Regulatory News

2023

Final Results

30 March 2022

‘'Significant growth and operational progress, along with strong cash generation

Equals (AIM:EQLS), a leading fintech payments group focused on the SME marketplace, announces its final results for the year-ended 31 December 2021 (the ‘year’ or ‘FY-2021’) and an update on trading for the period from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022.

 

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FY-2021: Financial Summary

  FY-2021   FY-2020   Change*
£ millions  £ millions   
Underlying transaction values      
-          FX 4,352  2,672  + 63%
-          Banking 1,331  821  + 62%
-          Solutions Platform 846  -   
-          Total 6,529  3,493  + 87%
      
Revenue 44.1  29.0  + 52%
% of revenue from B2B 81%  70%   
      
Gross profits 24.0  18.3  + 31%
      
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7 1.1   
      
EBITDA 5.7  (2.0)   
      
Loss after taxation (2.3)  (6.9)   
      
Memo:     
  Capitalised staff costs 3.0  4.0  - 25%
  Separately reported items (below Adjusted EBITDA) 0.7  2.6  - 73%
  R&D credits received 1.4  2.5   
  Impairment of travel cash business 1.6  -   
  Cash per share (at balance sheet date) 7.3p  5.6p  + 30%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

FY-2021 Financial Highlights

  • Total Revenue increased by 52% to £44.1 million (FY-2020: £29.0 million), supported by:
    • Like for like transactional values increasing by 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
    • Immediate success in the Solutions Platform which contributed £0.8 billion in transaction values and £3.6 million in revenues
  • Gross profits increased 31% to £24.0 million (FY-2020: £18.3 million)
  • Cash-based expenditure fell a further 7% (£1.6 million) to £21.2 million (FY-2020: £22.8 million)
  • Adjusted EBITDA** increased to £6.7 million (FY-2020: £1.1 million)
  • Year-end cash increased 31% to £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

 FY-2021 operational and product highlights

  • Focus on B2B and non travel-related revenue streams successfully continued
    • Business customer revenue increased to represent 81% of total revenues (FY-2020: 70%)
    • Non-travel revenue represented 94% of the total, up from 91% in FY-2020
  • Group continuing to attract larger corporates: won a significant mandate to transact a single but complex trade yielding £1.5 million of revenue and £0.8 million of gross profits
  • ‘Own-name’ multi-currency IBAN launched mid-year
  • Improved sales and data focus through both staff hires and CRM; a significant contributor to increased revenues
  • R&D continued throughout the year, with further technical developments including ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and Linked cards
  • Operational improvements through greater reconciliation automation and client onboarding

Q1-2022 Group highlights

  • Revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 up 78%, and averaged £222k per day (same period 2021 £125k)
  • Total revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 of £13.6 million
  • Strong performance across all sectors

Commenting on the Results, Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of Equals Group PLC, said:

“We ended 2021 in a very strong position, both financially and operationally.  The surge in our reported revenue and EBITDA speaks to a successful repositioning of our model to focus on B2B and away from legacy travel operations.  This process began in 2020, put us on the front-foot for 2021, and we are now progressing into 2022 with sustained confidence.  Our product set is being adopted by existing and new customers at a faster rate than we anticipated and that has allowed us to more quickly develop and roll out new functionality to a broader range of customers.  We are making excellent progress in the early stages of 2022 with rapid growth continuing while we navigate the geo-political backdrop.  We remain highly confident for our prospects both in 2022 and beyond.”

Analyst meeting

A conference call for analysts hosted by Ian Strafford-Taylor (CEO) and Richard Cooper (CFO) will be held at 09.30 today, 30 March 2022.  A copy of the presentation will be available after midday on the Equals website.  A copy of the Final Results presentation is also available at the Group’s website: https://equalsplc.com.

For retail investors, an audiocast of the conference call with analysts will be available after midday today:

https://webcasting.buchanan.uk.com/broadcast/62319d7461bd9a4d10292906

 

Notes

*Transactions with business customers are reported as ‘B2B’ and transactions with retail customers are reported as ‘B2C’.

**Adjusted EBITDA is defined as: earnings before depreciation, amortisation, impairment charges, share option charges, foreign exchange differences and separately reported items. Separately reported items are large, non-recurring items.

*** The financial statements were approved for release at 07:00 hours on 30 March 2022 to the London Stock Exchange via RNS after being approved by the Board on 29 March 2022 after the close of the stock market on that day.

 

For more information, please contact:

Equals Group PLC  
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO
Richard Cooper, CFO
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7778 9308
www.equalsplc.com
 
Canaccord Genuity (Nominated Advisor / Broker) 
Max Hartley / Georgina McCooke
Alex Aylen (Sales)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7523 8150
 
 
Buchanan (Financial Communications)  
Henry Harrison-Topham / Steph Whitmore / Toto Berger
[email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7466 5000
www.buchanan.uk.com

 

Notes to Editors:

Equals Group is a technology-led international payments group augmented by highly personalised service for the payment needs of SME’s whether these be FX, card payments or via Faster Payments. Founded in 2007, the Group was listed on AIM in 2014 and currently employs around 250 staff across sites in London and Chester.  For more information, please visit www.equalsplc.com.

 

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

2021

Management’s objective for 2021 were to significantly increase both the quantum and mix of revenues from B2B customers and products. We achieved both by building on the payments infrastructure and connectivity already assembled, and further enhanced this by providing customers with ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts. Concurrently, the Group expanded and refined its sales processes and go-to-market strategy.

Summary of financial performance

I am delighted to report that:

  • Like for like transactions executed on the Group’s platforms rose 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
  • Transactions from our new Solutions Platform were £0.8 billion from a standing start (FY-2020: Nil)
  • Revenue rose 52% to £44.1 million, with £15.3 million in Q4-2021 alone
  • Adjusted EBITDA rose from £1.1 million to £6.7 million
  • Year-end cash closed at £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

A full financial analysis is presented in the Chief Financial Officer’s Report which follows this statement.

COVID-19

2021 saw the world continue to struggle through COVID-19 variants and lockdowns. Despite this, the Group achieved rapid growth, benefiting from measures taken in 2020 to focus the Group on a B2B customer base and thereby reducing any reliance on the legacy B2C travel-related products.  In addition, the lessons learned in 2020 in terms of hybrid working meant that the Group could operate efficiently throughout the year during the various phases of the pandemic.

Marketplace and competitive landscape

The global payments market is a complex space and can be measured in many trillions of pounds, comprising all the various payment mechanisms from cash, cards, account-to-account transfers, and other methodologies across physical, internet and mobile interfaces. Against this background, the Group remains somewhat unique in that it spans both account-to-account transfers and cards, overlaid on infrastructure providing bank-grade connectivity and security on superior customer interfaces. The flexibility in the payment methodology that the Group can support from one unified platform is increasingly vital to business customers, for example many e-commerce businesses only accept card payments whereas other companies may typically only accept bank transfers.

Within the vast payments market, the Group remains strongly focused on the B2B customer segment. Within that, it has identified small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the optimal target audience for its products and services. The Group aims to deliver this via its ‘Equals Money’ proposition – a single platform comprising account-to-account transfers and card products for both UK and international transactions. The Group’s ‘target’ customer is an SME between 50-500 employees with UK and overseas payment needs. Engineering, product, and design resources are focused on providing solutions to this customer segment; however, the Group’s products equally serve both smaller and larger B2B customers.

Despite the continuing growth of fintech within the wider market, it remains the case that most payments activity continues to flow through the incumbent banks and payment networks. Therefore, winning business from these institutions remains a key focus for the Group in terms of both product development and sales and marketing activities. However, investment into the fintech competitors of Equals also makes it essential that the Group continues to innovate and invest into its platform and connectivity to remain ahead of the competition in its chosen B2B payments space.  The success of this strategy to date is clear in the Group’s FY-2021 results.

Performance in 2021

A key milestone to achieving accelerated growth for the Group was passed in May 2021 when Equals launched its capability to offer ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts to its customers. This enables the business customers of Equals to pay and receive into a single account in their own name, and that account can process all currencies automatically.  Further, the Group can offer its customers the flexibility to open multiple own-name IBAN accounts or multiple sub-accounts within a single IBAN.  This flexibility places Equals in a position where it can solve many payment and reconciliation problems for business customers, all delivered through one unified platform.

Equals Solutions

The own-name multi-currency IBAN capability, and the flexibility it offers, underpinned the creation of a new revenue stream: Equals Solutions.  Launched in June 2021, it contributed £0.3 million to revenues in the first half-year and £3.6 million for the full year, with a significant £1.7 million contribution of which was the fourth quarter showcasing its rapid growth and take-up by business customers.

Equals Solutions is targeted at larger corporates and provides a bespoke platform for each client. The flexibility in terms of being able to onboard a complex B2B customer rapidly and provide multiple own-name IBAN accounts and sub-accounts combined with the ability to implement complex authorisation hierarchies and protocols for the customer is a capability that few companies can offer. Incumbent banks are unable to compete given their operations remain on slow and often outdated infrastructure, while a typical fintech competitor concentrates on B2C not B2B customers and even may only have some – and not all – of the capabilities needed. Equals are therefore set apart given it provides a complete suite of services and products with the latest tech proposition.

Equals Money

Equals Money combines account-to-account payments, card payments and current accounts in one unified platform and is targeted at SME customers.

Along with Equals Solutions, the ability to offer own-name IBAN accounts to customers has significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Equals Money platform. In addition, during 2021 the Group implemented additional developments to the Equals Money platform including a new customer interface via website and app, batch payments and multi-tier configurable approval functionality.

Equals Pay and Equals Exchange

Equals Pay is the Group’s customer-facing international payments product. Numerous enhancements have been made to this product, including the ability to make batch payments and improved forward contract functionality.

Equals Exchange is the Group’s internal dealing platform which runs on the same infrastructure as Equals Pay.  This was launched during the year and is proving a very capable platform and is well regarded by Equals’ dealers.

Other achievements and product launches

  • Improved onboarding journey for all customers allied to automated compliance checks to minimise new-customer friction
  • Appointment of new Head of Sales and simplification of commission structure
  • Implementation of Growth Team comprising marketing and business development
  • Continued development of CRM (HubSpot) platform yielding improved sales traction
  • Creation of Data Team and investment into data capabilities and insights
  • Further upgrades to the Group’s compliance capabilities and personnel
  • Joining the ‘Confirmation of Payee’ scheme for UK Payments
  • Implementation of automated reconciliations utilising Kani-payments platform, resulting in additional operational efficiency
  • Launch of ‘Linked Cards’ for FairFX B2C cards platform
  • Banking platform re-branded

Strong financial performance – growth and resilience throughout the year

2021 was a year of significant growth for the Group in terms of transaction volumes, revenues and expanded product suite delivering enhanced operational capacity. Growth was broad-based across the B2B products, aided by the advent of the Equals Solutions revenue stream in June. The growth in revenues has flowed through to EBITDA as the Group became increasingly operationally geared and also cash generative.

The transaction table below shows how the volumes through the Group’s platform have almost doubled since 2019 despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Overall transaction volumes have increased by 97% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 63% over 2020 activity. Within these totals, currency transactions have increased by 105% since 2019 and 63% since 2020, whilst banking transactions have increased by 73% and 62% respectively.

Table A: Transaction amounts since January 2019

In £ millions Banking Currency sold Like for like total Solutions Platform Group total
      
Q1-2019 171 451 622 - 622
Q2-2019 189 448 637 - 637
Q3-2019 202 575 777 - 777
Q4-2019 209 643 852 - 852
Total, FY-2019 771 2,117 2,888 - 2,888
      
Q1-2020 194 664 858 - 858
Q2-2020 169 533 702 - 702
Q3-2020 221 660 881 - 881
Q4-2020 237 815 1,052 - 1,052
Total, FY-2020 821 2,672 3,493 - 3,493
Increase on prior year +21% +21%
      
Q1-2021 230 829 1,059 - 1,059
Q2-2021 340 909 1,249 143 1,392
Q3-2021 374 1,199 1,573 313 1,886
Q4-2021 387 1,415 1,802 391 2,193
Total, FY-2021 1,331 4,352 5,683 846 6,529
Increase on prior year +63% +87%

 

The ability to process a doubling of activity in two years demonstrates the resilience of the platform the Group has built, the value of the investment in infrastructure which was commenced in 2018, along with the acquisition of Casco in 2019. Furthermore, the acceleration in transactions in the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY-2021 shows the effect of the own-name IBAN roll-out combined with Equals Solutions driving increased activity.

The revenue table below tells a similar story with strong revenue growth compared to both 2019 pre-pandemic levels and the 2020 performance. Overall revenues grew 43% over 2019 levels and 52% over the Covid-impacted 2020 result. Within the revenue performance, the shift towards B2B is clear to see.  FY-2021 revenues were split 81% B2B and 19% B2C compared to a 55/45 split in FY-2019 and a 70/30 split in FY-2020.

Table B: Revenues since January 2019

In £’000s B2B B2C Total Revenue margin Revenue per day*
Q1-2019 3,831 3,087 6,918 1.1% 110
Q2-2019 4,069 3,636 7,705 1.2% 124
Q3-2019 4,164 3,847 8,011 1.0% 123
Q4-2019 5,231 3,080 8,311 1.0% 128
Total, FY-2019 17,295 13,650 30,945 1.1% 121
Mix 56% 44%
      
Q1-2020 5,354 2,672 8,026 0.9% 125
Q2-2020 3,928 1,819 5,747 0.8% 99
Q3-2020 5,273 2,033 7,306 0.8% 112
Q4-2020 5,797 2,084 7,881 0.7% 122
Total, FY-2020 20,352 8,608 28,960 0.8% 114
Change on prior year +18% -37% -6%
Mix 70% 30%
      
Q1-2021 5,626 2,438 8,064 0.8% 128
Q2-2021 7,179 1,662 8,841 0.7% 145
Q3-2021 9,925 1,980 11,905 0.8% 183
Q4-2021 12,873 2,408 15,281 0.8% 239
Total, FY-2021 35,603 8,488 44,091 0.8% 174
Change on prior year +75% -1% +52%
Mix 81% 19%

 

* based on underlying, not rounded, figures and expressed as revenue divided by the number of working days in each quarter.

 

In terms of growth and productivity, revenue per employee rose by 80% to £172k per employee (FY 2020: £96k), a testament both to productivity, incentives and strong headcount control.

Product outlook

Unified platform – Equals Money & Equals Solutions

Great strides were made during 2021 in the development of ‘Equals Money’, which incorporates the payments, cards and current account solutions that the Group can offer in one unified platform and ties directly into the strategic vision for the Group to simplify money movement for business customers.

The investment made in prior years to assemble infrastructure providing bank-grade security and connectivity, including the integration into the Faster Payments network and the implementation of the Citibank partnership to provide ‘local’ settlement in over 40 countries, form the underlying platform for clearing payments efficiently.  The scalability of this platform has been evidenced by the doubling of transaction volumes processed in the last two years.

To optimise revenues from this assembled infrastructure, it is essential to make it simple both to become a customer and then for that customer to use the platform.  For the customer acquisition journey, investment has been made into further refining the onboarding process, utilising automated compliance checks overlaid with additional compliance personnel to fast-track non-standard cases. For the ease-of-use of the platform, the Group has applied extensive resources into refining the User Experience (UX) utilising both extensive research into customer needs and the in-house product and design expertise at Equals.

In 2022 the Group will continue to invest in platform capabilities, onboarding efficiency and UX to constantly improve both the platform functionality and usability. This is expected to translate into increased revenues from existing customers whilst improving sales success and conversion of leads into new customers. Further, the Group will integrate the platforms with major accountancy software providers thereby providing another sales channel and expanding the pool of customers who can access Equals’ products and services.

Payment infrastructure, ‘Boxes’

2021 saw major advances in the Group’s capabilities to deliver enhanced account services to its customers.  The most significant advance was the ability to give a customer an ‘own name multi-currency IBAN’ – an account in their own name denoted by a unique IBAN (‘International Bank Account Number’) which supports multiple currencies.  As the account is in the name of the customer, a so-called ‘first party’ account, this allows more use-cases than payments into a ‘pooled account’ from a compliance perspective.  Further, having one IBAN for all currencies enables a customer to provide one single account identifier to all of its customers and suppliers, thereby simplifying both sales and procurement processes.

To offer own-name multi-currency accounts, many third-party integrations were needed, including partner banks and SWIFT.  However, the key framework to support the flexible platform we require is referred to as ‘Boxes’.  A Box is our internal title for a single currency container in which you can store an asset.  Hence, each own-name multi-currency IBAN has one Box per currency.  Further flexibility is gained by the fact that a Box can support sub-Boxes so a customer can pay directly into their IBAN or directly to a sub-Box.  This sub-Box capability allows us to offer customers an own-name IBAN with unlimited sub-accounts if they require it.

The Boxes infrastructure also provides the capability for an Equals Customer to create own-name IBAN accounts for its own customers – subject to Equals compliance checks. This capability can resolve complex reconciliation issues for companies that have multiple parties paying into one bank account per currency. Each party can have a unique IBAN to pay into, in any currency, and therefore the Equals customer knows at point of receipt of funds who has remitted them.

Supporting this configuration is the Boxes service which automatically creates a Box on receipt of funds and auto-processes funds into and out of a Box via SWIFT, BACS, Faster Payments and SEPA.

Further development of the Boxes infrastructure is planned for 2022, enabling us to deliver key additional functionality for both Equals Money and Equals Platforms including real-time running balances, statements and enhanced reporting for customers, bulk payments and the recently announced direct integration into the SEPA (Single European Payments Area) network. In addition, the Group will build out its capability to offer its IBAN and Boxes functionality via API – thereby allowing more sophisticated customers to directly integrate with the Equals platform and support white-label opportunities.

Card Products

Similar to the account-to-account payment infrastructure that Equals has assembled, 2021 saw significant progress in the development of the Group’s card platform that underpins a strong pipeline of customer-facing features to be deployed in 2022. The new infrastructure can power the Group’s card products for the medium term and allow Equals to run card schemes in overseas locations. 2022 will see the launch of the new Equals Money card, replacing the Equals Spend cards which run on legacy infrastructure. The new cards, which are multi-currency, can be both virtual and physical and have many more features and capabilities. Equals are also moving towards being its own Issuer for its card products, thereby eliminating another party from the supply chain and speeding up development cycles.

Sales and Marketing – a high growth agenda

The Group further enhanced its capabilities in Sales and Marketing in 2021. The roll-out of HubSpot, the new CRM system for Equals, continued during the year, focusing on the B2B customer segment. Many activities previously performed in isolation are now processed automatically via the HubSpot platform so that the Group has a single database on customers and a central hub from which all customer interaction is performed and recorded. The focus for 2022 will be to harness this capability to drive new customer acquisition and to further drive enhanced revenues from the existing client base.

Equals created a ‘Growth Team’ during the year which combined marketing with the overall growth agenda. This team is responsible for HubSpot in terms of ensuring optimisation of how it is used across the Group and that the benefits derived from it are maximised. The focus of the team is to enable growth by a combination of delivering increased revenue from existing customers whilst driving new customer acquisition. The key for the success of the team is the interaction with the revenue teams to support them in reaching their targets.

In keeping with the overall strategy of the Group, the focus for growth is on the B2B customer base. Unlike B2C customer acquisition, where above-the-line (‘ATL’) marketing such as TV and billboard advertisements augmented by digital marketing is the driving force, B2B customer acquisition relies more on the outbound sales function augmented by and integrated with a coherent digital marketing strategy and content production.  Accordingly, the Growth Team works very closely with the Sales functions across the Group in defining campaigns and assisting the sales efficacy with targeted digital marketing and an in-house pay-per-click (‘PPC’) team.

The challenge for Equals in 2022 in sales and growth is managing the transition from being a product-led business to a platform-led business.  Previously, the Group has sold its products – International Payments, Card Products and Current Account products – using largely separate sales teams and marketing strategies.  As Equals moves forward, it will be selling Equals Money to the SME customer base and Equals Solutions to the larger B2B customers. The transition from product to platform differentiates Equals from vanilla FX businesses, as the Group can compete not just on FX rates, but on platform capability and service. The Sales skills required are also different and therefore the Group appointed a new Head of Sales during the year, revised the commission structure and upgraded its sales teams.

The steps taken in 2021 position Equals well for the transition from product to the platform as it now has a stronger sales team, a single-source-of-truth CRM platform and the Growth Team is established internally as the fulcrum around which will drive the Group’s unified Sales approach.

Board composition

On 9 April 2021, we welcomed Christopher Bones as a Non-Executive Director of the Company with his background in both Human Resources and Marketing. He has been invaluable in the formulation of a compensation strategy for the Group as well as assisting in the development of a go-to-market strategy.

Employees

The Group has been focusing on enhancing ‘bench-strength’ to support the executive layer that sits just below the Board. Pursuant to this, the Group took on a Head of Compliance to compliment the already strong operational team, and the CFO, Richard Cooper, recruited a new Director of Finance to enable him to work even more closely with myself on corporate opportunities and investor relations.

The Group’s employees continue to be its greatest strength.  The loyalty, commitment, and hard work demonstrated in 2020 and now in 2021 has been tremendous and deserves to be acknowledged. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank every colleague for everything they have done for the Group. We are delighted to have a diverse workforce and are proud to train and promote from within as well as seek fresh talent from elsewhere.

Three senior members of the executive team left the Group during 2021 and I thank them for their time whilst at Equals.

Whilst the Group continues to seek efficiencies and has a strong cost-control culture, the Board intends to invest these gains in further capacity for growth rather than reductions in staff numbers.  This in turn will benefit investors as Equals will have strong operational gearing as it grows, with its cost base increasing at a lower rate than transactions and revenues.

The labour market in the UK, particularly in the fintech space, is extremely competitive. Accordingly, in 2021 the Group introduced a company-wide share-ownership scheme (‘SIP’) where all eligible employees received the same number of shares in Equals. The Group will seek to make similar awards on an annual basis. In addition, Equals introduced a long-term incentive plan (‘LTIP’) scheme for senior employees and a similar plan with performance conditions for Executive Directors. Both the SIP and the LTIP schemes have lengthy vesting periods and thereby provide strong retention benefits for the Group.

ESG

Equals wholeheartedly embraces ESG initiatives and takes Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (‘EDI’) extremely seriously. Our EDI strategy, which covers not only employees but also customers, includes an internal EDI network populated with elected representatives and regular employee surveys. This is a key objective for all Executive Committee members and forms part of their appraisal.

Future plans and opportunities

The strategic direction of the Group remains clearly focused on the B2B customer segment with Equals Money being targeted at the SME base and Equals Solutions at larger corporate opportunities. The growth potential, now that Equals has assembled the core capabilities of own-name IBAN and bank-grade connectivity and clearance, is extremely strong due to the complexity and time required to replicate the Group’s capabilities and will only be enhanced by the developments planned for 2022.

Equals will continue to look for growth opportunities and can do so with a strong balance sheet and cash position.  The Group will examine overseas expansion beyond its current predominantly UK-centric customer base and will also take a considerate and opportunistic approach to acquisitions as they present themselves.

Recent geo-political events

The current uncertainty caused by the conflict from Russia to Ukraine does not have a material impact on Equals as the Group’s direct exposure to the region is extremely limited. In addition, clearly, to the extent the situation affects global confidence and trade volumes, this could impact general commercial activity levels during 2022.  We have not seen any direct impact to date but continue to monitor the situation closely.

Q1-2022 trading and Outlook

2022 has started exceptionally well with revenues to 28 March, 78% higher than the same period in 2021 at £13.6 million.  Strong revenue growth continues to come from B2B with all product lines progressing well.  Equals Solutions, which contributed £3.6 million of revenues in FY-2021, has already contributed £2.6 million in FY-2022 to-date and is expected to continue to grow strongly as the Group adds new functionality to its payments platform during the year.

Equals, therefore, has a strong outlook resulting from the investments it has made to create a payments platform comprising International and Domestic Payments, Card Payments and Banking Services underpinned by exceptional technology and direct connections to multiple payment networks.  Further investments made in compliance, onboarding and user experience mean that the rich functionality of the platform is made easily accessible to current and potential customers.  Finally, advances made in Sales, Marketing and Data mean that Equals now sells its products and platform more efficiently.  Accordingly, the Board looks forward to the future with confidence.

 

Ian Strafford-Taylor
Chief Executive Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

 Chief Financial Officer’s Report

I present my review and financial analysis for the year ended 31 December 2021.

