufacturing matters.
Within their area of responsibility these committees cover objective and target setting, monitoring performance against targets, ensuring compliance with GxP and other relevant requirements, monitoring expenditure against budget and risk management.
There are two other important committees:
- Commercial Development Committee (CDC) – which covers the external opportunities to out-licence and in-licence technology or product candidates, and also to generate partnership opportunities for manufacturing and product development; and
- Risk Management Committee (RMC) – this committee comprises senior managers from all parts of the business. The committee meets at least quarterly to identify and assess risks facing the business and to propose risk mitigation and management actions.
Important matters from all of these committees are referred to the SET.