TABLE 1: INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £ millions  £ millions
Revenue (table 3) 44.1  29.0
    
Gross Profits (table 3) 24.0  18.3
Less: Marketing (1.2)  (1.2)
Contribution 22.8 17.1
Expenditure (table 9) (16.1)  (16.0)
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7  1.1
Less:    Share option expense (0.3)  (0.4)
Less:    Exceptional items and acquisition costs (0.7)  (2.7)
EBITDA 5.7 (2.0)
    
IFRS 16 Depreciation (0.9)  (0.9)
Other depreciation (0.4)  (0.5)
Amortisation of acquired intangibles (1.3)  (1.2)
Other amortisation (4.5)  (3.2)
Contingent consideration cost (0.1)  (0.6)
Impairment of the Bureau operations (1.6)  -
 (8.8)  (6.4)
    
EBIT (3.1) (8.4)
    
Lease interest (0.2)  (0.2)
Foreign exchange differences (0.1)  (0.2)
Contingent consideration finance charges (0.3)  (0.2)
 (0.6)  (0.6)
    
LOSS BEFORE TAXATION (3.8) (9.0)
    
Corporate and deferred taxation 1.1  0.7
R&D tax credits receivable 0.4  1.4
 1.5  2.1
    
LOSS FOR THE YEAR (2.3) (6.9)

 

 

TABLE 2: EARNINGS PER SHARE

Normal Adjusted
    
Basic 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p
    
Diluted 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p

 

 

TABLE 3: REVENUE AND GROSS PROFITS

 

A. Revenue summary by business line

 FY-2021 FY-2020
£ millions Revenues Gross profits  Revenues Gross profits
International Payments (Table 4) 29.5 14.0  17.4 11.1
Spend Platform 6.3 4.3  3.7 2.0
Personal cards 2.4 1.6  2.1 1.1
Banking 5.6 4.0  5.1 3.8
Bureau operations and other 0.3 0.1  0.7 0.3
 44.1 24.0  29.0 18.3

B. Revenue and gross profits by customer grouping and markets

 B2B v B2C Non-travel v Travel
£ millions B2B B2C Total  Non-travel Travel Total
REVENUES
-                      2021 35.6 8.5 44.1 41.4 2.7 44.1
-                      2020 20.4 8.6 29.0  26.3 2.7 29.0
% change* +75% -1% +52%  +58% - +52%
       
GROSS PROFITS       
-                      2021 16.6 7.4 24.0 22.1 1.9 24.0
-                      2020 12.8 5.5 18.3  16.8 1.5 18.3
-                      2021 % 47% 87% 54% 53% 70% 54%
-                      2020 % 63% 64% 63%  64% 56% 63%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

The Group has many individual revenue lines (and associated variable costs), but broadly these can be summarised as follows:

International payments:

This includes direct, affiliate and white-label foreign exchange for business customers and to a lesser extent, affluent private customers.

It also includes the bulk of the ‘solutions’ product, launched during the year, which leads with an own-name IBAN, facilitating both same-to-same transactions and currency A to currency B transactions, as well as bulk payments using our ‘Faster Payments’ membership gateway.

The white-label business trading under the Equals Connect brand, allows smaller providers to ‘piggy-back’ off our excellent compliance processes and speed of delivery.

The white-label business acquired in 2019 had a stellar year growing its revenues from £2.4 million to £7.7 million, although at a tighter gross profit margin of 14% due to both competitive pressures and one particularly large affiliate.

The Material trade (announced on 28 October 2021) was a ‘bonus’ but took many weeks to see through a highly complicated transaction and demonstrates the ability of the Group to deal with transactions of this size and complexity.

Solutions, as fully described in the CEO’s Report came on stream late in H1-2021 and ramped-up each month since.

 


TABLE 4 – INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS, FY-2021 and FY-2020

FY-2021 Turnover
£ millions
Number of
transactions
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,473.1 88,314 16.7 65.4 62%
White label 1,094.2 34,090 7.7 70.8 14%
Material trade 114.4 1 1.5 132.3 54%
FX trades from Solutions clients 241.1 584 2.5 101.8 24%
Sub-total, currency 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4 47%
Other flows from Solutions clients 845.9 3,241 1.1 13.0 89%
Totals 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9
      
      
-                      B2B 4,400.6 97,515 26.3 59.8  
-                      B2C 368.1 28,715 3.2 88.5  
Totals by segment 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9  
      
-                      Spot 3,199.1 114,391 23.2 72.5  
-                      Forward 723.7 8,598 5.2 71.9  
Total, from currency trades 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4  

 

FY-2020 Turnover
£ millions
Number of transactions
 
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,088.7 84,069 15.0 71.8 69%
White label 279.0 10,624 2.4 86.0 29%
Material trade - - -  -
Solutions - - -  -
TOTALS 2,367.7 94,693 17.4 73.5 64%
      
-                      B2B 1,975.0 60,953 13.7 69.4  
-                      B2C 392.7 33,740 3.7 94.2  
      
-                      Spot 1,716.3 86,015 11.5 67.0  
-                      Forward 651.4 8,678 5.9 90.6  

 

*bp = Basis Points representing 100th of 1%.

 

B2B continued to grow, and of the total of revenues from International Payments, represented:

-          91% of total turnover (FY-2020: 83%),

-          89% of total revenue (FY-2020: 79%), and

-          77% of total transactions (FY-2020: 64%).

Part of the growth driver for this was the White-label offering, Equals Connect which trades exclusively through affiliates, and therefore at a lower gross return.

Of the total revenues from International Payments, Spot transactions represented:

-          82% of turnover (FY-2020: 72%),

-          82% of revenue (FY-2020: 66%), and

-          93% of transactions (FY-2020: 91%).

Forward margins fell slightly in the aggregate caused mainly by customers taking shorter-dated forwards through Brexit and COVID-19 uncertainty.

Average transaction values from the core and white label books and composition between B2B/B2C and Spot/Forward were:

 

TABLE 4a – International Payments, transaction sizes, FY-2021 and FY-2020

  FY-2021
£’000s
 FY-2020
£’000s
  Transaction size  Transaction size
 Core 28.1  20.2
 White-label 32.1  26.3
     
 -                      B2B 34.2  32.4
 -                      B2C 12.8  11.6
     
 -                      Spot 25.0  20.0
 -                      Forward 84.2  75.0

 

Spend platform:

This is a card-loaded expenses platform delivered via mobile phone or other devices. Extensively used in the film production industry, it enables tight control of corporate expenses but gives companies great flexibility to be agile in their requirement to commit funds.  This segment is regarded as B2B.

 

TABLE 5 – SPEND PLATFORM

FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 333.9  203.3
Number of loads 448k  330k
Number of transactions 3,131k  1,872k
Revenue (£ millions) 6.3  3.7
Average revenue/transaction 201p  200p

 

FY-2021 saw a strong rebound from the COVID-19 impact in FY-2020 – particularly in the final quarter.  A greater number of customers (and their employees) were signed-up and able to benefit from advanced product features.

Personal cards

The origin of the Group in 2007 was a pre-paid web and mobile-enabled card for affluent individuals, often with family financing needs to be served through our ‘linked-cards’ option.  This segment is categorised as B2C.

TABLE 6 – PERSONAL CARDS

 FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 61.4  64.4
Number of loads 250k  340k
Number of transactions 1,106k  938k
Revenue (£ millions) 2.4  2.1
Average revenue/transaction 212p  225p

 

This business saw a modest increase over 2020, but since December 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the Group has witnessed an upturn in usage and revenues.  The card product is often used by the owners of the SMEs served by our Spend platform, so it remains a useful but not core product.  Given the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, the Group limited its marketing expenditure in this segment in FY-2021.

Banking services

A suite of bank-style accounts for emerging corporates, established trusts and personal individuals who want a way to control their expenditure.  The B2B segment of this income is marginally more than 50% of its total.

TABLE 7 – BANKING SERVICES

FY-2021 FY-2020
Deposits (£ millions) £1,331  £821
Transactions 5,458k  3,715k
Number of accounts 14.5k  14.2k
Revenue (£ millions) £5.6  £5.1
Revenue per account £392  £354

 

Bureau de change

A legacy of the City Forex acquisition in 2018, the Group retains two branches in the City of London, mainly serving corporates in the insurance and other professional services sector, along with walk-in traffic from workers in the City.  Thus, there is a mix of B2B and B2C revenues.  Owing to the impact of COVID-19, a decision was made to impair the goodwill of this business in FY-2021 and the corresponding impairment is £1,638k

Variable costs:

There are three main categories of variable cost:

(a)      Transaction costs – these are third party costs applying to all the above, and range from banking fees to MasterCard costs, and variable KYC and KYB costs.

(b)     Affiliate commissions (or introducer fees); mainly a revenue sharing model applying to International Payments.

(c)     Staff commissions; revenue related commissions payable, through the payroll, to a cohort of highly motivated professionals who may earn monthly, quarterly and annual commissions based on their own success.

The table below shows which business units have the various cost components:

TABLE 8 – VARIABLE COSTS BY BUSINESS LINE

£ millions International payments Cards Banking
Transaction costs 1.7 2.7 1.6
Affiliate Commissions 5.0 - -
White label commissions 6.3   
Staff commissions 2.8 - -
Totals FY-2021 15.8 2.7 1.6

 

Marketing costs

These include costs relating to the Equals brand, along with specific marketing programmes, relating more to Spend and Banking than other product sets.

Overheads

As with many ‘fintechs’, the Group has as its largest cost, staff, followed by IT expenditure, premises, professional fees (many relating to our position on AIM), and modest other expenses.

Staff costs include employment taxes, employee benefits and contractor fees – mainly in our Engineering team.  With just over 255 staff, the split of staff is more heavily weighted towards revenue earning/maintaining staff along with product development personnel.

Revenue per employee increased 80% to £172k, up from £96k in 2020. Base cost (meaning, salary, ERs NIC and employers pension contribution) rose from £50k per employee to £52k per employee during the year. Value added per employee rose 160% from £46k to £120k in the year.

Expenditure that meets the obligations and criteria of IAS 38 are capitalised and amortised over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months from inception.

TABLE 9 - COMPONENTS OF EXPENDITURE

£ millions FY-2021 FY-2020
Staff costs 15.7  16.9
-                      Less capitalised (3.0)  (4.0)
-                      Less: exceptional items (0.7)  (1.4)
-                      Less IFRS 16 (vehicles) (0.1)  -
Net staff costs 11.9 11.5
    
IT and telephone 2.1  1.7
-                      Less capitalised (0.3)  (0.4)
Net IT costs 1.8 1.3
    
Premises costs 1.8  2.0
-                      Less IFRS 16 (1.0)  (1.0)
Net premises costs 0.8 1.0
    
Professional and compliance fees 1.3  1.4
Travel and entertainment 0.3  0.4
Bad debts and similar -  0.4
 16.1  16.0
    
Analysed between:   
   Gross expenditure 21.2  22.8
   Taken to the balance sheet (4.4)  (5.4)
   Below adjusted EBITDA (0.7)  (1.4)
Totals per Table 1 16.1  16.0
    
Year-end number of staff 255  270

 

Exceptional items

As announced in the interim results on 14 September 2021, the Group carried out some restructuring of a layer of senior management, and the termination and similar costs for that layer have been taken as an exceptional item being £0.7 million.

In 2020 exceptional items were higher at £2.7 million with £1.6 million against COVID-19 and £1.1 million against the migration away from Wirecard, a previous card programme manager for the Group.  Of the 2020 costs, £2.0 million was cash incurred, and the balance was related to write-offs.

There were no acquisitions in the year and therefore no expenditure was incurred. (FY-2020: £130k was incurred in connection with the purchase of Effective FX).

Depreciation

Tangible fixed assets are depreciated over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months (other than leasehold improvements which is a maximum of 120 months). Assets (principally property and similar leases) are also depreciated over the shorter of the useful life of the asset and the lease term.

TABLE 10 - DEPRECIATION

 FY-2021 FY-2020
 £’000s £’000s
IFRS 16 depreciation 931 940
Other depreciation 467 487
 1,398 1,427

 

Guidance: Based upon the expenditure incurred to 31 December 2021, the depreciation charges for those assets in FY-2022 will be:

 £ millions
IFRS 16 depreciation 0.8
Other depreciation 0.5
 1.3

 

Amortisation

Intangible assets acquired on acquisition are amortised over their estimated useful lives, with a maximum of 60 months for Brands and a maximum of 108 months for Customer Relationships.  The charge to amortisation for the year can be analysed as follows:

TABLE 11 – COMPONENTS OF AMORTISATION CHARGES

 FY-2021
£’000s
FY-2020
£’000s
Amortisation charge arising from the capitalisation of internally developed software in the following years:  
2018 and earlier 1,303 899
2019 1,661 1,382
2020 893 451
2021 287 -
 4,144 2,733
Amortisation charge for other intangibles 357 404
 4,501 3,137
Amortisation of acquired intangibles 1,311 1,210
Total amortisation charge 5,812 4,347

Guidance: Based upon expenditure to 31 December 2021, the amortisation charges for FY-2022 are expected to be:

 £ millions
Internally developed software 4.3
Other intangible assets 0.3
Acquired intangibles 1.3
 5.9

 

Finance and other

IFRS 16 financial charges have been calculated using the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate on the NPV of total lease payments, this is released over the lease period to the P&L.

TABLE 12 – COMPONENTS OF FINANCE AND OTHER CHARGES

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £’000s  £’000s
Increase in assessment of contingent consideration (liability) for acquisition of Casco  
46
  
793
    
Adjustment to discount on valuation of Effective 278  -
IFRS 16 lease interest expense 188  222
CBILS interest 1  -
Other interest payable 23  18
 536  1,033
Split as follows:    
Included in Finance Charges 490  391
Included in Administrative expenses 46  642

 

Impairment

Revenues from the bureau-de-change business acquired with City Forex in 2018 have declined significantly owing to prolonged COVID-19 restrictions and thus the Group concluded it should be impaired to a carrying value of £579k.

Taxation

The Group has £17.2 million of tax losses available.

The Group has been able to receive funds directly from HMRC in relation to claims made for software development.  As the Group moves into taxable profits, such claims cease to be paid but offset against future taxable profits. The Group anticipates receiving £0.4 million in relation to the claim for 2021, but possibly no further into the future.

TABLE 13– BALANCE SHEET

This table shows a compressed ‘balance sheet’ for the Group.

31.12.2021 31.12.2020
 £’000s £’000s
    
IFRS 16 assets, less IFRS 16 liabilities (388)  (345)
Other non-current assets (other than deferred tax) 32,217  36,495
 31,829  36,150
    
Liquidity (per Table 14) 10,739  8,827
Trade debtors and accrued income (see note below) 3,638  2,314
R&D rebates 398  1,367
Prepayments 998  860
Deposits and sundry debtors 329  643
Inventory of card stock 168  194
Accounts payable (1,549)  (1,556)
Affiliate commissions (1,945)  (343)
PAYE, staff commissions etc. (1,884)  (1,701)
Other accruals and other creditors (1,349)  (1,130)
 9,543  9,475
    
Earn-out balances due (Table 16)
Implied interest thereon
(1,683)
63
 (2,746)
341
 (1,620)  (2,405)
Net corporation and deferred tax 888  (547)
Net value of forward contracts 511  (31)
 (221)  (2,983)
    
NET SHAREHOLDER FUNDS 41,151  42,642
    
Retained earnings at 1 January (22,259)  (15,340)
Earnings for the year (2,424)  (6,919)
Amount attributable to the exercise of share options 93  -
Retained earnings at 31 December (24,590)  (22,259)
    
Non-Controlling interest at 1 January 101  119
Earnings for year 162  (18)
Non-Controlling interest at 31 December 263  101
    
Share capital, share premium 55,011  54,789
Other reserves 10,467  10,011
 65,478  64,800
    
CAPITAL AND RESERVES 41,151 42,642

 

TABLE 14 - LIQUIDITY FY-2021   FY-2020
£000’S £000’S
Cash at bank (see Table 15) 13,104  10,032
Balances with liquidity providers 1,675  2,776
Pre-funded balances with card provider 1,615  2,078
Gross liquid resources 16,394 14,886
    
Customer balances not subject to safeguarding (3,655)  (4,059)
CBILS loan (see below) (2,000)  (2,000)
 (5,655)  (6,059)
    
Net position 10,739 8,827

 

Exposures to banks and liquidity providers

The Group maintains strong relationships with a number of banks and counterparties for spot and forward foreign exchange transactions.  The Group has recurring obligations to safeguard customer funds under the rules of the FCA, who are the prime regulator for the Group.

The balances held at 31 December were as follows:

TABLE 15 – BANK AND SIMILAR BALANCES

£ millions Safeguarded Not required to be safeguarded Totals
BANKS   
Barclays Bank PLC 47.7 7.1 54.8
NatWest/RBS Group 106.9 3.8 110.7
Bank of England 30.9 - 30.9
Citibank N.A. 26.0 0.1 26.1
Blackrock* - 2.0 2.0
Others  0.1 0.1
31 December 2021 211.5 13.1 224.6
   
31 December 2020 96.1 10.0 106.1
    
LIQUIDITY PROVIDERS    
Barclays Bank PLC  0.4 0.4
Velocity Trade International Ltd  0.1 0.1
Sucden Financial Ltd  1.2 1.2
31 December 2021 1.7 1.7
    
31 December 2020  2.8 2.8

 

*Blackrock is the manager, the legal entity is Institutional Cash Series PLC.

 

There exist tight controls over forward contracts with daily monitoring and reporting to the Executive Directors. The out-of-the-money position at 31 December 2021 was £0.2 million.

There were, in addition, £212.0 million of customer funds safeguarded at 31 December 2021 (31 December 2020: £96.0 million).

Balances with liquidity providers and customer balances not subject to safeguarding are typically margin calls on forward contracts. Pre-funded balances are required in anticipation of customers loading their cards.  Should the Group move to self-issuing, such pre-funding will dissipate.

Trade debtors and accrued income

In common with market practice, revenue is recognised on forward transactions on the execution of the transaction.  There was one particularly large forward transaction with an investment fund client generating profits of £0.9 million and which settled in January 2022.

Affiliate commissions

The growth in the payable relates to the increase in white label business and introducers for the Solutions business.

Earn-outs

Equals Connect (previously Casco Connect)

As announced on 19 November 2019, the Group acquired Casco Financial Services Limited for a maximum consideration of £3,725,000.

Effective FX

As announced on 15 October 2020, the Group acquired the trade and assets of Effective FX Limited for a maximum consideration of £1,575,000.

Whilst IFRS-3 requires an interest discount factor to be applied, the table below shows the ‘real cash’ aspects of the acquisitions.  The accounting standard requires an annual revaluation of contingent consideration based on historic performance.

The table below shows the financial position relating to these acquisitions

TABLE 16 – EARNOUTS

  Hermex Casco Effective Total
Acquisition date 09.08.2019 19.11.2019 15.10.2020
 £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
    
Acquisition price booked at acquisition 2,000 2,236 1,575 5,811
Earn outs paid by 31.12.2020 (2,000) (1,733) (125) (3,858)
Revaluation of asset based on performance - 793 - 793
Gross outstanding at 31.12.2020 - 1,296 1,450 2,746
Paid during 2021 - (741) (368) (1,109)
Further change in consideration - 46 - 46
Gross Outstanding at 31.12.2021 - 601 1,082 1,683
    
Paid during Q1-2022 - 601 282 833
    
Due in remainder of 2022 - - 800 800
    
Maximum consideration 2,000 3,725 1,575 7,300
Total consideration 2,000 3,075 1,575 6,650
     

CBILS loan

On 23 December 2020, the Group drew-down £2,000,000 from NatWest Group under the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’). The loan carries a coupon of Bank base rate plus 2.53%.  The loan is repayable at any time, but over 60 equal instalments of £33,333 with the first instalment paid on 21 January 2022.

The interest chargeable in 2021 amounted to £1k.

Share capital, share premium and share options

The number of shares in issue at 1 January 2021 was 178,602,918.  This increased in the year through the exercise of 738,889 share options from former employees (Table 17 below), thus the number of shares outstanding at 31 December 2021 was 179,341,807.  A further 704,000 shares at nominal value were issued pursuant to the SIP and admitted to trading on AIM on 16 March 2022, resulting in a total number of shares in issue at the date of signing of the Financial Statements of 180,045,807.

At 31 December 2020, the Company had 9,838,356 options outstanding. 738,889 of these were exercised in 2021, and 376,667 lapsed.

Earnings per share are reported/calculated in accordance with IAS 33. For non-diluted, the result after tax is divided by the average number of shares in issue in the year. The average number of shares were 178,959,402 (2020: 178,602,918).

The calculation of diluted EPS is based on the result after tax divided by the number of actual shares in issue (above) plus the number of options where the fair value exceeds the weighted average share price in the year. The fair value of options is measured using Black-Scholes and Monte-Carlo. It should be noted that this calculation is based on fair value, not the difference between the market price at the end of the year or the weighted average price and the exercise price. The weighted average price was 43p (2020: 34p), the number of options exceeding the fair value was 3,553,681 (2020: Nil).

On 18 October 2021, the Company announced Discretionary Share Incentive Plans over 4,535,000 shares.  The final awards were lower, at 4,369,000.  Thus, at the date of signing of these financial statements, there were 13,091,800 options, representing 7.3% of the issued share capital and 6.8% of the enlarged share capital. 

The cost of external advice for these schemes amounted to £84k in the year (FY-2020: £Nil)

At 31 December 2021, the Company had distributable reserves of £931,411.  At the date of signing of these accounts, this was equivalent to 0.520 pence per share.

TABLE 17 – OPTIONS EXERCISED IN THE YEAR

Date exercised Number of options Grant price
20 April 2021 88,889 36.00 pence
20 April 2021 50,000 29.75 pence
21 July 2021 300,000 26.50 pence
21 July 2021 250,000 29.75 pence
26 September 2021 50,000 43.50 pence
 738,889  

 


CASH STATEMENT

The movement in the cash position is shown in the table below:

TABLE 18 - CASHFLOW FY-2021
£’000s
  FY-2020
£’000s
    
Adjusted EBITDA 6,713 1,164
R&D tax credits received (see note below) 1,367  2,539
Lease payments (principal and interest) (1,080)  (1,140)
Exceptional items (671)  (1,982)
Internally developed software capitalised (see note below) (3,028)  (4,044)
Purchase of other intangible assets (532)  (484)
Purchase of other non-current assets (78)  (160)
Acquisition costs -  (130)
Movement in working capital 1,269  1,829
 3,960  (2,408)
Earn-outs and acquisitions (1,108)  (825)
Funds from exercise of share options 220  -
External funding (CBILS) -  2,000
NET CASHFLOWS 3,072 (1,233)
Balance at 1st January 10,032  11,265
Balance at 31st December 13,104 10,032
Amount per share 7.3 pence 5.6 pence

 

R&D credits received

These are earned based on a strict set of criteria set by HMRC and broadly based on new internally generated software development.  In 2021, £0.4 million was accrued (FY-2020: £1.4 million) and £1.4 million was received relating to claims made for 2020 (FY-2019: £2.5 million).  Whilst future claims may be paid, these are unlikely to be receivable in cash.

Internally developed software capitalised

As a fintech, constantly looking to provide a series of products and platforms, the Group continues to invest and develop.  The emergence and rapid growth of the Solutions capability is one tangible deliverable.  Equals Money is another product well advanced for which investment is taking place.

 

 

Richard Cooper
Chief Financial Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 

 Note FY-2021  FY-2020
  £’000s  £’000s
     
Gross value of all transactions*1 6,529,034 3,492,671
     
Revenue from currency transactions  38,424  23,849
Revenue from banking transactions  5,667  5,110
Revenue 44,091 28,959
Transaction and commission costs  (20,071)  (10,670)
Gross Profit 24,020 18,289
     
Administrative expenses  (18,499)  (21,040)
Depreciation charge  (1,398)  (1,427)
Amortisation charge  (5,812)  (4,347)
Impairment charge  (1,638)  -
Acquisition expenses  -  (130)
Total operating expenses (27,347) (26,944)
     
Memo: Adjusted EBITDA*2 6,713 1,164
     
Operating loss A (3,327) (8,655)
Finance cost
 
 (490)  (391)
Loss before tax (3,817) (9,046)
Tax credit B 1,555  2,109
Loss after tax (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,919)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
Other comprehensive income:  
Items that may be reclassified to profit or loss     
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations  -  6
Total comprehensive loss for the year (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,913)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
  (2,262)  (6,931)
 
Loss per share C  
Basic  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
Diluted  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
     

Notes:

Adjusted EBITDA is Operating loss before: Depreciation, Amortisation, Impairments, Share option charges, and Separately identifiable items.  All income and expenses arise from continuing operations.

*1 Gross value of currency transactions sold and banking deposit transactions are a non-GAAP measure and represent the gross value of currency transactions sold to customers and banking deposits made by customers.   

*2 Adjusted EBITDA is not a GAAP measure and represents operating loss before share option charges, depreciation, amortisation and separately identifiable items (exceptional items).

 

CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

AS AT 31 DECEMBER

 2021 2021  2020 2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
ASSETS    
Non-current assets    
  Property, plant and equipment 1,257 -  1,646 -
  Right of use assets 4,874 -  6,061 -
  Intangible assets (note F) 17,492 -  19,744 -
  Goodwill 13,468 -  15,106 -
  Deferred tax assets 949 1,163  3,193 744
  Investments - 61,978  - 61,707
 38,040 63,141  45,750 62,451
     
Current assets    
  Inventories 168 -  194 -
  Trade and other receivables 8,256 339  9,586 274
  Current tax assets (R&D reclaimable) 397 -  1,367 -
  Derivative financial assets (note G) 2,593 -  3,019 -
  Cash and cash equivalents 13,104 -  10,032 -
 24,518 339  24,198 274
     
   
TOTAL ASSETS 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
     
EQUITY, AND LIABILITIES    
Equity attributable to equity holders    
  Share capital 1,793 1,793  1,786 1,786
  Share premium 53,218 53,218  53,003 53,003
  Share-based payment reserve 1,858 1,580  1,402 1,402
  Other reserves 8,609 3,187  8,609 3,187
  Accumulated (losses) / retained earnings (24,590) 1,623  (22,259) (1,625)
  Company profit / (loss) in the year - (692)  - 3,155
Equity attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC 40,888 60,709  42,541 60,908
Non-controlling interest 263 -  101 -
 41,151 60,709  42,642 60,908
     
Non-current liabilities    
  Borrowings 1,600 -  2,000 -
  Lease liabilities 4,484 -  5,509 -
  Deferred tax liabilities - -  3,740 -
 6,084 -  11,249 -
     
Current liabilities    
  Borrowings 400 -  - -
  Trade and other payables 12,002 2,771  12,110 1,817
  Current tax liabilities 61 -  - -
  Lease liabilities 778 -  897 -
  Derivative financial liabilities (note G) 2,082 -  3,050 -
 15,323 2,771  16,057 1,817
     
     
TOTAL EQUITY AND LIABILITIES 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
      

 

 


CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER

GROUP Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings    Other reserves Total attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC Non-controlling interest Total
equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
                
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  1,345  (15,340)  8,603  49,397  119  49,516
                
Loss for the year -  -  -  (6,919)  -  (6,919)  (18)  (6,937)
Other comprehensive income:                
Items that will not be reclassified subsequently to profit or loss:                
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations -  -  -  -  6  6  -  6
Other items:                
Share-based payment charge -  -  444  -  -  444  -  444
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  (387)  -  -  (387)  -  (387)
                
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  (22,259)  8,609  42,541  101 42,642
                
(Loss) / profit for the year -  -  -  (2,424)  -  (2,424)  162  (2,262)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  272  -  272
Share options exercised in year- - (93) 93 - - - -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222  -  222
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  278  -  -  277  -  277
At 31 December 2021 1,793 53,218 1,858 (24,590) 8,609 40,888 263 41,151

 

COMPANY Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings  Other reserves Total equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  958  (1,625)  3,187  57,309
          
Profit for the year and total comprehensive income -  -  -  3,155  -  3,155
 
Share-based payment charge
-  -  444  -  -  444
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  1,530  3,187  60,908
       
Loss for the year -  -  -  (692)  -  (692)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  271
Share options exercised in year -  -  (93)  93  -  -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222
At 31 December 2021 1,793  53,218  1,580  931  3,187  60,709

 

The following describes the nature and purpose of each reserve within owners’ equity:

 

Share capital                                                      Amount subscribed for shares at nominal value.

Share premium                                                  Amount subscribed for shares in excess of nominal value, less directly attributable costs.

Share-based payment reserve                         Proportion of the fair value of share options granted relating to services rendered up to the balance sheet date.

Retained deficit                                                Cumulative profit and losses attributable to equity shareholders.

 

Other reserves comprise:

     Merger reserve                                           Arising on reverse acquisition from Group reorganisation.

     Contingent consideration reserve              Arising on equity based contingent consideration on acquisition of subsidiaries.

     Foreign currency reserve                            Arising on translation of foreign operation.

 


CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF CASHFLOWS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 FY-2021 FY-2021  FY-2020 FY-2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
    
Loss before tax (3,817) (1,111) (9,045) 2,650
    
Add: Cashflows from operating activities:  
Adjustments for:   
  Depreciation 1,398 -  1,427 -
  Amortisation 5,812 -  4,347 -
  Impairment 1,638 -  - -
  Share-based payment charges 272 -  444 -
  Decrease / (increase) in trade and other receivables*1 3,614 (63)  (401) (2,507)
  (Decrease) / increase in trade and other payables*2 (2,688) 954  3,050 (143)
  Decrease / (increase) in derivative financial assets 426 -  1,542 -
 (Decrease) / increase in derivative financial liabilities (968) -  (1,511) -
 Decrease in inventories 26 -  70 -
 Finance costs 490 6  391 -
 10,020 897  9,359 (2,650)
 
 
Net cash inflow / (outflow) 6,203 (214) 314 -
    
Tax receipts 1,367 -  2,539 -
    
NET CASHFLOWS FROM OPERATING ACTIVITIES 7,570 (214) 2,853 -
    
Cashflows from investing activities   
  Acquisition of property plant and equipment (78) -  (160) -
  Acquisition of intangibles (3,560) -  (4,531) -
  Acquisition of subsidiary, net of cash acquired - -  (255) -
Net cash used in investing activities (3,638) -  (4,946) -
    
Cashflows from financing activities   
  New Borrowings - -  2,000 -
  Principal elements of lease payments (872) -  (891) -
  Interest on financial leases (194) -  (222) -
  Other interest paid (14) (6)  (27) -
  Proceeds from issuance of ordinary shares 220 220   
Net cash (outflow) / Inflow from financing activities (860) 214  860 -
    
    
NET INCREASE/ (DECREASE) IN CASH AND CASH EQUIVALENTS 3,072 - (1,233) -
Cash, and cash equivalents at 1 January 10,032 -  11,265 -
Cash, and cash equivalent at 31 December 13,104 - 10,032 -
      

 

*1 The movement in the deferred and current tax assets and the right-of use asset balances (excluding the depreciation charge) is included within the movement in trade and other receivables.

*2 The movement in the deferred and current tax liabilities and the lease liability balances is included within the movement in trade and other payables.

2022

Final Results

30 March 2022

‘'Significant growth and operational progress, along with strong cash generation

Equals (AIM:EQLS), a leading fintech payments group focused on the SME marketplace, announces its final results for the year-ended 31 December 2021 (the ‘year’ or ‘FY-2021’) and an update on trading for the period from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022.

 

Download

These Results are available in PDF format.
To download please click here

 


FY-2021: Financial Summary

  FY-2021   FY-2020   Change*
£ millions  £ millions   
Underlying transaction values      
-          FX 4,352  2,672  + 63%
-          Banking 1,331  821  + 62%
-          Solutions Platform 846  -   
-          Total 6,529  3,493  + 87%
      
Revenue 44.1  29.0  + 52%
% of revenue from B2B 81%  70%   
      
Gross profits 24.0  18.3  + 31%
      
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7 1.1   
      
EBITDA 5.7  (2.0)   
      
Loss after taxation (2.3)  (6.9)   
      
Memo:     
  Capitalised staff costs 3.0  4.0  - 25%
  Separately reported items (below Adjusted EBITDA) 0.7  2.6  - 73%
  R&D credits received 1.4  2.5   
  Impairment of travel cash business 1.6  -   
  Cash per share (at balance sheet date) 7.3p  5.6p  + 30%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

FY-2021 Financial Highlights

  • Total Revenue increased by 52% to £44.1 million (FY-2020: £29.0 million), supported by:
    • Like for like transactional values increasing by 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
    • Immediate success in the Solutions Platform which contributed £0.8 billion in transaction values and £3.6 million in revenues
  • Gross profits increased 31% to £24.0 million (FY-2020: £18.3 million)
  • Cash-based expenditure fell a further 7% (£1.6 million) to £21.2 million (FY-2020: £22.8 million)
  • Adjusted EBITDA** increased to £6.7 million (FY-2020: £1.1 million)
  • Year-end cash increased 31% to £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

 FY-2021 operational and product highlights

  • Focus on B2B and non travel-related revenue streams successfully continued
    • Business customer revenue increased to represent 81% of total revenues (FY-2020: 70%)
    • Non-travel revenue represented 94% of the total, up from 91% in FY-2020
  • Group continuing to attract larger corporates: won a significant mandate to transact a single but complex trade yielding £1.5 million of revenue and £0.8 million of gross profits
  • ‘Own-name’ multi-currency IBAN launched mid-year
  • Improved sales and data focus through both staff hires and CRM; a significant contributor to increased revenues
  • R&D continued throughout the year, with further technical developments including ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and Linked cards
  • Operational improvements through greater reconciliation automation and client onboarding

Q1-2022 Group highlights

  • Revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 up 78%, and averaged £222k per day (same period 2021 £125k)
  • Total revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 of £13.6 million
  • Strong performance across all sectors

Commenting on the Results, Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of Equals Group PLC, said:

“We ended 2021 in a very strong position, both financially and operationally.  The surge in our reported revenue and EBITDA speaks to a successful repositioning of our model to focus on B2B and away from legacy travel operations.  This process began in 2020, put us on the front-foot for 2021, and we are now progressing into 2022 with sustained confidence.  Our product set is being adopted by existing and new customers at a faster rate than we anticipated and that has allowed us to more quickly develop and roll out new functionality to a broader range of customers.  We are making excellent progress in the early stages of 2022 with rapid growth continuing while we navigate the geo-political backdrop.  We remain highly confident for our prospects both in 2022 and beyond.”

Analyst meeting

A conference call for analysts hosted by Ian Strafford-Taylor (CEO) and Richard Cooper (CFO) will be held at 09.30 today, 30 March 2022.  A copy of the presentation will be available after midday on the Equals website.  A copy of the Final Results presentation is also available at the Group’s website: https://equalsplc.com.

For retail investors, an audiocast of the conference call with analysts will be available after midday today:

https://webcasting.buchanan.uk.com/broadcast/62319d7461bd9a4d10292906

 

Notes

*Transactions with business customers are reported as ‘B2B’ and transactions with retail customers are reported as ‘B2C’.

**Adjusted EBITDA is defined as: earnings before depreciation, amortisation, impairment charges, share option charges, foreign exchange differences and separately reported items. Separately reported items are large, non-recurring items.

*** The financial statements were approved for release at 07:00 hours on 30 March 2022 to the London Stock Exchange via RNS after being approved by the Board on 29 March 2022 after the close of the stock market on that day.

 

For more information, please contact:

Equals Group PLC  
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO
Richard Cooper, CFO
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7778 9308
www.equalsplc.com
 
Canaccord Genuity (Nominated Advisor / Broker) 
Max Hartley / Georgina McCooke
Alex Aylen (Sales)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7523 8150
 
 
Buchanan (Financial Communications)  
Henry Harrison-Topham / Steph Whitmore / Toto Berger
[email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7466 5000
www.buchanan.uk.com

 

Notes to Editors:

Equals Group is a technology-led international payments group augmented by highly personalised service for the payment needs of SME’s whether these be FX, card payments or via Faster Payments. Founded in 2007, the Group was listed on AIM in 2014 and currently employs around 250 staff across sites in London and Chester.  For more information, please visit www.equalsplc.com.

 

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

2021

Management’s objective for 2021 were to significantly increase both the quantum and mix of revenues from B2B customers and products. We achieved both by building on the payments infrastructure and connectivity already assembled, and further enhanced this by providing customers with ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts. Concurrently, the Group expanded and refined its sales processes and go-to-market strategy.

Summary of financial performance

I am delighted to report that:

  • Like for like transactions executed on the Group’s platforms rose 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
  • Transactions from our new Solutions Platform were £0.8 billion from a standing start (FY-2020: Nil)
  • Revenue rose 52% to £44.1 million, with £15.3 million in Q4-2021 alone
  • Adjusted EBITDA rose from £1.1 million to £6.7 million
  • Year-end cash closed at £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

A full financial analysis is presented in the Chief Financial Officer’s Report which follows this statement.

COVID-19

2021 saw the world continue to struggle through COVID-19 variants and lockdowns. Despite this, the Group achieved rapid growth, benefiting from measures taken in 2020 to focus the Group on a B2B customer base and thereby reducing any reliance on the legacy B2C travel-related products.  In addition, the lessons learned in 2020 in terms of hybrid working meant that the Group could operate efficiently throughout the year during the various phases of the pandemic.

Marketplace and competitive landscape

The global payments market is a complex space and can be measured in many trillions of pounds, comprising all the various payment mechanisms from cash, cards, account-to-account transfers, and other methodologies across physical, internet and mobile interfaces. Against this background, the Group remains somewhat unique in that it spans both account-to-account transfers and cards, overlaid on infrastructure providing bank-grade connectivity and security on superior customer interfaces. The flexibility in the payment methodology that the Group can support from one unified platform is increasingly vital to business customers, for example many e-commerce businesses only accept card payments whereas other companies may typically only accept bank transfers.

Within the vast payments market, the Group remains strongly focused on the B2B customer segment. Within that, it has identified small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the optimal target audience for its products and services. The Group aims to deliver this via its ‘Equals Money’ proposition – a single platform comprising account-to-account transfers and card products for both UK and international transactions. The Group’s ‘target’ customer is an SME between 50-500 employees with UK and overseas payment needs. Engineering, product, and design resources are focused on providing solutions to this customer segment; however, the Group’s products equally serve both smaller and larger B2B customers.

Despite the continuing growth of fintech within the wider market, it remains the case that most payments activity continues to flow through the incumbent banks and payment networks. Therefore, winning business from these institutions remains a key focus for the Group in terms of both product development and sales and marketing activities. However, investment into the fintech competitors of Equals also makes it essential that the Group continues to innovate and invest into its platform and connectivity to remain ahead of the competition in its chosen B2B payments space.  The success of this strategy to date is clear in the Group’s FY-2021 results.

Performance in 2021

A key milestone to achieving accelerated growth for the Group was passed in May 2021 when Equals launched its capability to offer ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts to its customers. This enables the business customers of Equals to pay and receive into a single account in their own name, and that account can process all currencies automatically.  Further, the Group can offer its customers the flexibility to open multiple own-name IBAN accounts or multiple sub-accounts within a single IBAN.  This flexibility places Equals in a position where it can solve many payment and reconciliation problems for business customers, all delivered through one unified platform.

Equals Solutions

The own-name multi-currency IBAN capability, and the flexibility it offers, underpinned the creation of a new revenue stream: Equals Solutions.  Launched in June 2021, it contributed £0.3 million to revenues in the first half-year and £3.6 million for the full year, with a significant £1.7 million contribution of which was the fourth quarter showcasing its rapid growth and take-up by business customers.

Equals Solutions is targeted at larger corporates and provides a bespoke platform for each client. The flexibility in terms of being able to onboard a complex B2B customer rapidly and provide multiple own-name IBAN accounts and sub-accounts combined with the ability to implement complex authorisation hierarchies and protocols for the customer is a capability that few companies can offer. Incumbent banks are unable to compete given their operations remain on slow and often outdated infrastructure, while a typical fintech competitor concentrates on B2C not B2B customers and even may only have some – and not all – of the capabilities needed. Equals are therefore set apart given it provides a complete suite of services and products with the latest tech proposition.

Equals Money

Equals Money combines account-to-account payments, card payments and current accounts in one unified platform and is targeted at SME customers.

Along with Equals Solutions, the ability to offer own-name IBAN accounts to customers has significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Equals Money platform. In addition, during 2021 the Group implemented additional developments to the Equals Money platform including a new customer interface via website and app, batch payments and multi-tier configurable approval functionality.

Equals Pay and Equals Exchange

Equals Pay is the Group’s customer-facing international payments product. Numerous enhancements have been made to this product, including the ability to make batch payments and improved forward contract functionality.

Equals Exchange is the Group’s internal dealing platform which runs on the same infrastructure as Equals Pay.  This was launched during the year and is proving a very capable platform and is well regarded by Equals’ dealers.

Other achievements and product launches

  • Improved onboarding journey for all customers allied to automated compliance checks to minimise new-customer friction
  • Appointment of new Head of Sales and simplification of commission structure
  • Implementation of Growth Team comprising marketing and business development
  • Continued development of CRM (HubSpot) platform yielding improved sales traction
  • Creation of Data Team and investment into data capabilities and insights
  • Further upgrades to the Group’s compliance capabilities and personnel
  • Joining the ‘Confirmation of Payee’ scheme for UK Payments
  • Implementation of automated reconciliations utilising Kani-payments platform, resulting in additional operational efficiency
  • Launch of ‘Linked Cards’ for FairFX B2C cards platform
  • Banking platform re-branded

Strong financial performance – growth and resilience throughout the year

2021 was a year of significant growth for the Group in terms of transaction volumes, revenues and expanded product suite delivering enhanced operational capacity. Growth was broad-based across the B2B products, aided by the advent of the Equals Solutions revenue stream in June. The growth in revenues has flowed through to EBITDA as the Group became increasingly operationally geared and also cash generative.

The transaction table below shows how the volumes through the Group’s platform have almost doubled since 2019 despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Overall transaction volumes have increased by 97% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 63% over 2020 activity. Within these totals, currency transactions have increased by 105% since 2019 and 63% since 2020, whilst banking transactions have increased by 73% and 62% respectively.

Table A: Transaction amounts since January 2019

In £ millions Banking Currency sold Like for like total Solutions Platform Group total
      
Q1-2019 171 451 622 - 622
Q2-2019 189 448 637 - 637
Q3-2019 202 575 777 - 777
Q4-2019 209 643 852 - 852
Total, FY-2019 771 2,117 2,888 - 2,888
      
Q1-2020 194 664 858 - 858
Q2-2020 169 533 702 - 702
Q3-2020 221 660 881 - 881
Q4-2020 237 815 1,052 - 1,052
Total, FY-2020 821 2,672 3,493 - 3,493
Increase on prior year +21% +21%
      
Q1-2021 230 829 1,059 - 1,059
Q2-2021 340 909 1,249 143 1,392
Q3-2021 374 1,199 1,573 313 1,886
Q4-2021 387 1,415 1,802 391 2,193
Total, FY-2021 1,331 4,352 5,683 846 6,529
Increase on prior year +63% +87%

 

The ability to process a doubling of activity in two years demonstrates the resilience of the platform the Group has built, the value of the investment in infrastructure which was commenced in 2018, along with the acquisition of Casco in 2019. Furthermore, the acceleration in transactions in the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY-2021 shows the effect of the own-name IBAN roll-out combined with Equals Solutions driving increased activity.

The revenue table below tells a similar story with strong revenue growth compared to both 2019 pre-pandemic levels and the 2020 performance. Overall revenues grew 43% over 2019 levels and 52% over the Covid-impacted 2020 result. Within the revenue performance, the shift towards B2B is clear to see.  FY-2021 revenues were split 81% B2B and 19% B2C compared to a 55/45 split in FY-2019 and a 70/30 split in FY-2020.

Table B: Revenues since January 2019

In £’000s B2B B2C Total Revenue margin Revenue per day*
Q1-2019 3,831 3,087 6,918 1.1% 110
Q2-2019 4,069 3,636 7,705 1.2% 124
Q3-2019 4,164 3,847 8,011 1.0% 123
Q4-2019 5,231 3,080 8,311 1.0% 128
Total, FY-2019 17,295 13,650 30,945 1.1% 121
Mix 56% 44%
      
Q1-2020 5,354 2,672 8,026 0.9% 125
Q2-2020 3,928 1,819 5,747 0.8% 99
Q3-2020 5,273 2,033 7,306 0.8% 112
Q4-2020 5,797 2,084 7,881 0.7% 122
Total, FY-2020 20,352 8,608 28,960 0.8% 114
Change on prior year +18% -37% -6%
Mix 70% 30%
      
Q1-2021 5,626 2,438 8,064 0.8% 128
Q2-2021 7,179 1,662 8,841 0.7% 145
Q3-2021 9,925 1,980 11,905 0.8% 183
Q4-2021 12,873 2,408 15,281 0.8% 239
Total, FY-2021 35,603 8,488 44,091 0.8% 174
Change on prior year +75% -1% +52%
Mix 81% 19%

 

* based on underlying, not rounded, figures and expressed as revenue divided by the number of working days in each quarter.

 

In terms of growth and productivity, revenue per employee rose by 80% to £172k per employee (FY 2020: £96k), a testament both to productivity, incentives and strong headcount control.

Product outlook

Unified platform – Equals Money & Equals Solutions

Great strides were made during 2021 in the development of ‘Equals Money’, which incorporates the payments, cards and current account solutions that the Group can offer in one unified platform and ties directly into the strategic vision for the Group to simplify money movement for business customers.

The investment made in prior years to assemble infrastructure providing bank-grade security and connectivity, including the integration into the Faster Payments network and the implementation of the Citibank partnership to provide ‘local’ settlement in over 40 countries, form the underlying platform for clearing payments efficiently.  The scalability of this platform has been evidenced by the doubling of transaction volumes processed in the last two years.

To optimise revenues from this assembled infrastructure, it is essential to make it simple both to become a customer and then for that customer to use the platform.  For the customer acquisition journey, investment has been made into further refining the onboarding process, utilising automated compliance checks overlaid with additional compliance personnel to fast-track non-standard cases. For the ease-of-use of the platform, the Group has applied extensive resources into refining the User Experience (UX) utilising both extensive research into customer needs and the in-house product and design expertise at Equals.

In 2022 the Group will continue to invest in platform capabilities, onboarding efficiency and UX to constantly improve both the platform functionality and usability. This is expected to translate into increased revenues from existing customers whilst improving sales success and conversion of leads into new customers. Further, the Group will integrate the platforms with major accountancy software providers thereby providing another sales channel and expanding the pool of customers who can access Equals’ products and services.

Payment infrastructure, ‘Boxes’

2021 saw major advances in the Group’s capabilities to deliver enhanced account services to its customers.  The most significant advance was the ability to give a customer an ‘own name multi-currency IBAN’ – an account in their own name denoted by a unique IBAN (‘International Bank Account Number’) which supports multiple currencies.  As the account is in the name of the customer, a so-called ‘first party’ account, this allows more use-cases than payments into a ‘pooled account’ from a compliance perspective.  Further, having one IBAN for all currencies enables a customer to provide one single account identifier to all of its customers and suppliers, thereby simplifying both sales and procurement processes.

To offer own-name multi-currency accounts, many third-party integrations were needed, including partner banks and SWIFT.  However, the key framework to support the flexible platform we require is referred to as ‘Boxes’.  A Box is our internal title for a single currency container in which you can store an asset.  Hence, each own-name multi-currency IBAN has one Box per currency.  Further flexibility is gained by the fact that a Box can support sub-Boxes so a customer can pay directly into their IBAN or directly to a sub-Box.  This sub-Box capability allows us to offer customers an own-name IBAN with unlimited sub-accounts if they require it.

The Boxes infrastructure also provides the capability for an Equals Customer to create own-name IBAN accounts for its own customers – subject to Equals compliance checks. This capability can resolve complex reconciliation issues for companies that have multiple parties paying into one bank account per currency. Each party can have a unique IBAN to pay into, in any currency, and therefore the Equals customer knows at point of receipt of funds who has remitted them.

Supporting this configuration is the Boxes service which automatically creates a Box on receipt of funds and auto-processes funds into and out of a Box via SWIFT, BACS, Faster Payments and SEPA.

Further development of the Boxes infrastructure is planned for 2022, enabling us to deliver key additional functionality for both Equals Money and Equals Platforms including real-time running balances, statements and enhanced reporting for customers, bulk payments and the recently announced direct integration into the SEPA (Single European Payments Area) network. In addition, the Group will build out its capability to offer its IBAN and Boxes functionality via API – thereby allowing more sophisticated customers to directly integrate with the Equals platform and support white-label opportunities.

Card Products

Similar to the account-to-account payment infrastructure that Equals has assembled, 2021 saw significant progress in the development of the Group’s card platform that underpins a strong pipeline of customer-facing features to be deployed in 2022. The new infrastructure can power the Group’s card products for the medium term and allow Equals to run card schemes in overseas locations. 2022 will see the launch of the new Equals Money card, replacing the Equals Spend cards which run on legacy infrastructure. The new cards, which are multi-currency, can be both virtual and physical and have many more features and capabilities. Equals are also moving towards being its own Issuer for its card products, thereby eliminating another party from the supply chain and speeding up development cycles.

Sales and Marketing – a high growth agenda

The Group further enhanced its capabilities in Sales and Marketing in 2021. The roll-out of HubSpot, the new CRM system for Equals, continued during the year, focusing on the B2B customer segment. Many activities previously performed in isolation are now processed automatically via the HubSpot platform so that the Group has a single database on customers and a central hub from which all customer interaction is performed and recorded. The focus for 2022 will be to harness this capability to drive new customer acquisition and to further drive enhanced revenues from the existing client base.

Equals created a ‘Growth Team’ during the year which combined marketing with the overall growth agenda. This team is responsible for HubSpot in terms of ensuring optimisation of how it is used across the Group and that the benefits derived from it are maximised. The focus of the team is to enable growth by a combination of delivering increased revenue from existing customers whilst driving new customer acquisition. The key for the success of the team is the interaction with the revenue teams to support them in reaching their targets.

In keeping with the overall strategy of the Group, the focus for growth is on the B2B customer base. Unlike B2C customer acquisition, where above-the-line (‘ATL’) marketing such as TV and billboard advertisements augmented by digital marketing is the driving force, B2B customer acquisition relies more on the outbound sales function augmented by and integrated with a coherent digital marketing strategy and content production.  Accordingly, the Growth Team works very closely with the Sales functions across the Group in defining campaigns and assisting the sales efficacy with targeted digital marketing and an in-house pay-per-click (‘PPC’) team.

The challenge for Equals in 2022 in sales and growth is managing the transition from being a product-led business to a platform-led business.  Previously, the Group has sold its products – International Payments, Card Products and Current Account products – using largely separate sales teams and marketing strategies.  As Equals moves forward, it will be selling Equals Money to the SME customer base and Equals Solutions to the larger B2B customers. The transition from product to platform differentiates Equals from vanilla FX businesses, as the Group can compete not just on FX rates, but on platform capability and service. The Sales skills required are also different and therefore the Group appointed a new Head of Sales during the year, revised the commission structure and upgraded its sales teams.

The steps taken in 2021 position Equals well for the transition from product to the platform as it now has a stronger sales team, a single-source-of-truth CRM platform and the Growth Team is established internally as the fulcrum around which will drive the Group’s unified Sales approach.

Board composition

On 9 April 2021, we welcomed Christopher Bones as a Non-Executive Director of the Company with his background in both Human Resources and Marketing. He has been invaluable in the formulation of a compensation strategy for the Group as well as assisting in the development of a go-to-market strategy.

Employees

The Group has been focusing on enhancing ‘bench-strength’ to support the executive layer that sits just below the Board. Pursuant to this, the Group took on a Head of Compliance to compliment the already strong operational team, and the CFO, Richard Cooper, recruited a new Director of Finance to enable him to work even more closely with myself on corporate opportunities and investor relations.

The Group’s employees continue to be its greatest strength.  The loyalty, commitment, and hard work demonstrated in 2020 and now in 2021 has been tremendous and deserves to be acknowledged. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank every colleague for everything they have done for the Group. We are delighted to have a diverse workforce and are proud to train and promote from within as well as seek fresh talent from elsewhere.

Three senior members of the executive team left the Group during 2021 and I thank them for their time whilst at Equals.

Whilst the Group continues to seek efficiencies and has a strong cost-control culture, the Board intends to invest these gains in further capacity for growth rather than reductions in staff numbers.  This in turn will benefit investors as Equals will have strong operational gearing as it grows, with its cost base increasing at a lower rate than transactions and revenues.

The labour market in the UK, particularly in the fintech space, is extremely competitive. Accordingly, in 2021 the Group introduced a company-wide share-ownership scheme (‘SIP’) where all eligible employees received the same number of shares in Equals. The Group will seek to make similar awards on an annual basis. In addition, Equals introduced a long-term incentive plan (‘LTIP’) scheme for senior employees and a similar plan with performance conditions for Executive Directors. Both the SIP and the LTIP schemes have lengthy vesting periods and thereby provide strong retention benefits for the Group.

ESG

Equals wholeheartedly embraces ESG initiatives and takes Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (‘EDI’) extremely seriously. Our EDI strategy, which covers not only employees but also customers, includes an internal EDI network populated with elected representatives and regular employee surveys. This is a key objective for all Executive Committee members and forms part of their appraisal.

Future plans and opportunities

The strategic direction of the Group remains clearly focused on the B2B customer segment with Equals Money being targeted at the SME base and Equals Solutions at larger corporate opportunities. The growth potential, now that Equals has assembled the core capabilities of own-name IBAN and bank-grade connectivity and clearance, is extremely strong due to the complexity and time required to replicate the Group’s capabilities and will only be enhanced by the developments planned for 2022.

Equals will continue to look for growth opportunities and can do so with a strong balance sheet and cash position.  The Group will examine overseas expansion beyond its current predominantly UK-centric customer base and will also take a considerate and opportunistic approach to acquisitions as they present themselves.

Recent geo-political events

The current uncertainty caused by the conflict from Russia to Ukraine does not have a material impact on Equals as the Group’s direct exposure to the region is extremely limited. In addition, clearly, to the extent the situation affects global confidence and trade volumes, this could impact general commercial activity levels during 2022.  We have not seen any direct impact to date but continue to monitor the situation closely.

Q1-2022 trading and Outlook

2022 has started exceptionally well with revenues to 28 March, 78% higher than the same period in 2021 at £13.6 million.  Strong revenue growth continues to come from B2B with all product lines progressing well.  Equals Solutions, which contributed £3.6 million of revenues in FY-2021, has already contributed £2.6 million in FY-2022 to-date and is expected to continue to grow strongly as the Group adds new functionality to its payments platform during the year.

Equals, therefore, has a strong outlook resulting from the investments it has made to create a payments platform comprising International and Domestic Payments, Card Payments and Banking Services underpinned by exceptional technology and direct connections to multiple payment networks.  Further investments made in compliance, onboarding and user experience mean that the rich functionality of the platform is made easily accessible to current and potential customers.  Finally, advances made in Sales, Marketing and Data mean that Equals now sells its products and platform more efficiently.  Accordingly, the Board looks forward to the future with confidence.

 

Ian Strafford-Taylor
Chief Executive Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

 Chief Financial Officer’s Report

I present my review and financial analysis for the year ended 31 December 2021.

TABLE 1: INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £ millions  £ millions
Revenue (table 3) 44.1  29.0
    
Gross Profits (table 3) 24.0  18.3
Less: Marketing (1.2)  (1.2)
Contribution 22.8 17.1
Expenditure (table 9) (16.1)  (16.0)
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7  1.1
Less:    Share option expense (0.3)  (0.4)
Less:    Exceptional items and acquisition costs (0.7)  (2.7)
EBITDA 5.7 (2.0)
    
IFRS 16 Depreciation (0.9)  (0.9)
Other depreciation (0.4)  (0.5)
Amortisation of acquired intangibles (1.3)  (1.2)
Other amortisation (4.5)  (3.2)
Contingent consideration cost (0.1)  (0.6)
Impairment of the Bureau operations (1.6)  -
 (8.8)  (6.4)
    
EBIT (3.1) (8.4)
    
Lease interest (0.2)  (0.2)
Foreign exchange differences (0.1)  (0.2)
Contingent consideration finance charges (0.3)  (0.2)
 (0.6)  (0.6)
    
LOSS BEFORE TAXATION (3.8) (9.0)
    
Corporate and deferred taxation 1.1  0.7
R&D tax credits receivable 0.4  1.4
 1.5  2.1
    
LOSS FOR THE YEAR (2.3) (6.9)

 

 

TABLE 2: EARNINGS PER SHARE

Normal Adjusted
    
Basic 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p
    
Diluted 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p

 

 

TABLE 3: REVENUE AND GROSS PROFITS

 

A. Revenue summary by business line

 FY-2021 FY-2020
£ millions Revenues Gross profits  Revenues Gross profits
International Payments (Table 4) 29.5 14.0  17.4 11.1
Spend Platform 6.3 4.3  3.7 2.0
Personal cards 2.4 1.6  2.1 1.1
Banking 5.6 4.0  5.1 3.8
Bureau operations and other 0.3 0.1  0.7 0.3
 44.1 24.0  29.0 18.3

B. Revenue and gross profits by customer grouping and markets

 B2B v B2C Non-travel v Travel
£ millions B2B B2C Total  Non-travel Travel Total
REVENUES
-                      2021 35.6 8.5 44.1 41.4 2.7 44.1
-                      2020 20.4 8.6 29.0  26.3 2.7 29.0
% change* +75% -1% +52%  +58% - +52%
       
GROSS PROFITS       
-                      2021 16.6 7.4 24.0 22.1 1.9 24.0
-                      2020 12.8 5.5 18.3  16.8 1.5 18.3
-                      2021 % 47% 87% 54% 53% 70% 54%
-                      2020 % 63% 64% 63%  64% 56% 63%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

The Group has many individual revenue lines (and associated variable costs), but broadly these can be summarised as follows:

International payments:

This includes direct, affiliate and white-label foreign exchange for business customers and to a lesser extent, affluent private customers.

It also includes the bulk of the ‘solutions’ product, launched during the year, which leads with an own-name IBAN, facilitating both same-to-same transactions and currency A to currency B transactions, as well as bulk payments using our ‘Faster Payments’ membership gateway.

The white-label business trading under the Equals Connect brand, allows smaller providers to ‘piggy-back’ off our excellent compliance processes and speed of delivery.

The white-label business acquired in 2019 had a stellar year growing its revenues from £2.4 million to £7.7 million, although at a tighter gross profit margin of 14% due to both competitive pressures and one particularly large affiliate.

The Material trade (announced on 28 October 2021) was a ‘bonus’ but took many weeks to see through a highly complicated transaction and demonstrates the ability of the Group to deal with transactions of this size and complexity.

Solutions, as fully described in the CEO’s Report came on stream late in H1-2021 and ramped-up each month since.

 


TABLE 4 – INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS, FY-2021 and FY-2020

FY-2021 Turnover
£ millions
Number of
transactions
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,473.1 88,314 16.7 65.4 62%
White label 1,094.2 34,090 7.7 70.8 14%
Material trade 114.4 1 1.5 132.3 54%
FX trades from Solutions clients 241.1 584 2.5 101.8 24%
Sub-total, currency 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4 47%
Other flows from Solutions clients 845.9 3,241 1.1 13.0 89%
Totals 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9
      
      
-                      B2B 4,400.6 97,515 26.3 59.8  
-                      B2C 368.1 28,715 3.2 88.5  
Totals by segment 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9  
      
-                      Spot 3,199.1 114,391 23.2 72.5  
-                      Forward 723.7 8,598 5.2 71.9  
Total, from currency trades 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4  

 

FY-2020 Turnover
£ millions
Number of transactions
 
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,088.7 84,069 15.0 71.8 69%
White label 279.0 10,624 2.4 86.0 29%
Material trade - - -  -
Solutions - - -  -
TOTALS 2,367.7 94,693 17.4 73.5 64%
      
-                      B2B 1,975.0 60,953 13.7 69.4  
-                      B2C 392.7 33,740 3.7 94.2  
      
-                      Spot 1,716.3 86,015 11.5 67.0  
-                      Forward 651.4 8,678 5.9 90.6  

 

*bp = Basis Points representing 100th of 1%.

 

B2B continued to grow, and of the total of revenues from International Payments, represented:

-          91% of total turnover (FY-2020: 83%),

-          89% of total revenue (FY-2020: 79%), and

-          77% of total transactions (FY-2020: 64%).

Part of the growth driver for this was the White-label offering, Equals Connect which trades exclusively through affiliates, and therefore at a lower gross return.

Of the total revenues from International Payments, Spot transactions represented:

-          82% of turnover (FY-2020: 72%),

-          82% of revenue (FY-2020: 66%), and

-          93% of transactions (FY-2020: 91%).

Forward margins fell slightly in the aggregate caused mainly by customers taking shorter-dated forwards through Brexit and COVID-19 uncertainty.

Average transaction values from the core and white label books and composition between B2B/B2C and Spot/Forward were:

 

TABLE 4a – International Payments, transaction sizes, FY-2021 and FY-2020

  FY-2021
£’000s
 FY-2020
£’000s
  Transaction size  Transaction size
 Core 28.1  20.2
 White-label 32.1  26.3
     
 -                      B2B 34.2  32.4
 -                      B2C 12.8  11.6
     
 -                      Spot 25.0  20.0
 -                      Forward 84.2  75.0

 

Spend platform:

This is a card-loaded expenses platform delivered via mobile phone or other devices. Extensively used in the film production industry, it enables tight control of corporate expenses but gives companies great flexibility to be agile in their requirement to commit funds.  This segment is regarded as B2B.

 

TABLE 5 – SPEND PLATFORM

FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 333.9  203.3
Number of loads 448k  330k
Number of transactions 3,131k  1,872k
Revenue (£ millions) 6.3  3.7
Average revenue/transaction 201p  200p

 

FY-2021 saw a strong rebound from the COVID-19 impact in FY-2020 – particularly in the final quarter.  A greater number of customers (and their employees) were signed-up and able to benefit from advanced product features.

Personal cards

The origin of the Group in 2007 was a pre-paid web and mobile-enabled card for affluent individuals, often with family financing needs to be served through our ‘linked-cards’ option.  This segment is categorised as B2C.

TABLE 6 – PERSONAL CARDS

 FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 61.4  64.4
Number of loads 250k  340k
Number of transactions 1,106k  938k
Revenue (£ millions) 2.4  2.1
Average revenue/transaction 212p  225p

 

This business saw a modest increase over 2020, but since December 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the Group has witnessed an upturn in usage and revenues.  The card product is often used by the owners of the SMEs served by our Spend platform, so it remains a useful but not core product.  Given the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, the Group limited its marketing expenditure in this segment in FY-2021.

Banking services

A suite of bank-style accounts for emerging corporates, established trusts and personal individuals who want a way to control their expenditure.  The B2B segment of this income is marginally more than 50% of its total.

TABLE 7 – BANKING SERVICES

FY-2021 FY-2020
Deposits (£ millions) £1,331  £821
Transactions 5,458k  3,715k
Number of accounts 14.5k  14.2k
Revenue (£ millions) £5.6  £5.1
Revenue per account £392  £354

 

Bureau de change

A legacy of the City Forex acquisition in 2018, the Group retains two branches in the City of London, mainly serving corporates in the insurance and other professional services sector, along with walk-in traffic from workers in the City.  Thus, there is a mix of B2B and B2C revenues.  Owing to the impact of COVID-19, a decision was made to impair the goodwill of this business in FY-2021 and the corresponding impairment is £1,638k

Variable costs:

There are three main categories of variable cost:

(a)      Transaction costs – these are third party costs applying to all the above, and range from banking fees to MasterCard costs, and variable KYC and KYB costs.

(b)     Affiliate commissions (or introducer fees); mainly a revenue sharing model applying to International Payments.

(c)     Staff commissions; revenue related commissions payable, through the payroll, to a cohort of highly motivated professionals who may earn monthly, quarterly and annual commissions based on their own success.

The table below shows which business units have the various cost components:

TABLE 8 – VARIABLE COSTS BY BUSINESS LINE

£ millions International payments Cards Banking
Transaction costs 1.7 2.7 1.6
Affiliate Commissions 5.0 - -
White label commissions 6.3   
Staff commissions 2.8 - -
Totals FY-2021 15.8 2.7 1.6

 

Marketing costs

These include costs relating to the Equals brand, along with specific marketing programmes, relating more to Spend and Banking than other product sets.

Overheads

As with many ‘fintechs’, the Group has as its largest cost, staff, followed by IT expenditure, premises, professional fees (many relating to our position on AIM), and modest other expenses.

Staff costs include employment taxes, employee benefits and contractor fees – mainly in our Engineering team.  With just over 255 staff, the split of staff is more heavily weighted towards revenue earning/maintaining staff along with product development personnel.

Revenue per employee increased 80% to £172k, up from £96k in 2020. Base cost (meaning, salary, ERs NIC and employers pension contribution) rose from £50k per employee to £52k per employee during the year. Value added per employee rose 160% from £46k to £120k in the year.

Expenditure that meets the obligations and criteria of IAS 38 are capitalised and amortised over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months from inception.

TABLE 9 - COMPONENTS OF EXPENDITURE

£ millions FY-2021 FY-2020
Staff costs 15.7  16.9
-                      Less capitalised (3.0)  (4.0)
-                      Less: exceptional items (0.7)  (1.4)
-                      Less IFRS 16 (vehicles) (0.1)  -
Net staff costs 11.9 11.5
    
IT and telephone 2.1  1.7
-                      Less capitalised (0.3)  (0.4)
Net IT costs 1.8 1.3
    
Premises costs 1.8  2.0
-                      Less IFRS 16 (1.0)  (1.0)
Net premises costs 0.8 1.0
    
Professional and compliance fees 1.3  1.4
Travel and entertainment 0.3  0.4
Bad debts and similar -  0.4
 16.1  16.0
    
Analysed between:   
   Gross expenditure 21.2  22.8
   Taken to the balance sheet (4.4)  (5.4)
   Below adjusted EBITDA (0.7)  (1.4)
Totals per Table 1 16.1  16.0
    
Year-end number of staff 255  270

 

Exceptional items

As announced in the interim results on 14 September 2021, the Group carried out some restructuring of a layer of senior management, and the termination and similar costs for that layer have been taken as an exceptional item being £0.7 million.

In 2020 exceptional items were higher at £2.7 million with £1.6 million against COVID-19 and £1.1 million against the migration away from Wirecard, a previous card programme manager for the Group.  Of the 2020 costs, £2.0 million was cash incurred, and the balance was related to write-offs.

There were no acquisitions in the year and therefore no expenditure was incurred. (FY-2020: £130k was incurred in connection with the purchase of Effective FX).

Depreciation

Tangible fixed assets are depreciated over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months (other than leasehold improvements which is a maximum of 120 months). Assets (principally property and similar leases) are also depreciated over the shorter of the useful life of the asset and the lease term.

TABLE 10 - DEPRECIATION

 FY-2021 FY-2020
 £’000s £’000s
IFRS 16 depreciation 931 940
Other depreciation 467 487
 1,398 1,427

 

Guidance: Based upon the expenditure incurred to 31 December 2021, the depreciation charges for those assets in FY-2022 will be:

 £ millions
IFRS 16 depreciation 0.8
Other depreciation 0.5
 1.3

 

Amortisation

Intangible assets acquired on acquisition are amortised over their estimated useful lives, with a maximum of 60 months for Brands and a maximum of 108 months for Customer Relationships.  The charge to amortisation for the year can be analysed as follows:

TABLE 11 – COMPONENTS OF AMORTISATION CHARGES

 FY-2021
£’000s
FY-2020
£’000s
Amortisation charge arising from the capitalisation of internally developed software in the following years:  
2018 and earlier 1,303 899
2019 1,661 1,382
2020 893 451
2021 287 -
 4,144 2,733
Amortisation charge for other intangibles 357 404
 4,501 3,137
Amortisation of acquired intangibles 1,311 1,210
Total amortisation charge 5,812 4,347

Guidance: Based upon expenditure to 31 December 2021, the amortisation charges for FY-2022 are expected to be:

 £ millions
Internally developed software 4.3
Other intangible assets 0.3
Acquired intangibles 1.3
 5.9

 

Finance and other

IFRS 16 financial charges have been calculated using the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate on the NPV of total lease payments, this is released over the lease period to the P&L.

TABLE 12 – COMPONENTS OF FINANCE AND OTHER CHARGES

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £’000s  £’000s
Increase in assessment of contingent consideration (liability) for acquisition of Casco  
46
  
793
    
Adjustment to discount on valuation of Effective 278  -
IFRS 16 lease interest expense 188  222
CBILS interest 1  -
Other interest payable 23  18
 536  1,033
Split as follows:    
Included in Finance Charges 490  391
Included in Administrative expenses 46  642

 

Impairment

Revenues from the bureau-de-change business acquired with City Forex in 2018 have declined significantly owing to prolonged COVID-19 restrictions and thus the Group concluded it should be impaired to a carrying value of £579k.

Taxation

The Group has £17.2 million of tax losses available.

The Group has been able to receive funds directly from HMRC in relation to claims made for software development.  As the Group moves into taxable profits, such claims cease to be paid but offset against future taxable profits. The Group anticipates receiving £0.4 million in relation to the claim for 2021, but possibly no further into the future.

TABLE 13– BALANCE SHEET

This table shows a compressed ‘balance sheet’ for the Group.

31.12.2021 31.12.2020
 £’000s £’000s
    
IFRS 16 assets, less IFRS 16 liabilities (388)  (345)
Other non-current assets (other than deferred tax) 32,217  36,495
 31,829  36,150
    
Liquidity (per Table 14) 10,739  8,827
Trade debtors and accrued income (see note below) 3,638  2,314
R&D rebates 398  1,367
Prepayments 998  860
Deposits and sundry debtors 329  643
Inventory of card stock 168  194
Accounts payable (1,549)  (1,556)
Affiliate commissions (1,945)  (343)
PAYE, staff commissions etc. (1,884)  (1,701)
Other accruals and other creditors (1,349)  (1,130)
 9,543  9,475
    
Earn-out balances due (Table 16)
Implied interest thereon
(1,683)
63
 (2,746)
341
 (1,620)  (2,405)
Net corporation and deferred tax 888  (547)
Net value of forward contracts 511  (31)
 (221)  (2,983)
    
NET SHAREHOLDER FUNDS 41,151  42,642
    
Retained earnings at 1 January (22,259)  (15,340)
Earnings for the year (2,424)  (6,919)
Amount attributable to the exercise of share options 93  -
Retained earnings at 31 December (24,590)  (22,259)
    
Non-Controlling interest at 1 January 101  119
Earnings for year 162  (18)
Non-Controlling interest at 31 December 263  101
    
Share capital, share premium 55,011  54,789
Other reserves 10,467  10,011
 65,478  64,800
    
CAPITAL AND RESERVES 41,151 42,642

 

TABLE 14 - LIQUIDITY FY-2021   FY-2020
£000’S £000’S
Cash at bank (see Table 15) 13,104  10,032
Balances with liquidity providers 1,675  2,776
Pre-funded balances with card provider 1,615  2,078
Gross liquid resources 16,394 14,886
    
Customer balances not subject to safeguarding (3,655)  (4,059)
CBILS loan (see below) (2,000)  (2,000)
 (5,655)  (6,059)
    
Net position 10,739 8,827

 

Exposures to banks and liquidity providers

The Group maintains strong relationships with a number of banks and counterparties for spot and forward foreign exchange transactions.  The Group has recurring obligations to safeguard customer funds under the rules of the FCA, who are the prime regulator for the Group.

The balances held at 31 December were as follows:

TABLE 15 – BANK AND SIMILAR BALANCES

£ millions Safeguarded Not required to be safeguarded Totals
BANKS   
Barclays Bank PLC 47.7 7.1 54.8
NatWest/RBS Group 106.9 3.8 110.7
Bank of England 30.9 - 30.9
Citibank N.A. 26.0 0.1 26.1
Blackrock* - 2.0 2.0
Others  0.1 0.1
31 December 2021 211.5 13.1 224.6
   
31 December 2020 96.1 10.0 106.1
    
LIQUIDITY PROVIDERS    
Barclays Bank PLC  0.4 0.4
Velocity Trade International Ltd  0.1 0.1
Sucden Financial Ltd  1.2 1.2
31 December 2021 1.7 1.7
    
31 December 2020  2.8 2.8

 

*Blackrock is the manager, the legal entity is Institutional Cash Series PLC.

 

There exist tight controls over forward contracts with daily monitoring and reporting to the Executive Directors. The out-of-the-money position at 31 December 2021 was £0.2 million.

There were, in addition, £212.0 million of customer funds safeguarded at 31 December 2021 (31 December 2020: £96.0 million).

Balances with liquidity providers and customer balances not subject to safeguarding are typically margin calls on forward contracts. Pre-funded balances are required in anticipation of customers loading their cards.  Should the Group move to self-issuing, such pre-funding will dissipate.

Trade debtors and accrued income

In common with market practice, revenue is recognised on forward transactions on the execution of the transaction.  There was one particularly large forward transaction with an investment fund client generating profits of £0.9 million and which settled in January 2022.

Affiliate commissions

The growth in the payable relates to the increase in white label business and introducers for the Solutions business.

Earn-outs

Equals Connect (previously Casco Connect)

As announced on 19 November 2019, the Group acquired Casco Financial Services Limited for a maximum consideration of £3,725,000.

Effective FX

As announced on 15 October 2020, the Group acquired the trade and assets of Effective FX Limited for a maximum consideration of £1,575,000.

Whilst IFRS-3 requires an interest discount factor to be applied, the table below shows the ‘real cash’ aspects of the acquisitions.  The accounting standard requires an annual revaluation of contingent consideration based on historic performance.

The table below shows the financial position relating to these acquisitions

TABLE 16 – EARNOUTS

  Hermex Casco Effective Total
Acquisition date 09.08.2019 19.11.2019 15.10.2020
 £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
    
Acquisition price booked at acquisition 2,000 2,236 1,575 5,811
Earn outs paid by 31.12.2020 (2,000) (1,733) (125) (3,858)
Revaluation of asset based on performance - 793 - 793
Gross outstanding at 31.12.2020 - 1,296 1,450 2,746
Paid during 2021 - (741) (368) (1,109)
Further change in consideration - 46 - 46
Gross Outstanding at 31.12.2021 - 601 1,082 1,683
    
Paid during Q1-2022 - 601 282 833
    
Due in remainder of 2022 - - 800 800
    
Maximum consideration 2,000 3,725 1,575 7,300
Total consideration 2,000 3,075 1,575 6,650
     

CBILS loan

On 23 December 2020, the Group drew-down £2,000,000 from NatWest Group under the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’). The loan carries a coupon of Bank base rate plus 2.53%.  The loan is repayable at any time, but over 60 equal instalments of £33,333 with the first instalment paid on 21 January 2022.

The interest chargeable in 2021 amounted to £1k.

Share capital, share premium and share options

The number of shares in issue at 1 January 2021 was 178,602,918.  This increased in the year through the exercise of 738,889 share options from former employees (Table 17 below), thus the number of shares outstanding at 31 December 2021 was 179,341,807.  A further 704,000 shares at nominal value were issued pursuant to the SIP and admitted to trading on AIM on 16 March 2022, resulting in a total number of shares in issue at the date of signing of the Financial Statements of 180,045,807.

At 31 December 2020, the Company had 9,838,356 options outstanding. 738,889 of these were exercised in 2021, and 376,667 lapsed.

Earnings per share are reported/calculated in accordance with IAS 33. For non-diluted, the result after tax is divided by the average number of shares in issue in the year. The average number of shares were 178,959,402 (2020: 178,602,918).

The calculation of diluted EPS is based on the result after tax divided by the number of actual shares in issue (above) plus the number of options where the fair value exceeds the weighted average share price in the year. The fair value of options is measured using Black-Scholes and Monte-Carlo. It should be noted that this calculation is based on fair value, not the difference between the market price at the end of the year or the weighted average price and the exercise price. The weighted average price was 43p (2020: 34p), the number of options exceeding the fair value was 3,553,681 (2020: Nil).

On 18 October 2021, the Company announced Discretionary Share Incentive Plans over 4,535,000 shares.  The final awards were lower, at 4,369,000.  Thus, at the date of signing of these financial statements, there were 13,091,800 options, representing 7.3% of the issued share capital and 6.8% of the enlarged share capital. 

The cost of external advice for these schemes amounted to £84k in the year (FY-2020: £Nil)

At 31 December 2021, the Company had distributable reserves of £931,411.  At the date of signing of these accounts, this was equivalent to 0.520 pence per share.

TABLE 17 – OPTIONS EXERCISED IN THE YEAR

Date exercised Number of options Grant price
20 April 2021 88,889 36.00 pence
20 April 2021 50,000 29.75 pence
21 July 2021 300,000 26.50 pence
21 July 2021 250,000 29.75 pence
26 September 2021 50,000 43.50 pence
 738,889  

 


CASH STATEMENT

The movement in the cash position is shown in the table below:

TABLE 18 - CASHFLOW FY-2021
£’000s
  FY-2020
£’000s
    
Adjusted EBITDA 6,713 1,164
R&D tax credits received (see note below) 1,367  2,539
Lease payments (principal and interest) (1,080)  (1,140)
Exceptional items (671)  (1,982)
Internally developed software capitalised (see note below) (3,028)  (4,044)
Purchase of other intangible assets (532)  (484)
Purchase of other non-current assets (78)  (160)
Acquisition costs -  (130)
Movement in working capital 1,269  1,829
 3,960  (2,408)
Earn-outs and acquisitions (1,108)  (825)
Funds from exercise of share options 220  -
External funding (CBILS) -  2,000
NET CASHFLOWS 3,072 (1,233)
Balance at 1st January 10,032  11,265
Balance at 31st December 13,104 10,032
Amount per share 7.3 pence 5.6 pence

 

R&D credits received

These are earned based on a strict set of criteria set by HMRC and broadly based on new internally generated software development.  In 2021, £0.4 million was accrued (FY-2020: £1.4 million) and £1.4 million was received relating to claims made for 2020 (FY-2019: £2.5 million).  Whilst future claims may be paid, these are unlikely to be receivable in cash.

Internally developed software capitalised

As a fintech, constantly looking to provide a series of products and platforms, the Group continues to invest and develop.  The emergence and rapid growth of the Solutions capability is one tangible deliverable.  Equals Money is another product well advanced for which investment is taking place.

 

 

Richard Cooper
Chief Financial Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 

 Note FY-2021  FY-2020
  £’000s  £’000s
     
Gross value of all transactions*1 6,529,034 3,492,671
     
Revenue from currency transactions  38,424  23,849
Revenue from banking transactions  5,667  5,110
Revenue 44,091 28,959
Transaction and commission costs  (20,071)  (10,670)
Gross Profit 24,020 18,289
     
Administrative expenses  (18,499)  (21,040)
Depreciation charge  (1,398)  (1,427)
Amortisation charge  (5,812)  (4,347)
Impairment charge  (1,638)  -
Acquisition expenses  -  (130)
Total operating expenses (27,347) (26,944)
     
Memo: Adjusted EBITDA*2 6,713 1,164
     
Operating loss A (3,327) (8,655)
Finance cost
 
 (490)  (391)
Loss before tax (3,817) (9,046)
Tax credit B 1,555  2,109
Loss after tax (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,919)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
Other comprehensive income:  
Items that may be reclassified to profit or loss     
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations  -  6
Total comprehensive loss for the year (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,913)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
  (2,262)  (6,931)
 
Loss per share C  
Basic  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
Diluted  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
     

Notes:

Adjusted EBITDA is Operating loss before: Depreciation, Amortisation, Impairments, Share option charges, and Separately identifiable items.  All income and expenses arise from continuing operations.

*1 Gross value of currency transactions sold and banking deposit transactions are a non-GAAP measure and represent the gross value of currency transactions sold to customers and banking deposits made by customers.   

*2 Adjusted EBITDA is not a GAAP measure and represents operating loss before share option charges, depreciation, amortisation and separately identifiable items (exceptional items).

 

CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

AS AT 31 DECEMBER

 2021 2021  2020 2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
ASSETS    
Non-current assets    
  Property, plant and equipment 1,257 -  1,646 -
  Right of use assets 4,874 -  6,061 -
  Intangible assets (note F) 17,492 -  19,744 -
  Goodwill 13,468 -  15,106 -
  Deferred tax assets 949 1,163  3,193 744
  Investments - 61,978  - 61,707
 38,040 63,141  45,750 62,451
     
Current assets    
  Inventories 168 -  194 -
  Trade and other receivables 8,256 339  9,586 274
  Current tax assets (R&D reclaimable) 397 -  1,367 -
  Derivative financial assets (note G) 2,593 -  3,019 -
  Cash and cash equivalents 13,104 -  10,032 -
 24,518 339  24,198 274
     
   
TOTAL ASSETS 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
     
EQUITY, AND LIABILITIES    
Equity attributable to equity holders    
  Share capital 1,793 1,793  1,786 1,786
  Share premium 53,218 53,218  53,003 53,003
  Share-based payment reserve 1,858 1,580  1,402 1,402
  Other reserves 8,609 3,187  8,609 3,187
  Accumulated (losses) / retained earnings (24,590) 1,623  (22,259) (1,625)
  Company profit / (loss) in the year - (692)  - 3,155
Equity attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC 40,888 60,709  42,541 60,908
Non-controlling interest 263 -  101 -
 41,151 60,709  42,642 60,908
     
Non-current liabilities    
  Borrowings 1,600 -  2,000 -
  Lease liabilities 4,484 -  5,509 -
  Deferred tax liabilities - -  3,740 -
 6,084 -  11,249 -
     
Current liabilities    
  Borrowings 400 -  - -
  Trade and other payables 12,002 2,771  12,110 1,817
  Current tax liabilities 61 -  - -
  Lease liabilities 778 -  897 -
  Derivative financial liabilities (note G) 2,082 -  3,050 -
 15,323 2,771  16,057 1,817
     
     
TOTAL EQUITY AND LIABILITIES 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
      

 

 


CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER

GROUP Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings    Other reserves Total attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC Non-controlling interest Total
equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
                
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  1,345  (15,340)  8,603  49,397  119  49,516
                
Loss for the year -  -  -  (6,919)  -  (6,919)  (18)  (6,937)
Other comprehensive income:                
Items that will not be reclassified subsequently to profit or loss:                
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations -  -  -  -  6  6  -  6
Other items:                
Share-based payment charge -  -  444  -  -  444  -  444
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  (387)  -  -  (387)  -  (387)
                
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  (22,259)  8,609  42,541  101 42,642
                
(Loss) / profit for the year -  -  -  (2,424)  -  (2,424)  162  (2,262)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  272  -  272
Share options exercised in year- - (93) 93 - - - -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222  -  222
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  278  -  -  277  -  277
At 31 December 2021 1,793 53,218 1,858 (24,590) 8,609 40,888 263 41,151

 

COMPANY Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings  Other reserves Total equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  958  (1,625)  3,187  57,309
          
Profit for the year and total comprehensive income -  -  -  3,155  -  3,155
 
Share-based payment charge
-  -  444  -  -  444
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  1,530  3,187  60,908
       
Loss for the year -  -  -  (692)  -  (692)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  271
Share options exercised in year -  -  (93)  93  -  -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222
At 31 December 2021 1,793  53,218  1,580  931  3,187  60,709

 

The following describes the nature and purpose of each reserve within owners’ equity:

 

Share capital                                                      Amount subscribed for shares at nominal value.

Share premium                                                  Amount subscribed for shares in excess of nominal value, less directly attributable costs.

Share-based payment reserve                         Proportion of the fair value of share options granted relating to services rendered up to the balance sheet date.

Retained deficit                                                Cumulative profit and losses attributable to equity shareholders.

 

Other reserves comprise:

     Merger reserve                                           Arising on reverse acquisition from Group reorganisation.

     Contingent consideration reserve              Arising on equity based contingent consideration on acquisition of subsidiaries.

     Foreign currency reserve                            Arising on translation of foreign operation.

 


CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF CASHFLOWS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 FY-2021 FY-2021  FY-2020 FY-2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
    
Loss before tax (3,817) (1,111) (9,045) 2,650
    
Add: Cashflows from operating activities:  
Adjustments for:   
  Depreciation 1,398 -  1,427 -
  Amortisation 5,812 -  4,347 -
  Impairment 1,638 -  - -
  Share-based payment charges 272 -  444 -
  Decrease / (increase) in trade and other receivables*1 3,614 (63)  (401) (2,507)
  (Decrease) / increase in trade and other payables*2 (2,688) 954  3,050 (143)
  Decrease / (increase) in derivative financial assets 426 -  1,542 -
 (Decrease) / increase in derivative financial liabilities (968) -  (1,511) -
 Decrease in inventories 26 -  70 -
 Finance costs 490 6  391 -
 10,020 897  9,359 (2,650)
 
 
Net cash inflow / (outflow) 6,203 (214) 314 -
    
Tax receipts 1,367 -  2,539 -
    
NET CASHFLOWS FROM OPERATING ACTIVITIES 7,570 (214) 2,853 -
    
Cashflows from investing activities   
  Acquisition of property plant and equipment (78) -  (160) -
  Acquisition of intangibles (3,560) -  (4,531) -
  Acquisition of subsidiary, net of cash acquired - -  (255) -
Net cash used in investing activities (3,638) -  (4,946) -
    
Cashflows from financing activities   
  New Borrowings - -  2,000 -
  Principal elements of lease payments (872) -  (891) -
  Interest on financial leases (194) -  (222) -
  Other interest paid (14) (6)  (27) -
  Proceeds from issuance of ordinary shares 220 220   
Net cash (outflow) / Inflow from financing activities (860) 214  860 -
    
    
NET INCREASE/ (DECREASE) IN CASH AND CASH EQUIVALENTS 3,072 - (1,233) -
Cash, and cash equivalents at 1 January 10,032 -  11,265 -
Cash, and cash equivalent at 31 December 13,104 - 10,032 -
      

 

*1 The movement in the deferred and current tax assets and the right-of use asset balances (excluding the depreciation charge) is included within the movement in trade and other receivables.

*2 The movement in the deferred and current tax liabilities and the lease liability balances is included within the movement in trade and other payables.

2021

Final Results

30 March 2022

‘'Significant growth and operational progress, along with strong cash generation

Equals (AIM:EQLS), a leading fintech payments group focused on the SME marketplace, announces its final results for the year-ended 31 December 2021 (the ‘year’ or ‘FY-2021’) and an update on trading for the period from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022.

 

Download

These Results are available in PDF format.
To download please click here

 


FY-2021: Financial Summary

  FY-2021   FY-2020   Change*
£ millions  £ millions   
Underlying transaction values      
-          FX 4,352  2,672  + 63%
-          Banking 1,331  821  + 62%
-          Solutions Platform 846  -   
-          Total 6,529  3,493  + 87%
      
Revenue 44.1  29.0  + 52%
% of revenue from B2B 81%  70%   
      
Gross profits 24.0  18.3  + 31%
      
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7 1.1   
      
EBITDA 5.7  (2.0)   
      
Loss after taxation (2.3)  (6.9)   
      
Memo:     
  Capitalised staff costs 3.0  4.0  - 25%
  Separately reported items (below Adjusted EBITDA) 0.7  2.6  - 73%
  R&D credits received 1.4  2.5   
  Impairment of travel cash business 1.6  -   
  Cash per share (at balance sheet date) 7.3p  5.6p  + 30%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

FY-2021 Financial Highlights

  • Total Revenue increased by 52% to £44.1 million (FY-2020: £29.0 million), supported by:
    • Like for like transactional values increasing by 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
    • Immediate success in the Solutions Platform which contributed £0.8 billion in transaction values and £3.6 million in revenues
  • Gross profits increased 31% to £24.0 million (FY-2020: £18.3 million)
  • Cash-based expenditure fell a further 7% (£1.6 million) to £21.2 million (FY-2020: £22.8 million)
  • Adjusted EBITDA** increased to £6.7 million (FY-2020: £1.1 million)
  • Year-end cash increased 31% to £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

 FY-2021 operational and product highlights

  • Focus on B2B and non travel-related revenue streams successfully continued
    • Business customer revenue increased to represent 81% of total revenues (FY-2020: 70%)
    • Non-travel revenue represented 94% of the total, up from 91% in FY-2020
  • Group continuing to attract larger corporates: won a significant mandate to transact a single but complex trade yielding £1.5 million of revenue and £0.8 million of gross profits
  • ‘Own-name’ multi-currency IBAN launched mid-year
  • Improved sales and data focus through both staff hires and CRM; a significant contributor to increased revenues
  • R&D continued throughout the year, with further technical developments including ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and Linked cards
  • Operational improvements through greater reconciliation automation and client onboarding

Q1-2022 Group highlights

  • Revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 up 78%, and averaged £222k per day (same period 2021 £125k)
  • Total revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 of £13.6 million
  • Strong performance across all sectors

Commenting on the Results, Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of Equals Group PLC, said:

“We ended 2021 in a very strong position, both financially and operationally.  The surge in our reported revenue and EBITDA speaks to a successful repositioning of our model to focus on B2B and away from legacy travel operations.  This process began in 2020, put us on the front-foot for 2021, and we are now progressing into 2022 with sustained confidence.  Our product set is being adopted by existing and new customers at a faster rate than we anticipated and that has allowed us to more quickly develop and roll out new functionality to a broader range of customers.  We are making excellent progress in the early stages of 2022 with rapid growth continuing while we navigate the geo-political backdrop.  We remain highly confident for our prospects both in 2022 and beyond.”

Analyst meeting

A conference call for analysts hosted by Ian Strafford-Taylor (CEO) and Richard Cooper (CFO) will be held at 09.30 today, 30 March 2022.  A copy of the presentation will be available after midday on the Equals website.  A copy of the Final Results presentation is also available at the Group’s website: https://equalsplc.com.

For retail investors, an audiocast of the conference call with analysts will be available after midday today:

https://webcasting.buchanan.uk.com/broadcast/62319d7461bd9a4d10292906

 

Notes

*Transactions with business customers are reported as ‘B2B’ and transactions with retail customers are reported as ‘B2C’.

**Adjusted EBITDA is defined as: earnings before depreciation, amortisation, impairment charges, share option charges, foreign exchange differences and separately reported items. Separately reported items are large, non-recurring items.

*** The financial statements were approved for release at 07:00 hours on 30 March 2022 to the London Stock Exchange via RNS after being approved by the Board on 29 March 2022 after the close of the stock market on that day.

 

For more information, please contact:

Equals Group PLC  
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO
Richard Cooper, CFO
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7778 9308
www.equalsplc.com
 
Canaccord Genuity (Nominated Advisor / Broker) 
Max Hartley / Georgina McCooke
Alex Aylen (Sales)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7523 8150
 
 
Buchanan (Financial Communications)  
Henry Harrison-Topham / Steph Whitmore / Toto Berger
[email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7466 5000
www.buchanan.uk.com

 

Notes to Editors:

Equals Group is a technology-led international payments group augmented by highly personalised service for the payment needs of SME’s whether these be FX, card payments or via Faster Payments. Founded in 2007, the Group was listed on AIM in 2014 and currently employs around 250 staff across sites in London and Chester.  For more information, please visit www.equalsplc.com.

 

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

2021

Management’s objective for 2021 were to significantly increase both the quantum and mix of revenues from B2B customers and products. We achieved both by building on the payments infrastructure and connectivity already assembled, and further enhanced this by providing customers with ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts. Concurrently, the Group expanded and refined its sales processes and go-to-market strategy.

Summary of financial performance

I am delighted to report that:

  • Like for like transactions executed on the Group’s platforms rose 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
  • Transactions from our new Solutions Platform were £0.8 billion from a standing start (FY-2020: Nil)
  • Revenue rose 52% to £44.1 million, with £15.3 million in Q4-2021 alone
  • Adjusted EBITDA rose from £1.1 million to £6.7 million
  • Year-end cash closed at £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

A full financial analysis is presented in the Chief Financial Officer’s Report which follows this statement.

COVID-19

2021 saw the world continue to struggle through COVID-19 variants and lockdowns. Despite this, the Group achieved rapid growth, benefiting from measures taken in 2020 to focus the Group on a B2B customer base and thereby reducing any reliance on the legacy B2C travel-related products.  In addition, the lessons learned in 2020 in terms of hybrid working meant that the Group could operate efficiently throughout the year during the various phases of the pandemic.

Marketplace and competitive landscape

The global payments market is a complex space and can be measured in many trillions of pounds, comprising all the various payment mechanisms from cash, cards, account-to-account transfers, and other methodologies across physical, internet and mobile interfaces. Against this background, the Group remains somewhat unique in that it spans both account-to-account transfers and cards, overlaid on infrastructure providing bank-grade connectivity and security on superior customer interfaces. The flexibility in the payment methodology that the Group can support from one unified platform is increasingly vital to business customers, for example many e-commerce businesses only accept card payments whereas other companies may typically only accept bank transfers.

Within the vast payments market, the Group remains strongly focused on the B2B customer segment. Within that, it has identified small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the optimal target audience for its products and services. The Group aims to deliver this via its ‘Equals Money’ proposition – a single platform comprising account-to-account transfers and card products for both UK and international transactions. The Group’s ‘target’ customer is an SME between 50-500 employees with UK and overseas payment needs. Engineering, product, and design resources are focused on providing solutions to this customer segment; however, the Group’s products equally serve both smaller and larger B2B customers.

Despite the continuing growth of fintech within the wider market, it remains the case that most payments activity continues to flow through the incumbent banks and payment networks. Therefore, winning business from these institutions remains a key focus for the Group in terms of both product development and sales and marketing activities. However, investment into the fintech competitors of Equals also makes it essential that the Group continues to innovate and invest into its platform and connectivity to remain ahead of the competition in its chosen B2B payments space.  The success of this strategy to date is clear in the Group’s FY-2021 results.

Performance in 2021

A key milestone to achieving accelerated growth for the Group was passed in May 2021 when Equals launched its capability to offer ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts to its customers. This enables the business customers of Equals to pay and receive into a single account in their own name, and that account can process all currencies automatically.  Further, the Group can offer its customers the flexibility to open multiple own-name IBAN accounts or multiple sub-accounts within a single IBAN.  This flexibility places Equals in a position where it can solve many payment and reconciliation problems for business customers, all delivered through one unified platform.

Equals Solutions

The own-name multi-currency IBAN capability, and the flexibility it offers, underpinned the creation of a new revenue stream: Equals Solutions.  Launched in June 2021, it contributed £0.3 million to revenues in the first half-year and £3.6 million for the full year, with a significant £1.7 million contribution of which was the fourth quarter showcasing its rapid growth and take-up by business customers.

Equals Solutions is targeted at larger corporates and provides a bespoke platform for each client. The flexibility in terms of being able to onboard a complex B2B customer rapidly and provide multiple own-name IBAN accounts and sub-accounts combined with the ability to implement complex authorisation hierarchies and protocols for the customer is a capability that few companies can offer. Incumbent banks are unable to compete given their operations remain on slow and often outdated infrastructure, while a typical fintech competitor concentrates on B2C not B2B customers and even may only have some – and not all – of the capabilities needed. Equals are therefore set apart given it provides a complete suite of services and products with the latest tech proposition.

Equals Money

Equals Money combines account-to-account payments, card payments and current accounts in one unified platform and is targeted at SME customers.

Along with Equals Solutions, the ability to offer own-name IBAN accounts to customers has significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Equals Money platform. In addition, during 2021 the Group implemented additional developments to the Equals Money platform including a new customer interface via website and app, batch payments and multi-tier configurable approval functionality.

Equals Pay and Equals Exchange

Equals Pay is the Group’s customer-facing international payments product. Numerous enhancements have been made to this product, including the ability to make batch payments and improved forward contract functionality.

Equals Exchange is the Group’s internal dealing platform which runs on the same infrastructure as Equals Pay.  This was launched during the year and is proving a very capable platform and is well regarded by Equals’ dealers.

Other achievements and product launches

  • Improved onboarding journey for all customers allied to automated compliance checks to minimise new-customer friction
  • Appointment of new Head of Sales and simplification of commission structure
  • Implementation of Growth Team comprising marketing and business development
  • Continued development of CRM (HubSpot) platform yielding improved sales traction
  • Creation of Data Team and investment into data capabilities and insights
  • Further upgrades to the Group’s compliance capabilities and personnel
  • Joining the ‘Confirmation of Payee’ scheme for UK Payments
  • Implementation of automated reconciliations utilising Kani-payments platform, resulting in additional operational efficiency
  • Launch of ‘Linked Cards’ for FairFX B2C cards platform
  • Banking platform re-branded

Strong financial performance – growth and resilience throughout the year

2021 was a year of significant growth for the Group in terms of transaction volumes, revenues and expanded product suite delivering enhanced operational capacity. Growth was broad-based across the B2B products, aided by the advent of the Equals Solutions revenue stream in June. The growth in revenues has flowed through to EBITDA as the Group became increasingly operationally geared and also cash generative.

The transaction table below shows how the volumes through the Group’s platform have almost doubled since 2019 despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Overall transaction volumes have increased by 97% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 63% over 2020 activity. Within these totals, currency transactions have increased by 105% since 2019 and 63% since 2020, whilst banking transactions have increased by 73% and 62% respectively.

Table A: Transaction amounts since January 2019

In £ millions Banking Currency sold Like for like total Solutions Platform Group total
      
Q1-2019 171 451 622 - 622
Q2-2019 189 448 637 - 637
Q3-2019 202 575 777 - 777
Q4-2019 209 643 852 - 852
Total, FY-2019 771 2,117 2,888 - 2,888
      
Q1-2020 194 664 858 - 858
Q2-2020 169 533 702 - 702
Q3-2020 221 660 881 - 881
Q4-2020 237 815 1,052 - 1,052
Total, FY-2020 821 2,672 3,493 - 3,493
Increase on prior year +21% +21%
      
Q1-2021 230 829 1,059 - 1,059
Q2-2021 340 909 1,249 143 1,392
Q3-2021 374 1,199 1,573 313 1,886
Q4-2021 387 1,415 1,802 391 2,193
Total, FY-2021 1,331 4,352 5,683 846 6,529
Increase on prior year +63% +87%

 

The ability to process a doubling of activity in two years demonstrates the resilience of the platform the Group has built, the value of the investment in infrastructure which was commenced in 2018, along with the acquisition of Casco in 2019. Furthermore, the acceleration in transactions in the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY-2021 shows the effect of the own-name IBAN roll-out combined with Equals Solutions driving increased activity.

The revenue table below tells a similar story with strong revenue growth compared to both 2019 pre-pandemic levels and the 2020 performance. Overall revenues grew 43% over 2019 levels and 52% over the Covid-impacted 2020 result. Within the revenue performance, the shift towards B2B is clear to see.  FY-2021 revenues were split 81% B2B and 19% B2C compared to a 55/45 split in FY-2019 and a 70/30 split in FY-2020.

Table B: Revenues since January 2019

In £’000s B2B B2C Total Revenue margin Revenue per day*
Q1-2019 3,831 3,087 6,918 1.1% 110
Q2-2019 4,069 3,636 7,705 1.2% 124
Q3-2019 4,164 3,847 8,011 1.0% 123
Q4-2019 5,231 3,080 8,311 1.0% 128
Total, FY-2019 17,295 13,650 30,945 1.1% 121
Mix 56% 44%
      
Q1-2020 5,354 2,672 8,026 0.9% 125
Q2-2020 3,928 1,819 5,747 0.8% 99
Q3-2020 5,273 2,033 7,306 0.8% 112
Q4-2020 5,797 2,084 7,881 0.7% 122
Total, FY-2020 20,352 8,608 28,960 0.8% 114
Change on prior year +18% -37% -6%
Mix 70% 30%
      
Q1-2021 5,626 2,438 8,064 0.8% 128
Q2-2021 7,179 1,662 8,841 0.7% 145
Q3-2021 9,925 1,980 11,905 0.8% 183
Q4-2021 12,873 2,408 15,281 0.8% 239
Total, FY-2021 35,603 8,488 44,091 0.8% 174
Change on prior year +75% -1% +52%
Mix 81% 19%

 

* based on underlying, not rounded, figures and expressed as revenue divided by the number of working days in each quarter.

 

In terms of growth and productivity, revenue per employee rose by 80% to £172k per employee (FY 2020: £96k), a testament both to productivity, incentives and strong headcount control.

Product outlook

Unified platform – Equals Money & Equals Solutions

Great strides were made during 2021 in the development of ‘Equals Money’, which incorporates the payments, cards and current account solutions that the Group can offer in one unified platform and ties directly into the strategic vision for the Group to simplify money movement for business customers.

The investment made in prior years to assemble infrastructure providing bank-grade security and connectivity, including the integration into the Faster Payments network and the implementation of the Citibank partnership to provide ‘local’ settlement in over 40 countries, form the underlying platform for clearing payments efficiently.  The scalability of this platform has been evidenced by the doubling of transaction volumes processed in the last two years.

To optimise revenues from this assembled infrastructure, it is essential to make it simple both to become a customer and then for that customer to use the platform.  For the customer acquisition journey, investment has been made into further refining the onboarding process, utilising automated compliance checks overlaid with additional compliance personnel to fast-track non-standard cases. For the ease-of-use of the platform, the Group has applied extensive resources into refining the User Experience (UX) utilising both extensive research into customer needs and the in-house product and design expertise at Equals.

In 2022 the Group will continue to invest in platform capabilities, onboarding efficiency and UX to constantly improve both the platform functionality and usability. This is expected to translate into increased revenues from existing customers whilst improving sales success and conversion of leads into new customers. Further, the Group will integrate the platforms with major accountancy software providers thereby providing another sales channel and expanding the pool of customers who can access Equals’ products and services.

Payment infrastructure, ‘Boxes’

2021 saw major advances in the Group’s capabilities to deliver enhanced account services to its customers.  The most significant advance was the ability to give a customer an ‘own name multi-currency IBAN’ – an account in their own name denoted by a unique IBAN (‘International Bank Account Number’) which supports multiple currencies.  As the account is in the name of the customer, a so-called ‘first party’ account, this allows more use-cases than payments into a ‘pooled account’ from a compliance perspective.  Further, having one IBAN for all currencies enables a customer to provide one single account identifier to all of its customers and suppliers, thereby simplifying both sales and procurement processes.

To offer own-name multi-currency accounts, many third-party integrations were needed, including partner banks and SWIFT.  However, the key framework to support the flexible platform we require is referred to as ‘Boxes’.  A Box is our internal title for a single currency container in which you can store an asset.  Hence, each own-name multi-currency IBAN has one Box per currency.  Further flexibility is gained by the fact that a Box can support sub-Boxes so a customer can pay directly into their IBAN or directly to a sub-Box.  This sub-Box capability allows us to offer customers an own-name IBAN with unlimited sub-accounts if they require it.

The Boxes infrastructure also provides the capability for an Equals Customer to create own-name IBAN accounts for its own customers – subject to Equals compliance checks. This capability can resolve complex reconciliation issues for companies that have multiple parties paying into one bank account per currency. Each party can have a unique IBAN to pay into, in any currency, and therefore the Equals customer knows at point of receipt of funds who has remitted them.

Supporting this configuration is the Boxes service which automatically creates a Box on receipt of funds and auto-processes funds into and out of a Box via SWIFT, BACS, Faster Payments and SEPA.

Further development of the Boxes infrastructure is planned for 2022, enabling us to deliver key additional functionality for both Equals Money and Equals Platforms including real-time running balances, statements and enhanced reporting for customers, bulk payments and the recently announced direct integration into the SEPA (Single European Payments Area) network. In addition, the Group will build out its capability to offer its IBAN and Boxes functionality via API – thereby allowing more sophisticated customers to directly integrate with the Equals platform and support white-label opportunities.

Card Products

Similar to the account-to-account payment infrastructure that Equals has assembled, 2021 saw significant progress in the development of the Group’s card platform that underpins a strong pipeline of customer-facing features to be deployed in 2022. The new infrastructure can power the Group’s card products for the medium term and allow Equals to run card schemes in overseas locations. 2022 will see the launch of the new Equals Money card, replacing the Equals Spend cards which run on legacy infrastructure. The new cards, which are multi-currency, can be both virtual and physical and have many more features and capabilities. Equals are also moving towards being its own Issuer for its card products, thereby eliminating another party from the supply chain and speeding up development cycles.

Sales and Marketing – a high growth agenda

The Group further enhanced its capabilities in Sales and Marketing in 2021. The roll-out of HubSpot, the new CRM system for Equals, continued during the year, focusing on the B2B customer segment. Many activities previously performed in isolation are now processed automatically via the HubSpot platform so that the Group has a single database on customers and a central hub from which all customer interaction is performed and recorded. The focus for 2022 will be to harness this capability to drive new customer acquisition and to further drive enhanced revenues from the existing client base.

Equals created a ‘Growth Team’ during the year which combined marketing with the overall growth agenda. This team is responsible for HubSpot in terms of ensuring optimisation of how it is used across the Group and that the benefits derived from it are maximised. The focus of the team is to enable growth by a combination of delivering increased revenue from existing customers whilst driving new customer acquisition. The key for the success of the team is the interaction with the revenue teams to support them in reaching their targets.

In keeping with the overall strategy of the Group, the focus for growth is on the B2B customer base. Unlike B2C customer acquisition, where above-the-line (‘ATL’) marketing such as TV and billboard advertisements augmented by digital marketing is the driving force, B2B customer acquisition relies more on the outbound sales function augmented by and integrated with a coherent digital marketing strategy and content production.  Accordingly, the Growth Team works very closely with the Sales functions across the Group in defining campaigns and assisting the sales efficacy with targeted digital marketing and an in-house pay-per-click (‘PPC’) team.

The challenge for Equals in 2022 in sales and growth is managing the transition from being a product-led business to a platform-led business.  Previously, the Group has sold its products – International Payments, Card Products and Current Account products – using largely separate sales teams and marketing strategies.  As Equals moves forward, it will be selling Equals Money to the SME customer base and Equals Solutions to the larger B2B customers. The transition from product to platform differentiates Equals from vanilla FX businesses, as the Group can compete not just on FX rates, but on platform capability and service. The Sales skills required are also different and therefore the Group appointed a new Head of Sales during the year, revised the commission structure and upgraded its sales teams.

The steps taken in 2021 position Equals well for the transition from product to the platform as it now has a stronger sales team, a single-source-of-truth CRM platform and the Growth Team is established internally as the fulcrum around which will drive the Group’s unified Sales approach.

Board composition

On 9 April 2021, we welcomed Christopher Bones as a Non-Executive Director of the Company with his background in both Human Resources and Marketing. He has been invaluable in the formulation of a compensation strategy for the Group as well as assisting in the development of a go-to-market strategy.

Employees

The Group has been focusing on enhancing ‘bench-strength’ to support the executive layer that sits just below the Board. Pursuant to this, the Group took on a Head of Compliance to compliment the already strong operational team, and the CFO, Richard Cooper, recruited a new Director of Finance to enable him to work even more closely with myself on corporate opportunities and investor relations.

The Group’s employees continue to be its greatest strength.  The loyalty, commitment, and hard work demonstrated in 2020 and now in 2021 has been tremendous and deserves to be acknowledged. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank every colleague for everything they have done for the Group. We are delighted to have a diverse workforce and are proud to train and promote from within as well as seek fresh talent from elsewhere.

Three senior members of the executive team left the Group during 2021 and I thank them for their time whilst at Equals.

Whilst the Group continues to seek efficiencies and has a strong cost-control culture, the Board intends to invest these gains in further capacity for growth rather than reductions in staff numbers.  This in turn will benefit investors as Equals will have strong operational gearing as it grows, with its cost base increasing at a lower rate than transactions and revenues.

The labour market in the UK, particularly in the fintech space, is extremely competitive. Accordingly, in 2021 the Group introduced a company-wide share-ownership scheme (‘SIP’) where all eligible employees received the same number of shares in Equals. The Group will seek to make similar awards on an annual basis. In addition, Equals introduced a long-term incentive plan (‘LTIP’) scheme for senior employees and a similar plan with performance conditions for Executive Directors. Both the SIP and the LTIP schemes have lengthy vesting periods and thereby provide strong retention benefits for the Group.

ESG

Equals wholeheartedly embraces ESG initiatives and takes Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (‘EDI’) extremely seriously. Our EDI strategy, which covers not only employees but also customers, includes an internal EDI network populated with elected representatives and regular employee surveys. This is a key objective for all Executive Committee members and forms part of their appraisal.

Future plans and opportunities

The strategic direction of the Group remains clearly focused on the B2B customer segment with Equals Money being targeted at the SME base and Equals Solutions at larger corporate opportunities. The growth potential, now that Equals has assembled the core capabilities of own-name IBAN and bank-grade connectivity and clearance, is extremely strong due to the complexity and time required to replicate the Group’s capabilities and will only be enhanced by the developments planned for 2022.

Equals will continue to look for growth opportunities and can do so with a strong balance sheet and cash position.  The Group will examine overseas expansion beyond its current predominantly UK-centric customer base and will also take a considerate and opportunistic approach to acquisitions as they present themselves.

Recent geo-political events

The current uncertainty caused by the conflict from Russia to Ukraine does not have a material impact on Equals as the Group’s direct exposure to the region is extremely limited. In addition, clearly, to the extent the situation affects global confidence and trade volumes, this could impact general commercial activity levels during 2022.  We have not seen any direct impact to date but continue to monitor the situation closely.

Q1-2022 trading and Outlook

2022 has started exceptionally well with revenues to 28 March, 78% higher than the same period in 2021 at £13.6 million.  Strong revenue growth continues to come from B2B with all product lines progressing well.  Equals Solutions, which contributed £3.6 million of revenues in FY-2021, has already contributed £2.6 million in FY-2022 to-date and is expected to continue to grow strongly as the Group adds new functionality to its payments platform during the year.

Equals, therefore, has a strong outlook resulting from the investments it has made to create a payments platform comprising International and Domestic Payments, Card Payments and Banking Services underpinned by exceptional technology and direct connections to multiple payment networks.  Further investments made in compliance, onboarding and user experience mean that the rich functionality of the platform is made easily accessible to current and potential customers.  Finally, advances made in Sales, Marketing and Data mean that Equals now sells its products and platform more efficiently.  Accordingly, the Board looks forward to the future with confidence.

 

Ian Strafford-Taylor
Chief Executive Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

 Chief Financial Officer’s Report

I present my review and financial analysis for the year ended 31 December 2021.

TABLE 1: INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £ millions  £ millions
Revenue (table 3) 44.1  29.0
    
Gross Profits (table 3) 24.0  18.3
Less: Marketing (1.2)  (1.2)
Contribution 22.8 17.1
Expenditure (table 9) (16.1)  (16.0)
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7  1.1
Less:    Share option expense (0.3)  (0.4)
Less:    Exceptional items and acquisition costs (0.7)  (2.7)
EBITDA 5.7 (2.0)
    
IFRS 16 Depreciation (0.9)  (0.9)
Other depreciation (0.4)  (0.5)
Amortisation of acquired intangibles (1.3)  (1.2)
Other amortisation (4.5)  (3.2)
Contingent consideration cost (0.1)  (0.6)
Impairment of the Bureau operations (1.6)  -
 (8.8)  (6.4)
    
EBIT (3.1) (8.4)
    
Lease interest (0.2)  (0.2)
Foreign exchange differences (0.1)  (0.2)
Contingent consideration finance charges (0.3)  (0.2)
 (0.6)  (0.6)
    
LOSS BEFORE TAXATION (3.8) (9.0)
    
Corporate and deferred taxation 1.1  0.7
R&D tax credits receivable 0.4  1.4
 1.5  2.1
    
LOSS FOR THE YEAR (2.3) (6.9)

 

 

TABLE 2: EARNINGS PER SHARE

Normal Adjusted
    
Basic 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p
    
Diluted 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p

 

 

TABLE 3: REVENUE AND GROSS PROFITS

 

A. Revenue summary by business line

 FY-2021 FY-2020
£ millions Revenues Gross profits  Revenues Gross profits
International Payments (Table 4) 29.5 14.0  17.4 11.1
Spend Platform 6.3 4.3  3.7 2.0
Personal cards 2.4 1.6  2.1 1.1
Banking 5.6 4.0  5.1 3.8
Bureau operations and other 0.3 0.1  0.7 0.3
 44.1 24.0  29.0 18.3

B. Revenue and gross profits by customer grouping and markets

 B2B v B2C Non-travel v Travel
£ millions B2B B2C Total  Non-travel Travel Total
REVENUES
-                      2021 35.6 8.5 44.1 41.4 2.7 44.1
-                      2020 20.4 8.6 29.0  26.3 2.7 29.0
% change* +75% -1% +52%  +58% - +52%
       
GROSS PROFITS       
-                      2021 16.6 7.4 24.0 22.1 1.9 24.0
-                      2020 12.8 5.5 18.3  16.8 1.5 18.3
-                      2021 % 47% 87% 54% 53% 70% 54%
-                      2020 % 63% 64% 63%  64% 56% 63%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

The Group has many individual revenue lines (and associated variable costs), but broadly these can be summarised as follows:

International payments:

This includes direct, affiliate and white-label foreign exchange for business customers and to a lesser extent, affluent private customers.

It also includes the bulk of the ‘solutions’ product, launched during the year, which leads with an own-name IBAN, facilitating both same-to-same transactions and currency A to currency B transactions, as well as bulk payments using our ‘Faster Payments’ membership gateway.

The white-label business trading under the Equals Connect brand, allows smaller providers to ‘piggy-back’ off our excellent compliance processes and speed of delivery.

The white-label business acquired in 2019 had a stellar year growing its revenues from £2.4 million to £7.7 million, although at a tighter gross profit margin of 14% due to both competitive pressures and one particularly large affiliate.

The Material trade (announced on 28 October 2021) was a ‘bonus’ but took many weeks to see through a highly complicated transaction and demonstrates the ability of the Group to deal with transactions of this size and complexity.

Solutions, as fully described in the CEO’s Report came on stream late in H1-2021 and ramped-up each month since.

 


TABLE 4 – INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS, FY-2021 and FY-2020

FY-2021 Turnover
£ millions
Number of
transactions
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,473.1 88,314 16.7 65.4 62%
White label 1,094.2 34,090 7.7 70.8 14%
Material trade 114.4 1 1.5 132.3 54%
FX trades from Solutions clients 241.1 584 2.5 101.8 24%
Sub-total, currency 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4 47%
Other flows from Solutions clients 845.9 3,241 1.1 13.0 89%
Totals 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9
      
      
-                      B2B 4,400.6 97,515 26.3 59.8  
-                      B2C 368.1 28,715 3.2 88.5  
Totals by segment 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9  
      
-                      Spot 3,199.1 114,391 23.2 72.5  
-                      Forward 723.7 8,598 5.2 71.9  
Total, from currency trades 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4  

 

FY-2020 Turnover
£ millions
Number of transactions
 
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,088.7 84,069 15.0 71.8 69%
White label 279.0 10,624 2.4 86.0 29%
Material trade - - -  -
Solutions - - -  -
TOTALS 2,367.7 94,693 17.4 73.5 64%
      
-                      B2B 1,975.0 60,953 13.7 69.4  
-                      B2C 392.7 33,740 3.7 94.2  
      
-                      Spot 1,716.3 86,015 11.5 67.0  
-                      Forward 651.4 8,678 5.9 90.6  

 

*bp = Basis Points representing 100th of 1%.

 

B2B continued to grow, and of the total of revenues from International Payments, represented:

-          91% of total turnover (FY-2020: 83%),

-          89% of total revenue (FY-2020: 79%), and

-          77% of total transactions (FY-2020: 64%).

Part of the growth driver for this was the White-label offering, Equals Connect which trades exclusively through affiliates, and therefore at a lower gross return.

Of the total revenues from International Payments, Spot transactions represented:

-          82% of turnover (FY-2020: 72%),

-          82% of revenue (FY-2020: 66%), and

-          93% of transactions (FY-2020: 91%).

Forward margins fell slightly in the aggregate caused mainly by customers taking shorter-dated forwards through Brexit and COVID-19 uncertainty.

Average transaction values from the core and white label books and composition between B2B/B2C and Spot/Forward were:

 

TABLE 4a – International Payments, transaction sizes, FY-2021 and FY-2020

  FY-2021
£’000s
 FY-2020
£’000s
  Transaction size  Transaction size
 Core 28.1  20.2
 White-label 32.1  26.3
     
 -                      B2B 34.2  32.4
 -                      B2C 12.8  11.6
     
 -                      Spot 25.0  20.0
 -                      Forward 84.2  75.0

 

Spend platform:

This is a card-loaded expenses platform delivered via mobile phone or other devices. Extensively used in the film production industry, it enables tight control of corporate expenses but gives companies great flexibility to be agile in their requirement to commit funds.  This segment is regarded as B2B.

 

TABLE 5 – SPEND PLATFORM

FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 333.9  203.3
Number of loads 448k  330k
Number of transactions 3,131k  1,872k
Revenue (£ millions) 6.3  3.7
Average revenue/transaction 201p  200p

 

FY-2021 saw a strong rebound from the COVID-19 impact in FY-2020 – particularly in the final quarter.  A greater number of customers (and their employees) were signed-up and able to benefit from advanced product features.

Personal cards

The origin of the Group in 2007 was a pre-paid web and mobile-enabled card for affluent individuals, often with family financing needs to be served through our ‘linked-cards’ option.  This segment is categorised as B2C.

TABLE 6 – PERSONAL CARDS

 FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 61.4  64.4
Number of loads 250k  340k
Number of transactions 1,106k  938k
Revenue (£ millions) 2.4  2.1
Average revenue/transaction 212p  225p

 

This business saw a modest increase over 2020, but since December 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the Group has witnessed an upturn in usage and revenues.  The card product is often used by the owners of the SMEs served by our Spend platform, so it remains a useful but not core product.  Given the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, the Group limited its marketing expenditure in this segment in FY-2021.

Banking services

A suite of bank-style accounts for emerging corporates, established trusts and personal individuals who want a way to control their expenditure.  The B2B segment of this income is marginally more than 50% of its total.

TABLE 7 – BANKING SERVICES

FY-2021 FY-2020
Deposits (£ millions) £1,331  £821
Transactions 5,458k  3,715k
Number of accounts 14.5k  14.2k
Revenue (£ millions) £5.6  £5.1
Revenue per account £392  £354

 

Bureau de change

A legacy of the City Forex acquisition in 2018, the Group retains two branches in the City of London, mainly serving corporates in the insurance and other professional services sector, along with walk-in traffic from workers in the City.  Thus, there is a mix of B2B and B2C revenues.  Owing to the impact of COVID-19, a decision was made to impair the goodwill of this business in FY-2021 and the corresponding impairment is £1,638k

Variable costs:

There are three main categories of variable cost:

(a)      Transaction costs – these are third party costs applying to all the above, and range from banking fees to MasterCard costs, and variable KYC and KYB costs.

(b)     Affiliate commissions (or introducer fees); mainly a revenue sharing model applying to International Payments.

(c)     Staff commissions; revenue related commissions payable, through the payroll, to a cohort of highly motivated professionals who may earn monthly, quarterly and annual commissions based on their own success.

The table below shows which business units have the various cost components:

TABLE 8 – VARIABLE COSTS BY BUSINESS LINE

£ millions International payments Cards Banking
Transaction costs 1.7 2.7 1.6
Affiliate Commissions 5.0 - -
White label commissions 6.3   
Staff commissions 2.8 - -
Totals FY-2021 15.8 2.7 1.6

 

Marketing costs

These include costs relating to the Equals brand, along with specific marketing programmes, relating more to Spend and Banking than other product sets.

Overheads

As with many ‘fintechs’, the Group has as its largest cost, staff, followed by IT expenditure, premises, professional fees (many relating to our position on AIM), and modest other expenses.

Staff costs include employment taxes, employee benefits and contractor fees – mainly in our Engineering team.  With just over 255 staff, the split of staff is more heavily weighted towards revenue earning/maintaining staff along with product development personnel.

Revenue per employee increased 80% to £172k, up from £96k in 2020. Base cost (meaning, salary, ERs NIC and employers pension contribution) rose from £50k per employee to £52k per employee during the year. Value added per employee rose 160% from £46k to £120k in the year.

Expenditure that meets the obligations and criteria of IAS 38 are capitalised and amortised over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months from inception.

TABLE 9 - COMPONENTS OF EXPENDITURE

£ millions FY-2021 FY-2020
Staff costs 15.7  16.9
-                      Less capitalised (3.0)  (4.0)
-                      Less: exceptional items (0.7)  (1.4)
-                      Less IFRS 16 (vehicles) (0.1)  -
Net staff costs 11.9 11.5
    
IT and telephone 2.1  1.7
-                      Less capitalised (0.3)  (0.4)
Net IT costs 1.8 1.3
    
Premises costs 1.8  2.0
-                      Less IFRS 16 (1.0)  (1.0)
Net premises costs 0.8 1.0
    
Professional and compliance fees 1.3  1.4
Travel and entertainment 0.3  0.4
Bad debts and similar -  0.4
 16.1  16.0
    
Analysed between:   
   Gross expenditure 21.2  22.8
   Taken to the balance sheet (4.4)  (5.4)
   Below adjusted EBITDA (0.7)  (1.4)
Totals per Table 1 16.1  16.0
    
Year-end number of staff 255  270

 

Exceptional items

As announced in the interim results on 14 September 2021, the Group carried out some restructuring of a layer of senior management, and the termination and similar costs for that layer have been taken as an exceptional item being £0.7 million.

In 2020 exceptional items were higher at £2.7 million with £1.6 million against COVID-19 and £1.1 million against the migration away from Wirecard, a previous card programme manager for the Group.  Of the 2020 costs, £2.0 million was cash incurred, and the balance was related to write-offs.

There were no acquisitions in the year and therefore no expenditure was incurred. (FY-2020: £130k was incurred in connection with the purchase of Effective FX).

Depreciation

Tangible fixed assets are depreciated over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months (other than leasehold improvements which is a maximum of 120 months). Assets (principally property and similar leases) are also depreciated over the shorter of the useful life of the asset and the lease term.

TABLE 10 - DEPRECIATION

 FY-2021 FY-2020
 £’000s £’000s
IFRS 16 depreciation 931 940
Other depreciation 467 487
 1,398 1,427

 

Guidance: Based upon the expenditure incurred to 31 December 2021, the depreciation charges for those assets in FY-2022 will be:

 £ millions
IFRS 16 depreciation 0.8
Other depreciation 0.5
 1.3

 

Amortisation

Intangible assets acquired on acquisition are amortised over their estimated useful lives, with a maximum of 60 months for Brands and a maximum of 108 months for Customer Relationships.  The charge to amortisation for the year can be analysed as follows:

TABLE 11 – COMPONENTS OF AMORTISATION CHARGES

 FY-2021
£’000s
FY-2020
£’000s
Amortisation charge arising from the capitalisation of internally developed software in the following years:  
2018 and earlier 1,303 899
2019 1,661 1,382
2020 893 451
2021 287 -
 4,144 2,733
Amortisation charge for other intangibles 357 404
 4,501 3,137
Amortisation of acquired intangibles 1,311 1,210
Total amortisation charge 5,812 4,347

Guidance: Based upon expenditure to 31 December 2021, the amortisation charges for FY-2022 are expected to be:

 £ millions
Internally developed software 4.3
Other intangible assets 0.3
Acquired intangibles 1.3
 5.9

 

Finance and other

IFRS 16 financial charges have been calculated using the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate on the NPV of total lease payments, this is released over the lease period to the P&L.

TABLE 12 – COMPONENTS OF FINANCE AND OTHER CHARGES

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £’000s  £’000s
Increase in assessment of contingent consideration (liability) for acquisition of Casco  
46
  
793
    
Adjustment to discount on valuation of Effective 278  -
IFRS 16 lease interest expense 188  222
CBILS interest 1  -
Other interest payable 23  18
 536  1,033
Split as follows:    
Included in Finance Charges 490  391
Included in Administrative expenses 46  642

 

Impairment

Revenues from the bureau-de-change business acquired with City Forex in 2018 have declined significantly owing to prolonged COVID-19 restrictions and thus the Group concluded it should be impaired to a carrying value of £579k.

Taxation

The Group has £17.2 million of tax losses available.

The Group has been able to receive funds directly from HMRC in relation to claims made for software development.  As the Group moves into taxable profits, such claims cease to be paid but offset against future taxable profits. The Group anticipates receiving £0.4 million in relation to the claim for 2021, but possibly no further into the future.

TABLE 13– BALANCE SHEET

This table shows a compressed ‘balance sheet’ for the Group.

31.12.2021 31.12.2020
 £’000s £’000s
    
IFRS 16 assets, less IFRS 16 liabilities (388)  (345)
Other non-current assets (other than deferred tax) 32,217  36,495
 31,829  36,150
    
Liquidity (per Table 14) 10,739  8,827
Trade debtors and accrued income (see note below) 3,638  2,314
R&D rebates 398  1,367
Prepayments 998  860
Deposits and sundry debtors 329  643
Inventory of card stock 168  194
Accounts payable (1,549)  (1,556)
Affiliate commissions (1,945)  (343)
PAYE, staff commissions etc. (1,884)  (1,701)
Other accruals and other creditors (1,349)  (1,130)
 9,543  9,475
    
Earn-out balances due (Table 16)
Implied interest thereon
(1,683)
63
 (2,746)
341
 (1,620)  (2,405)
Net corporation and deferred tax 888  (547)
Net value of forward contracts 511  (31)
 (221)  (2,983)
    
NET SHAREHOLDER FUNDS 41,151  42,642
    
Retained earnings at 1 January (22,259)  (15,340)
Earnings for the year (2,424)  (6,919)
Amount attributable to the exercise of share options 93  -
Retained earnings at 31 December (24,590)  (22,259)
    
Non-Controlling interest at 1 January 101  119
Earnings for year 162  (18)
Non-Controlling interest at 31 December 263  101
    
Share capital, share premium 55,011  54,789
Other reserves 10,467  10,011
 65,478  64,800
    
CAPITAL AND RESERVES 41,151 42,642

 

TABLE 14 - LIQUIDITY FY-2021   FY-2020
£000’S £000’S
Cash at bank (see Table 15) 13,104  10,032
Balances with liquidity providers 1,675  2,776
Pre-funded balances with card provider 1,615  2,078
Gross liquid resources 16,394 14,886
    
Customer balances not subject to safeguarding (3,655)  (4,059)
CBILS loan (see below) (2,000)  (2,000)
 (5,655)  (6,059)
    
Net position 10,739 8,827

 

Exposures to banks and liquidity providers

The Group maintains strong relationships with a number of banks and counterparties for spot and forward foreign exchange transactions.  The Group has recurring obligations to safeguard customer funds under the rules of the FCA, who are the prime regulator for the Group.

The balances held at 31 December were as follows:

TABLE 15 – BANK AND SIMILAR BALANCES

£ millions Safeguarded Not required to be safeguarded Totals
BANKS   
Barclays Bank PLC 47.7 7.1 54.8
NatWest/RBS Group 106.9 3.8 110.7
Bank of England 30.9 - 30.9
Citibank N.A. 26.0 0.1 26.1
Blackrock* - 2.0 2.0
Others  0.1 0.1
31 December 2021 211.5 13.1 224.6
   
31 December 2020 96.1 10.0 106.1
    
LIQUIDITY PROVIDERS    
Barclays Bank PLC  0.4 0.4
Velocity Trade International Ltd  0.1 0.1
Sucden Financial Ltd  1.2 1.2
31 December 2021 1.7 1.7
    
31 December 2020  2.8 2.8

 

*Blackrock is the manager, the legal entity is Institutional Cash Series PLC.

 

There exist tight controls over forward contracts with daily monitoring and reporting to the Executive Directors. The out-of-the-money position at 31 December 2021 was £0.2 million.

There were, in addition, £212.0 million of customer funds safeguarded at 31 December 2021 (31 December 2020: £96.0 million).

Balances with liquidity providers and customer balances not subject to safeguarding are typically margin calls on forward contracts. Pre-funded balances are required in anticipation of customers loading their cards.  Should the Group move to self-issuing, such pre-funding will dissipate.

Trade debtors and accrued income

In common with market practice, revenue is recognised on forward transactions on the execution of the transaction.  There was one particularly large forward transaction with an investment fund client generating profits of £0.9 million and which settled in January 2022.

Affiliate commissions

The growth in the payable relates to the increase in white label business and introducers for the Solutions business.

Earn-outs

Equals Connect (previously Casco Connect)

As announced on 19 November 2019, the Group acquired Casco Financial Services Limited for a maximum consideration of £3,725,000.

Effective FX

As announced on 15 October 2020, the Group acquired the trade and assets of Effective FX Limited for a maximum consideration of £1,575,000.

Whilst IFRS-3 requires an interest discount factor to be applied, the table below shows the ‘real cash’ aspects of the acquisitions.  The accounting standard requires an annual revaluation of contingent consideration based on historic performance.

The table below shows the financial position relating to these acquisitions

TABLE 16 – EARNOUTS

  Hermex Casco Effective Total
Acquisition date 09.08.2019 19.11.2019 15.10.2020
 £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
    
Acquisition price booked at acquisition 2,000 2,236 1,575 5,811
Earn outs paid by 31.12.2020 (2,000) (1,733) (125) (3,858)
Revaluation of asset based on performance - 793 - 793
Gross outstanding at 31.12.2020 - 1,296 1,450 2,746
Paid during 2021 - (741) (368) (1,109)
Further change in consideration - 46 - 46
Gross Outstanding at 31.12.2021 - 601 1,082 1,683
    
Paid during Q1-2022 - 601 282 833
    
Due in remainder of 2022 - - 800 800
    
Maximum consideration 2,000 3,725 1,575 7,300
Total consideration 2,000 3,075 1,575 6,650
     

CBILS loan

On 23 December 2020, the Group drew-down £2,000,000 from NatWest Group under the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’). The loan carries a coupon of Bank base rate plus 2.53%.  The loan is repayable at any time, but over 60 equal instalments of £33,333 with the first instalment paid on 21 January 2022.

The interest chargeable in 2021 amounted to £1k.

Share capital, share premium and share options

The number of shares in issue at 1 January 2021 was 178,602,918.  This increased in the year through the exercise of 738,889 share options from former employees (Table 17 below), thus the number of shares outstanding at 31 December 2021 was 179,341,807.  A further 704,000 shares at nominal value were issued pursuant to the SIP and admitted to trading on AIM on 16 March 2022, resulting in a total number of shares in issue at the date of signing of the Financial Statements of 180,045,807.

At 31 December 2020, the Company had 9,838,356 options outstanding. 738,889 of these were exercised in 2021, and 376,667 lapsed.

Earnings per share are reported/calculated in accordance with IAS 33. For non-diluted, the result after tax is divided by the average number of shares in issue in the year. The average number of shares were 178,959,402 (2020: 178,602,918).

The calculation of diluted EPS is based on the result after tax divided by the number of actual shares in issue (above) plus the number of options where the fair value exceeds the weighted average share price in the year. The fair value of options is measured using Black-Scholes and Monte-Carlo. It should be noted that this calculation is based on fair value, not the difference between the market price at the end of the year or the weighted average price and the exercise price. The weighted average price was 43p (2020: 34p), the number of options exceeding the fair value was 3,553,681 (2020: Nil).

On 18 October 2021, the Company announced Discretionary Share Incentive Plans over 4,535,000 shares.  The final awards were lower, at 4,369,000.  Thus, at the date of signing of these financial statements, there were 13,091,800 options, representing 7.3% of the issued share capital and 6.8% of the enlarged share capital. 

The cost of external advice for these schemes amounted to £84k in the year (FY-2020: £Nil)

At 31 December 2021, the Company had distributable reserves of £931,411.  At the date of signing of these accounts, this was equivalent to 0.520 pence per share.

TABLE 17 – OPTIONS EXERCISED IN THE YEAR

Date exercised Number of options Grant price
20 April 2021 88,889 36.00 pence
20 April 2021 50,000 29.75 pence
21 July 2021 300,000 26.50 pence
21 July 2021 250,000 29.75 pence
26 September 2021 50,000 43.50 pence
 738,889  

 


CASH STATEMENT

The movement in the cash position is shown in the table below:

TABLE 18 - CASHFLOW FY-2021
£’000s
  FY-2020
£’000s
    
Adjusted EBITDA 6,713 1,164
R&D tax credits received (see note below) 1,367  2,539
Lease payments (principal and interest) (1,080)  (1,140)
Exceptional items (671)  (1,982)
Internally developed software capitalised (see note below) (3,028)  (4,044)
Purchase of other intangible assets (532)  (484)
Purchase of other non-current assets (78)  (160)
Acquisition costs -  (130)
Movement in working capital 1,269  1,829
 3,960  (2,408)
Earn-outs and acquisitions (1,108)  (825)
Funds from exercise of share options 220  -
External funding (CBILS) -  2,000
NET CASHFLOWS 3,072 (1,233)
Balance at 1st January 10,032  11,265
Balance at 31st December 13,104 10,032
Amount per share 7.3 pence 5.6 pence

 

R&D credits received

These are earned based on a strict set of criteria set by HMRC and broadly based on new internally generated software development.  In 2021, £0.4 million was accrued (FY-2020: £1.4 million) and £1.4 million was received relating to claims made for 2020 (FY-2019: £2.5 million).  Whilst future claims may be paid, these are unlikely to be receivable in cash.

Internally developed software capitalised

As a fintech, constantly looking to provide a series of products and platforms, the Group continues to invest and develop.  The emergence and rapid growth of the Solutions capability is one tangible deliverable.  Equals Money is another product well advanced for which investment is taking place.

 

 

Richard Cooper
Chief Financial Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 

 Note FY-2021  FY-2020
  £’000s  £’000s
     
Gross value of all transactions*1 6,529,034 3,492,671
     
Revenue from currency transactions  38,424  23,849
Revenue from banking transactions  5,667  5,110
Revenue 44,091 28,959
Transaction and commission costs  (20,071)  (10,670)
Gross Profit 24,020 18,289
     
Administrative expenses  (18,499)  (21,040)
Depreciation charge  (1,398)  (1,427)
Amortisation charge  (5,812)  (4,347)
Impairment charge  (1,638)  -
Acquisition expenses  -  (130)
Total operating expenses (27,347) (26,944)
     
Memo: Adjusted EBITDA*2 6,713 1,164
     
Operating loss A (3,327) (8,655)
Finance cost
 
 (490)  (391)
Loss before tax (3,817) (9,046)
Tax credit B 1,555  2,109
Loss after tax (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,919)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
Other comprehensive income:  
Items that may be reclassified to profit or loss     
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations  -  6
Total comprehensive loss for the year (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,913)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
  (2,262)  (6,931)
 
Loss per share C  
Basic  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
Diluted  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
     

Notes:

Adjusted EBITDA is Operating loss before: Depreciation, Amortisation, Impairments, Share option charges, and Separately identifiable items.  All income and expenses arise from continuing operations.

*1 Gross value of currency transactions sold and banking deposit transactions are a non-GAAP measure and represent the gross value of currency transactions sold to customers and banking deposits made by customers.   

*2 Adjusted EBITDA is not a GAAP measure and represents operating loss before share option charges, depreciation, amortisation and separately identifiable items (exceptional items).

 

CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

AS AT 31 DECEMBER

 2021 2021  2020 2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
ASSETS    
Non-current assets    
  Property, plant and equipment 1,257 -  1,646 -
  Right of use assets 4,874 -  6,061 -
  Intangible assets (note F) 17,492 -  19,744 -
  Goodwill 13,468 -  15,106 -
  Deferred tax assets 949 1,163  3,193 744
  Investments - 61,978  - 61,707
 38,040 63,141  45,750 62,451
     
Current assets    
  Inventories 168 -  194 -
  Trade and other receivables 8,256 339  9,586 274
  Current tax assets (R&D reclaimable) 397 -  1,367 -
  Derivative financial assets (note G) 2,593 -  3,019 -
  Cash and cash equivalents 13,104 -  10,032 -
 24,518 339  24,198 274
     
   
TOTAL ASSETS 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
     
EQUITY, AND LIABILITIES    
Equity attributable to equity holders    
  Share capital 1,793 1,793  1,786 1,786
  Share premium 53,218 53,218  53,003 53,003
  Share-based payment reserve 1,858 1,580  1,402 1,402
  Other reserves 8,609 3,187  8,609 3,187
  Accumulated (losses) / retained earnings (24,590) 1,623  (22,259) (1,625)
  Company profit / (loss) in the year - (692)  - 3,155
Equity attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC 40,888 60,709  42,541 60,908
Non-controlling interest 263 -  101 -
 41,151 60,709  42,642 60,908
     
Non-current liabilities    
  Borrowings 1,600 -  2,000 -
  Lease liabilities 4,484 -  5,509 -
  Deferred tax liabilities - -  3,740 -
 6,084 -  11,249 -
     
Current liabilities    
  Borrowings 400 -  - -
  Trade and other payables 12,002 2,771  12,110 1,817
  Current tax liabilities 61 -  - -
  Lease liabilities 778 -  897 -
  Derivative financial liabilities (note G) 2,082 -  3,050 -
 15,323 2,771  16,057 1,817
     
     
TOTAL EQUITY AND LIABILITIES 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
      

 

 


CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER

GROUP Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings    Other reserves Total attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC Non-controlling interest Total
equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
                
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  1,345  (15,340)  8,603  49,397  119  49,516
                
Loss for the year -  -  -  (6,919)  -  (6,919)  (18)  (6,937)
Other comprehensive income:                
Items that will not be reclassified subsequently to profit or loss:                
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations -  -  -  -  6  6  -  6
Other items:                
Share-based payment charge -  -  444  -  -  444  -  444
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  (387)  -  -  (387)  -  (387)
                
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  (22,259)  8,609  42,541  101 42,642
                
(Loss) / profit for the year -  -  -  (2,424)  -  (2,424)  162  (2,262)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  272  -  272
Share options exercised in year- - (93) 93 - - - -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222  -  222
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  278  -  -  277  -  277
At 31 December 2021 1,793 53,218 1,858 (24,590) 8,609 40,888 263 41,151

 

COMPANY Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings  Other reserves Total equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  958  (1,625)  3,187  57,309
          
Profit for the year and total comprehensive income -  -  -  3,155  -  3,155
 
Share-based payment charge
-  -  444  -  -  444
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  1,530  3,187  60,908
       
Loss for the year -  -  -  (692)  -  (692)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  271
Share options exercised in year -  -  (93)  93  -  -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222
At 31 December 2021 1,793  53,218  1,580  931  3,187  60,709

 

The following describes the nature and purpose of each reserve within owners’ equity:

 

Share capital                                                      Amount subscribed for shares at nominal value.

Share premium                                                  Amount subscribed for shares in excess of nominal value, less directly attributable costs.

Share-based payment reserve                         Proportion of the fair value of share options granted relating to services rendered up to the balance sheet date.

Retained deficit                                                Cumulative profit and losses attributable to equity shareholders.

 

Other reserves comprise:

     Merger reserve                                           Arising on reverse acquisition from Group reorganisation.

     Contingent consideration reserve              Arising on equity based contingent consideration on acquisition of subsidiaries.

     Foreign currency reserve                            Arising on translation of foreign operation.

 


CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF CASHFLOWS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 FY-2021 FY-2021  FY-2020 FY-2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
    
Loss before tax (3,817) (1,111) (9,045) 2,650
    
Add: Cashflows from operating activities:  
Adjustments for:   
  Depreciation 1,398 -  1,427 -
  Amortisation 5,812 -  4,347 -
  Impairment 1,638 -  - -
  Share-based payment charges 272 -  444 -
  Decrease / (increase) in trade and other receivables*1 3,614 (63)  (401) (2,507)
  (Decrease) / increase in trade and other payables*2 (2,688) 954  3,050 (143)
  Decrease / (increase) in derivative financial assets 426 -  1,542 -
 (Decrease) / increase in derivative financial liabilities (968) -  (1,511) -
 Decrease in inventories 26 -  70 -
 Finance costs 490 6  391 -
 10,020 897  9,359 (2,650)
 
 
Net cash inflow / (outflow) 6,203 (214) 314 -
    
Tax receipts 1,367 -  2,539 -
    
NET CASHFLOWS FROM OPERATING ACTIVITIES 7,570 (214) 2,853 -
    
Cashflows from investing activities   
  Acquisition of property plant and equipment (78) -  (160) -
  Acquisition of intangibles (3,560) -  (4,531) -
  Acquisition of subsidiary, net of cash acquired - -  (255) -
Net cash used in investing activities (3,638) -  (4,946) -
    
Cashflows from financing activities   
  New Borrowings - -  2,000 -
  Principal elements of lease payments (872) -  (891) -
  Interest on financial leases (194) -  (222) -
  Other interest paid (14) (6)  (27) -
  Proceeds from issuance of ordinary shares 220 220   
Net cash (outflow) / Inflow from financing activities (860) 214  860 -
    
    
NET INCREASE/ (DECREASE) IN CASH AND CASH EQUIVALENTS 3,072 - (1,233) -
Cash, and cash equivalents at 1 January 10,032 -  11,265 -
Cash, and cash equivalent at 31 December 13,104 - 10,032 -
      

 

*1 The movement in the deferred and current tax assets and the right-of use asset balances (excluding the depreciation charge) is included within the movement in trade and other receivables.

*2 The movement in the deferred and current tax liabilities and the lease liability balances is included within the movement in trade and other payables.

2020

Final Results

30 March 2022

‘'Significant growth and operational progress, along with strong cash generation

Equals (AIM:EQLS), a leading fintech payments group focused on the SME marketplace, announces its final results for the year-ended 31 December 2021 (the ‘year’ or ‘FY-2021’) and an update on trading for the period from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022.

 

Download

These Results are available in PDF format.
To download please click here

 


FY-2021: Financial Summary

  FY-2021   FY-2020   Change*
£ millions  £ millions   
Underlying transaction values      
-          FX 4,352  2,672  + 63%
-          Banking 1,331  821  + 62%
-          Solutions Platform 846  -   
-          Total 6,529  3,493  + 87%
      
Revenue 44.1  29.0  + 52%
% of revenue from B2B 81%  70%   
      
Gross profits 24.0  18.3  + 31%
      
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7 1.1   
      
EBITDA 5.7  (2.0)   
      
Loss after taxation (2.3)  (6.9)   
      
Memo:     
  Capitalised staff costs 3.0  4.0  - 25%
  Separately reported items (below Adjusted EBITDA) 0.7  2.6  - 73%
  R&D credits received 1.4  2.5   
  Impairment of travel cash business 1.6  -   
  Cash per share (at balance sheet date) 7.3p  5.6p  + 30%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

FY-2021 Financial Highlights

  • Total Revenue increased by 52% to £44.1 million (FY-2020: £29.0 million), supported by:
    • Like for like transactional values increasing by 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
    • Immediate success in the Solutions Platform which contributed £0.8 billion in transaction values and £3.6 million in revenues
  • Gross profits increased 31% to £24.0 million (FY-2020: £18.3 million)
  • Cash-based expenditure fell a further 7% (£1.6 million) to £21.2 million (FY-2020: £22.8 million)
  • Adjusted EBITDA** increased to £6.7 million (FY-2020: £1.1 million)
  • Year-end cash increased 31% to £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

 FY-2021 operational and product highlights

  • Focus on B2B and non travel-related revenue streams successfully continued
    • Business customer revenue increased to represent 81% of total revenues (FY-2020: 70%)
    • Non-travel revenue represented 94% of the total, up from 91% in FY-2020
  • Group continuing to attract larger corporates: won a significant mandate to transact a single but complex trade yielding £1.5 million of revenue and £0.8 million of gross profits
  • ‘Own-name’ multi-currency IBAN launched mid-year
  • Improved sales and data focus through both staff hires and CRM; a significant contributor to increased revenues
  • R&D continued throughout the year, with further technical developments including ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and Linked cards
  • Operational improvements through greater reconciliation automation and client onboarding

Q1-2022 Group highlights

  • Revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 up 78%, and averaged £222k per day (same period 2021 £125k)
  • Total revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 of £13.6 million
  • Strong performance across all sectors

Commenting on the Results, Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of Equals Group PLC, said:

“We ended 2021 in a very strong position, both financially and operationally.  The surge in our reported revenue and EBITDA speaks to a successful repositioning of our model to focus on B2B and away from legacy travel operations.  This process began in 2020, put us on the front-foot for 2021, and we are now progressing into 2022 with sustained confidence.  Our product set is being adopted by existing and new customers at a faster rate than we anticipated and that has allowed us to more quickly develop and roll out new functionality to a broader range of customers.  We are making excellent progress in the early stages of 2022 with rapid growth continuing while we navigate the geo-political backdrop.  We remain highly confident for our prospects both in 2022 and beyond.”

Analyst meeting

A conference call for analysts hosted by Ian Strafford-Taylor (CEO) and Richard Cooper (CFO) will be held at 09.30 today, 30 March 2022.  A copy of the presentation will be available after midday on the Equals website.  A copy of the Final Results presentation is also available at the Group’s website: https://equalsplc.com.

For retail investors, an audiocast of the conference call with analysts will be available after midday today:

https://webcasting.buchanan.uk.com/broadcast/62319d7461bd9a4d10292906

 

Notes

*Transactions with business customers are reported as ‘B2B’ and transactions with retail customers are reported as ‘B2C’.

**Adjusted EBITDA is defined as: earnings before depreciation, amortisation, impairment charges, share option charges, foreign exchange differences and separately reported items. Separately reported items are large, non-recurring items.

*** The financial statements were approved for release at 07:00 hours on 30 March 2022 to the London Stock Exchange via RNS after being approved by the Board on 29 March 2022 after the close of the stock market on that day.

 

For more information, please contact:

Equals Group PLC  
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO
Richard Cooper, CFO
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7778 9308
www.equalsplc.com
 
Canaccord Genuity (Nominated Advisor / Broker) 
Max Hartley / Georgina McCooke
Alex Aylen (Sales)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7523 8150
 
 
Buchanan (Financial Communications)  
Henry Harrison-Topham / Steph Whitmore / Toto Berger
[email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7466 5000
www.buchanan.uk.com

 

Notes to Editors:

Equals Group is a technology-led international payments group augmented by highly personalised service for the payment needs of SME’s whether these be FX, card payments or via Faster Payments. Founded in 2007, the Group was listed on AIM in 2014 and currently employs around 250 staff across sites in London and Chester.  For more information, please visit www.equalsplc.com.

 

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

2021

Management’s objective for 2021 were to significantly increase both the quantum and mix of revenues from B2B customers and products. We achieved both by building on the payments infrastructure and connectivity already assembled, and further enhanced this by providing customers with ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts. Concurrently, the Group expanded and refined its sales processes and go-to-market strategy.

Summary of financial performance

I am delighted to report that:

  • Like for like transactions executed on the Group’s platforms rose 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
  • Transactions from our new Solutions Platform were £0.8 billion from a standing start (FY-2020: Nil)
  • Revenue rose 52% to £44.1 million, with £15.3 million in Q4-2021 alone
  • Adjusted EBITDA rose from £1.1 million to £6.7 million
  • Year-end cash closed at £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

A full financial analysis is presented in the Chief Financial Officer’s Report which follows this statement.

COVID-19

2021 saw the world continue to struggle through COVID-19 variants and lockdowns. Despite this, the Group achieved rapid growth, benefiting from measures taken in 2020 to focus the Group on a B2B customer base and thereby reducing any reliance on the legacy B2C travel-related products.  In addition, the lessons learned in 2020 in terms of hybrid working meant that the Group could operate efficiently throughout the year during the various phases of the pandemic.

Marketplace and competitive landscape

The global payments market is a complex space and can be measured in many trillions of pounds, comprising all the various payment mechanisms from cash, cards, account-to-account transfers, and other methodologies across physical, internet and mobile interfaces. Against this background, the Group remains somewhat unique in that it spans both account-to-account transfers and cards, overlaid on infrastructure providing bank-grade connectivity and security on superior customer interfaces. The flexibility in the payment methodology that the Group can support from one unified platform is increasingly vital to business customers, for example many e-commerce businesses only accept card payments whereas other companies may typically only accept bank transfers.

Within the vast payments market, the Group remains strongly focused on the B2B customer segment. Within that, it has identified small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the optimal target audience for its products and services. The Group aims to deliver this via its ‘Equals Money’ proposition – a single platform comprising account-to-account transfers and card products for both UK and international transactions. The Group’s ‘target’ customer is an SME between 50-500 employees with UK and overseas payment needs. Engineering, product, and design resources are focused on providing solutions to this customer segment; however, the Group’s products equally serve both smaller and larger B2B customers.

Despite the continuing growth of fintech within the wider market, it remains the case that most payments activity continues to flow through the incumbent banks and payment networks. Therefore, winning business from these institutions remains a key focus for the Group in terms of both product development and sales and marketing activities. However, investment into the fintech competitors of Equals also makes it essential that the Group continues to innovate and invest into its platform and connectivity to remain ahead of the competition in its chosen B2B payments space.  The success of this strategy to date is clear in the Group’s FY-2021 results.

Performance in 2021

A key milestone to achieving accelerated growth for the Group was passed in May 2021 when Equals launched its capability to offer ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts to its customers. This enables the business customers of Equals to pay and receive into a single account in their own name, and that account can process all currencies automatically.  Further, the Group can offer its customers the flexibility to open multiple own-name IBAN accounts or multiple sub-accounts within a single IBAN.  This flexibility places Equals in a position where it can solve many payment and reconciliation problems for business customers, all delivered through one unified platform.

Equals Solutions

The own-name multi-currency IBAN capability, and the flexibility it offers, underpinned the creation of a new revenue stream: Equals Solutions.  Launched in June 2021, it contributed £0.3 million to revenues in the first half-year and £3.6 million for the full year, with a significant £1.7 million contribution of which was the fourth quarter showcasing its rapid growth and take-up by business customers.

Equals Solutions is targeted at larger corporates and provides a bespoke platform for each client. The flexibility in terms of being able to onboard a complex B2B customer rapidly and provide multiple own-name IBAN accounts and sub-accounts combined with the ability to implement complex authorisation hierarchies and protocols for the customer is a capability that few companies can offer. Incumbent banks are unable to compete given their operations remain on slow and often outdated infrastructure, while a typical fintech competitor concentrates on B2C not B2B customers and even may only have some – and not all – of the capabilities needed. Equals are therefore set apart given it provides a complete suite of services and products with the latest tech proposition.

Equals Money

Equals Money combines account-to-account payments, card payments and current accounts in one unified platform and is targeted at SME customers.

Along with Equals Solutions, the ability to offer own-name IBAN accounts to customers has significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Equals Money platform. In addition, during 2021 the Group implemented additional developments to the Equals Money platform including a new customer interface via website and app, batch payments and multi-tier configurable approval functionality.

Equals Pay and Equals Exchange

Equals Pay is the Group’s customer-facing international payments product. Numerous enhancements have been made to this product, including the ability to make batch payments and improved forward contract functionality.

Equals Exchange is the Group’s internal dealing platform which runs on the same infrastructure as Equals Pay.  This was launched during the year and is proving a very capable platform and is well regarded by Equals’ dealers.

Other achievements and product launches

  • Improved onboarding journey for all customers allied to automated compliance checks to minimise new-customer friction
  • Appointment of new Head of Sales and simplification of commission structure
  • Implementation of Growth Team comprising marketing and business development
  • Continued development of CRM (HubSpot) platform yielding improved sales traction
  • Creation of Data Team and investment into data capabilities and insights
  • Further upgrades to the Group’s compliance capabilities and personnel
  • Joining the ‘Confirmation of Payee’ scheme for UK Payments
  • Implementation of automated reconciliations utilising Kani-payments platform, resulting in additional operational efficiency
  • Launch of ‘Linked Cards’ for FairFX B2C cards platform
  • Banking platform re-branded

Strong financial performance – growth and resilience throughout the year

2021 was a year of significant growth for the Group in terms of transaction volumes, revenues and expanded product suite delivering enhanced operational capacity. Growth was broad-based across the B2B products, aided by the advent of the Equals Solutions revenue stream in June. The growth in revenues has flowed through to EBITDA as the Group became increasingly operationally geared and also cash generative.

The transaction table below shows how the volumes through the Group’s platform have almost doubled since 2019 despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Overall transaction volumes have increased by 97% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 63% over 2020 activity. Within these totals, currency transactions have increased by 105% since 2019 and 63% since 2020, whilst banking transactions have increased by 73% and 62% respectively.

Table A: Transaction amounts since January 2019

In £ millions Banking Currency sold Like for like total Solutions Platform Group total
      
Q1-2019 171 451 622 - 622
Q2-2019 189 448 637 - 637
Q3-2019 202 575 777 - 777
Q4-2019 209 643 852 - 852
Total, FY-2019 771 2,117 2,888 - 2,888
      
Q1-2020 194 664 858 - 858
Q2-2020 169 533 702 - 702
Q3-2020 221 660 881 - 881
Q4-2020 237 815 1,052 - 1,052
Total, FY-2020 821 2,672 3,493 - 3,493
Increase on prior year +21% +21%
      
Q1-2021 230 829 1,059 - 1,059
Q2-2021 340 909 1,249 143 1,392
Q3-2021 374 1,199 1,573 313 1,886
Q4-2021 387 1,415 1,802 391 2,193
Total, FY-2021 1,331 4,352 5,683 846 6,529
Increase on prior year +63% +87%

 

The ability to process a doubling of activity in two years demonstrates the resilience of the platform the Group has built, the value of the investment in infrastructure which was commenced in 2018, along with the acquisition of Casco in 2019. Furthermore, the acceleration in transactions in the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY-2021 shows the effect of the own-name IBAN roll-out combined with Equals Solutions driving increased activity.

The revenue table below tells a similar story with strong revenue growth compared to both 2019 pre-pandemic levels and the 2020 performance. Overall revenues grew 43% over 2019 levels and 52% over the Covid-impacted 2020 result. Within the revenue performance, the shift towards B2B is clear to see.  FY-2021 revenues were split 81% B2B and 19% B2C compared to a 55/45 split in FY-2019 and a 70/30 split in FY-2020.

Table B: Revenues since January 2019

In £’000s B2B B2C Total Revenue margin Revenue per day*
Q1-2019 3,831 3,087 6,918 1.1% 110
Q2-2019 4,069 3,636 7,705 1.2% 124
Q3-2019 4,164 3,847 8,011 1.0% 123
Q4-2019 5,231 3,080 8,311 1.0% 128
Total, FY-2019 17,295 13,650 30,945 1.1% 121
Mix 56% 44%
      
Q1-2020 5,354 2,672 8,026 0.9% 125
Q2-2020 3,928 1,819 5,747 0.8% 99
Q3-2020 5,273 2,033 7,306 0.8% 112
Q4-2020 5,797 2,084 7,881 0.7% 122
Total, FY-2020 20,352 8,608 28,960 0.8% 114
Change on prior year +18% -37% -6%
Mix 70% 30%
      
Q1-2021 5,626 2,438 8,064 0.8% 128
Q2-2021 7,179 1,662 8,841 0.7% 145
Q3-2021 9,925 1,980 11,905 0.8% 183
Q4-2021 12,873 2,408 15,281 0.8% 239
Total, FY-2021 35,603 8,488 44,091 0.8% 174
Change on prior year +75% -1% +52%
Mix 81% 19%

 

* based on underlying, not rounded, figures and expressed as revenue divided by the number of working days in each quarter.

 

In terms of growth and productivity, revenue per employee rose by 80% to £172k per employee (FY 2020: £96k), a testament both to productivity, incentives and strong headcount control.

Product outlook

Unified platform – Equals Money & Equals Solutions

Great strides were made during 2021 in the development of ‘Equals Money’, which incorporates the payments, cards and current account solutions that the Group can offer in one unified platform and ties directly into the strategic vision for the Group to simplify money movement for business customers.

The investment made in prior years to assemble infrastructure providing bank-grade security and connectivity, including the integration into the Faster Payments network and the implementation of the Citibank partnership to provide ‘local’ settlement in over 40 countries, form the underlying platform for clearing payments efficiently.  The scalability of this platform has been evidenced by the doubling of transaction volumes processed in the last two years.

To optimise revenues from this assembled infrastructure, it is essential to make it simple both to become a customer and then for that customer to use the platform.  For the customer acquisition journey, investment has been made into further refining the onboarding process, utilising automated compliance checks overlaid with additional compliance personnel to fast-track non-standard cases. For the ease-of-use of the platform, the Group has applied extensive resources into refining the User Experience (UX) utilising both extensive research into customer needs and the in-house product and design expertise at Equals.

In 2022 the Group will continue to invest in platform capabilities, onboarding efficiency and UX to constantly improve both the platform functionality and usability. This is expected to translate into increased revenues from existing customers whilst improving sales success and conversion of leads into new customers. Further, the Group will integrate the platforms with major accountancy software providers thereby providing another sales channel and expanding the pool of customers who can access Equals’ products and services.

Payment infrastructure, ‘Boxes’

2021 saw major advances in the Group’s capabilities to deliver enhanced account services to its customers.  The most significant advance was the ability to give a customer an ‘own name multi-currency IBAN’ – an account in their own name denoted by a unique IBAN (‘International Bank Account Number’) which supports multiple currencies.  As the account is in the name of the customer, a so-called ‘first party’ account, this allows more use-cases than payments into a ‘pooled account’ from a compliance perspective.  Further, having one IBAN for all currencies enables a customer to provide one single account identifier to all of its customers and suppliers, thereby simplifying both sales and procurement processes.

To offer own-name multi-currency accounts, many third-party integrations were needed, including partner banks and SWIFT.  However, the key framework to support the flexible platform we require is referred to as ‘Boxes’.  A Box is our internal title for a single currency container in which you can store an asset.  Hence, each own-name multi-currency IBAN has one Box per currency.  Further flexibility is gained by the fact that a Box can support sub-Boxes so a customer can pay directly into their IBAN or directly to a sub-Box.  This sub-Box capability allows us to offer customers an own-name IBAN with unlimited sub-accounts if they require it.

The Boxes infrastructure also provides the capability for an Equals Customer to create own-name IBAN accounts for its own customers – subject to Equals compliance checks. This capability can resolve complex reconciliation issues for companies that have multiple parties paying into one bank account per currency. Each party can have a unique IBAN to pay into, in any currency, and therefore the Equals customer knows at point of receipt of funds who has remitted them.

Supporting this configuration is the Boxes service which automatically creates a Box on receipt of funds and auto-processes funds into and out of a Box via SWIFT, BACS, Faster Payments and SEPA.

Further development of the Boxes infrastructure is planned for 2022, enabling us to deliver key additional functionality for both Equals Money and Equals Platforms including real-time running balances, statements and enhanced reporting for customers, bulk payments and the recently announced direct integration into the SEPA (Single European Payments Area) network. In addition, the Group will build out its capability to offer its IBAN and Boxes functionality via API – thereby allowing more sophisticated customers to directly integrate with the Equals platform and support white-label opportunities.

Card Products

Similar to the account-to-account payment infrastructure that Equals has assembled, 2021 saw significant progress in the development of the Group’s card platform that underpins a strong pipeline of customer-facing features to be deployed in 2022. The new infrastructure can power the Group’s card products for the medium term and allow Equals to run card schemes in overseas locations. 2022 will see the launch of the new Equals Money card, replacing the Equals Spend cards which run on legacy infrastructure. The new cards, which are multi-currency, can be both virtual and physical and have many more features and capabilities. Equals are also moving towards being its own Issuer for its card products, thereby eliminating another party from the supply chain and speeding up development cycles.

Sales and Marketing – a high growth agenda

The Group further enhanced its capabilities in Sales and Marketing in 2021. The roll-out of HubSpot, the new CRM system for Equals, continued during the year, focusing on the B2B customer segment. Many activities previously performed in isolation are now processed automatically via the HubSpot platform so that the Group has a single database on customers and a central hub from which all customer interaction is performed and recorded. The focus for 2022 will be to harness this capability to drive new customer acquisition and to further drive enhanced revenues from the existing client base.

Equals created a ‘Growth Team’ during the year which combined marketing with the overall growth agenda. This team is responsible for HubSpot in terms of ensuring optimisation of how it is used across the Group and that the benefits derived from it are maximised. The focus of the team is to enable growth by a combination of delivering increased revenue from existing customers whilst driving new customer acquisition. The key for the success of the team is the interaction with the revenue teams to support them in reaching their targets.

In keeping with the overall strategy of the Group, the focus for growth is on the B2B customer base. Unlike B2C customer acquisition, where above-the-line (‘ATL’) marketing such as TV and billboard advertisements augmented by digital marketing is the driving force, B2B customer acquisition relies more on the outbound sales function augmented by and integrated with a coherent digital marketing strategy and content production.  Accordingly, the Growth Team works very closely with the Sales functions across the Group in defining campaigns and assisting the sales efficacy with targeted digital marketing and an in-house pay-per-click (‘PPC’) team.

The challenge for Equals in 2022 in sales and growth is managing the transition from being a product-led business to a platform-led business.  Previously, the Group has sold its products – International Payments, Card Products and Current Account products – using largely separate sales teams and marketing strategies.  As Equals moves forward, it will be selling Equals Money to the SME customer base and Equals Solutions to the larger B2B customers. The transition from product to platform differentiates Equals from vanilla FX businesses, as the Group can compete not just on FX rates, but on platform capability and service. The Sales skills required are also different and therefore the Group appointed a new Head of Sales during the year, revised the commission structure and upgraded its sales teams.

The steps taken in 2021 position Equals well for the transition from product to the platform as it now has a stronger sales team, a single-source-of-truth CRM platform and the Growth Team is established internally as the fulcrum around which will drive the Group’s unified Sales approach.

Board composition

On 9 April 2021, we welcomed Christopher Bones as a Non-Executive Director of the Company with his background in both Human Resources and Marketing. He has been invaluable in the formulation of a compensation strategy for the Group as well as assisting in the development of a go-to-market strategy.

Employees

The Group has been focusing on enhancing ‘bench-strength’ to support the executive layer that sits just below the Board. Pursuant to this, the Group took on a Head of Compliance to compliment the already strong operational team, and the CFO, Richard Cooper, recruited a new Director of Finance to enable him to work even more closely with myself on corporate opportunities and investor relations.

The Group’s employees continue to be its greatest strength.  The loyalty, commitment, and hard work demonstrated in 2020 and now in 2021 has been tremendous and deserves to be acknowledged. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank every colleague for everything they have done for the Group. We are delighted to have a diverse workforce and are proud to train and promote from within as well as seek fresh talent from elsewhere.

Three senior members of the executive team left the Group during 2021 and I thank them for their time whilst at Equals.

Whilst the Group continues to seek efficiencies and has a strong cost-control culture, the Board intends to invest these gains in further capacity for growth rather than reductions in staff numbers.  This in turn will benefit investors as Equals will have strong operational gearing as it grows, with its cost base increasing at a lower rate than transactions and revenues.

The labour market in the UK, particularly in the fintech space, is extremely competitive. Accordingly, in 2021 the Group introduced a company-wide share-ownership scheme (‘SIP’) where all eligible employees received the same number of shares in Equals. The Group will seek to make similar awards on an annual basis. In addition, Equals introduced a long-term incentive plan (‘LTIP’) scheme for senior employees and a similar plan with performance conditions for Executive Directors. Both the SIP and the LTIP schemes have lengthy vesting periods and thereby provide strong retention benefits for the Group.

ESG

Equals wholeheartedly embraces ESG initiatives and takes Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (‘EDI’) extremely seriously. Our EDI strategy, which covers not only employees but also customers, includes an internal EDI network populated with elected representatives and regular employee surveys. This is a key objective for all Executive Committee members and forms part of their appraisal.

Future plans and opportunities

The strategic direction of the Group remains clearly focused on the B2B customer segment with Equals Money being targeted at the SME base and Equals Solutions at larger corporate opportunities. The growth potential, now that Equals has assembled the core capabilities of own-name IBAN and bank-grade connectivity and clearance, is extremely strong due to the complexity and time required to replicate the Group’s capabilities and will only be enhanced by the developments planned for 2022.

Equals will continue to look for growth opportunities and can do so with a strong balance sheet and cash position.  The Group will examine overseas expansion beyond its current predominantly UK-centric customer base and will also take a considerate and opportunistic approach to acquisitions as they present themselves.

Recent geo-political events

The current uncertainty caused by the conflict from Russia to Ukraine does not have a material impact on Equals as the Group’s direct exposure to the region is extremely limited. In addition, clearly, to the extent the situation affects global confidence and trade volumes, this could impact general commercial activity levels during 2022.  We have not seen any direct impact to date but continue to monitor the situation closely.

Q1-2022 trading and Outlook

2022 has started exceptionally well with revenues to 28 March, 78% higher than the same period in 2021 at £13.6 million.  Strong revenue growth continues to come from B2B with all product lines progressing well.  Equals Solutions, which contributed £3.6 million of revenues in FY-2021, has already contributed £2.6 million in FY-2022 to-date and is expected to continue to grow strongly as the Group adds new functionality to its payments platform during the year.

Equals, therefore, has a strong outlook resulting from the investments it has made to create a payments platform comprising International and Domestic Payments, Card Payments and Banking Services underpinned by exceptional technology and direct connections to multiple payment networks.  Further investments made in compliance, onboarding and user experience mean that the rich functionality of the platform is made easily accessible to current and potential customers.  Finally, advances made in Sales, Marketing and Data mean that Equals now sells its products and platform more efficiently.  Accordingly, the Board looks forward to the future with confidence.

 

Ian Strafford-Taylor
Chief Executive Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

 Chief Financial Officer’s Report

I present my review and financial analysis for the year ended 31 December 2021.

TABLE 1: INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £ millions  £ millions
Revenue (table 3) 44.1  29.0
    
Gross Profits (table 3) 24.0  18.3
Less: Marketing (1.2)  (1.2)
Contribution 22.8 17.1
Expenditure (table 9) (16.1)  (16.0)
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7  1.1
Less:    Share option expense (0.3)  (0.4)
Less:    Exceptional items and acquisition costs (0.7)  (2.7)
EBITDA 5.7 (2.0)
    
IFRS 16 Depreciation (0.9)  (0.9)
Other depreciation (0.4)  (0.5)
Amortisation of acquired intangibles (1.3)  (1.2)
Other amortisation (4.5)  (3.2)
Contingent consideration cost (0.1)  (0.6)
Impairment of the Bureau operations (1.6)  -
 (8.8)  (6.4)
    
EBIT (3.1) (8.4)
    
Lease interest (0.2)  (0.2)
Foreign exchange differences (0.1)  (0.2)
Contingent consideration finance charges (0.3)  (0.2)
 (0.6)  (0.6)
    
LOSS BEFORE TAXATION (3.8) (9.0)
    
Corporate and deferred taxation 1.1  0.7
R&D tax credits receivable 0.4  1.4
 1.5  2.1
    
LOSS FOR THE YEAR (2.3) (6.9)

 

 

TABLE 2: EARNINGS PER SHARE

Normal Adjusted
    
Basic 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p
    
Diluted 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p

 

 

TABLE 3: REVENUE AND GROSS PROFITS

 

A. Revenue summary by business line

 FY-2021 FY-2020
£ millions Revenues Gross profits  Revenues Gross profits
International Payments (Table 4) 29.5 14.0  17.4 11.1
Spend Platform 6.3 4.3  3.7 2.0
Personal cards 2.4 1.6  2.1 1.1
Banking 5.6 4.0  5.1 3.8
Bureau operations and other 0.3 0.1  0.7 0.3
 44.1 24.0  29.0 18.3

B. Revenue and gross profits by customer grouping and markets

 B2B v B2C Non-travel v Travel
£ millions B2B B2C Total  Non-travel Travel Total
REVENUES
-                      2021 35.6 8.5 44.1 41.4 2.7 44.1
-                      2020 20.4 8.6 29.0  26.3 2.7 29.0
% change* +75% -1% +52%  +58% - +52%
       
GROSS PROFITS       
-                      2021 16.6 7.4 24.0 22.1 1.9 24.0
-                      2020 12.8 5.5 18.3  16.8 1.5 18.3
-                      2021 % 47% 87% 54% 53% 70% 54%
-                      2020 % 63% 64% 63%  64% 56% 63%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

The Group has many individual revenue lines (and associated variable costs), but broadly these can be summarised as follows:

International payments:

This includes direct, affiliate and white-label foreign exchange for business customers and to a lesser extent, affluent private customers.

It also includes the bulk of the ‘solutions’ product, launched during the year, which leads with an own-name IBAN, facilitating both same-to-same transactions and currency A to currency B transactions, as well as bulk payments using our ‘Faster Payments’ membership gateway.

The white-label business trading under the Equals Connect brand, allows smaller providers to ‘piggy-back’ off our excellent compliance processes and speed of delivery.

The white-label business acquired in 2019 had a stellar year growing its revenues from £2.4 million to £7.7 million, although at a tighter gross profit margin of 14% due to both competitive pressures and one particularly large affiliate.

The Material trade (announced on 28 October 2021) was a ‘bonus’ but took many weeks to see through a highly complicated transaction and demonstrates the ability of the Group to deal with transactions of this size and complexity.

Solutions, as fully described in the CEO’s Report came on stream late in H1-2021 and ramped-up each month since.

 


TABLE 4 – INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS, FY-2021 and FY-2020

FY-2021 Turnover
£ millions
Number of
transactions
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,473.1 88,314 16.7 65.4 62%
White label 1,094.2 34,090 7.7 70.8 14%
Material trade 114.4 1 1.5 132.3 54%
FX trades from Solutions clients 241.1 584 2.5 101.8 24%
Sub-total, currency 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4 47%
Other flows from Solutions clients 845.9 3,241 1.1 13.0 89%
Totals 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9
      
      
-                      B2B 4,400.6 97,515 26.3 59.8  
-                      B2C 368.1 28,715 3.2 88.5  
Totals by segment 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9  
      
-                      Spot 3,199.1 114,391 23.2 72.5  
-                      Forward 723.7 8,598 5.2 71.9  
Total, from currency trades 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4  

 

FY-2020 Turnover
£ millions
Number of transactions
 
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,088.7 84,069 15.0 71.8 69%
White label 279.0 10,624 2.4 86.0 29%
Material trade - - -  -
Solutions - - -  -
TOTALS 2,367.7 94,693 17.4 73.5 64%
      
-                      B2B 1,975.0 60,953 13.7 69.4  
-                      B2C 392.7 33,740 3.7 94.2  
      
-                      Spot 1,716.3 86,015 11.5 67.0  
-                      Forward 651.4 8,678 5.9 90.6  

 

*bp = Basis Points representing 100th of 1%.

 

B2B continued to grow, and of the total of revenues from International Payments, represented:

-          91% of total turnover (FY-2020: 83%),

-          89% of total revenue (FY-2020: 79%), and

-          77% of total transactions (FY-2020: 64%).

Part of the growth driver for this was the White-label offering, Equals Connect which trades exclusively through affiliates, and therefore at a lower gross return.

Of the total revenues from International Payments, Spot transactions represented:

-          82% of turnover (FY-2020: 72%),

-          82% of revenue (FY-2020: 66%), and

-          93% of transactions (FY-2020: 91%).

Forward margins fell slightly in the aggregate caused mainly by customers taking shorter-dated forwards through Brexit and COVID-19 uncertainty.

Average transaction values from the core and white label books and composition between B2B/B2C and Spot/Forward were:

 

TABLE 4a – International Payments, transaction sizes, FY-2021 and FY-2020

  FY-2021
£’000s
 FY-2020
£’000s
  Transaction size  Transaction size
 Core 28.1  20.2
 White-label 32.1  26.3
     
 -                      B2B 34.2  32.4
 -                      B2C 12.8  11.6
     
 -                      Spot 25.0  20.0
 -                      Forward 84.2  75.0

 

Spend platform:

This is a card-loaded expenses platform delivered via mobile phone or other devices. Extensively used in the film production industry, it enables tight control of corporate expenses but gives companies great flexibility to be agile in their requirement to commit funds.  This segment is regarded as B2B.

 

TABLE 5 – SPEND PLATFORM

FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 333.9  203.3
Number of loads 448k  330k
Number of transactions 3,131k  1,872k
Revenue (£ millions) 6.3  3.7
Average revenue/transaction 201p  200p

 

FY-2021 saw a strong rebound from the COVID-19 impact in FY-2020 – particularly in the final quarter.  A greater number of customers (and their employees) were signed-up and able to benefit from advanced product features.

Personal cards

The origin of the Group in 2007 was a pre-paid web and mobile-enabled card for affluent individuals, often with family financing needs to be served through our ‘linked-cards’ option.  This segment is categorised as B2C.

TABLE 6 – PERSONAL CARDS

 FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 61.4  64.4
Number of loads 250k  340k
Number of transactions 1,106k  938k
Revenue (£ millions) 2.4  2.1
Average revenue/transaction 212p  225p

 

This business saw a modest increase over 2020, but since December 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the Group has witnessed an upturn in usage and revenues.  The card product is often used by the owners of the SMEs served by our Spend platform, so it remains a useful but not core product.  Given the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, the Group limited its marketing expenditure in this segment in FY-2021.

Banking services

A suite of bank-style accounts for emerging corporates, established trusts and personal individuals who want a way to control their expenditure.  The B2B segment of this income is marginally more than 50% of its total.

TABLE 7 – BANKING SERVICES

FY-2021 FY-2020
Deposits (£ millions) £1,331  £821
Transactions 5,458k  3,715k
Number of accounts 14.5k  14.2k
Revenue (£ millions) £5.6  £5.1
Revenue per account £392  £354

 

Bureau de change

A legacy of the City Forex acquisition in 2018, the Group retains two branches in the City of London, mainly serving corporates in the insurance and other professional services sector, along with walk-in traffic from workers in the City.  Thus, there is a mix of B2B and B2C revenues.  Owing to the impact of COVID-19, a decision was made to impair the goodwill of this business in FY-2021 and the corresponding impairment is £1,638k

Variable costs:

There are three main categories of variable cost:

(a)      Transaction costs – these are third party costs applying to all the above, and range from banking fees to MasterCard costs, and variable KYC and KYB costs.

(b)     Affiliate commissions (or introducer fees); mainly a revenue sharing model applying to International Payments.

(c)     Staff commissions; revenue related commissions payable, through the payroll, to a cohort of highly motivated professionals who may earn monthly, quarterly and annual commissions based on their own success.

The table below shows which business units have the various cost components:

TABLE 8 – VARIABLE COSTS BY BUSINESS LINE

£ millions International payments Cards Banking
Transaction costs 1.7 2.7 1.6
Affiliate Commissions 5.0 - -
White label commissions 6.3   
Staff commissions 2.8 - -
Totals FY-2021 15.8 2.7 1.6

 

Marketing costs

These include costs relating to the Equals brand, along with specific marketing programmes, relating more to Spend and Banking than other product sets.

Overheads

As with many ‘fintechs’, the Group has as its largest cost, staff, followed by IT expenditure, premises, professional fees (many relating to our position on AIM), and modest other expenses.

Staff costs include employment taxes, employee benefits and contractor fees – mainly in our Engineering team.  With just over 255 staff, the split of staff is more heavily weighted towards revenue earning/maintaining staff along with product development personnel.

Revenue per employee increased 80% to £172k, up from £96k in 2020. Base cost (meaning, salary, ERs NIC and employers pension contribution) rose from £50k per employee to £52k per employee during the year. Value added per employee rose 160% from £46k to £120k in the year.

Expenditure that meets the obligations and criteria of IAS 38 are capitalised and amortised over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months from inception.

TABLE 9 - COMPONENTS OF EXPENDITURE

£ millions FY-2021 FY-2020
Staff costs 15.7  16.9
-                      Less capitalised (3.0)  (4.0)
-                      Less: exceptional items (0.7)  (1.4)
-                      Less IFRS 16 (vehicles) (0.1)  -
Net staff costs 11.9 11.5
    
IT and telephone 2.1  1.7
-                      Less capitalised (0.3)  (0.4)
Net IT costs 1.8 1.3
    
Premises costs 1.8  2.0
-                      Less IFRS 16 (1.0)  (1.0)
Net premises costs 0.8 1.0
    
Professional and compliance fees 1.3  1.4
Travel and entertainment 0.3  0.4
Bad debts and similar -  0.4
 16.1  16.0
    
Analysed between:   
   Gross expenditure 21.2  22.8
   Taken to the balance sheet (4.4)  (5.4)
   Below adjusted EBITDA (0.7)  (1.4)
Totals per Table 1 16.1  16.0
    
Year-end number of staff 255  270

 

Exceptional items

As announced in the interim results on 14 September 2021, the Group carried out some restructuring of a layer of senior management, and the termination and similar costs for that layer have been taken as an exceptional item being £0.7 million.

In 2020 exceptional items were higher at £2.7 million with £1.6 million against COVID-19 and £1.1 million against the migration away from Wirecard, a previous card programme manager for the Group.  Of the 2020 costs, £2.0 million was cash incurred, and the balance was related to write-offs.

There were no acquisitions in the year and therefore no expenditure was incurred. (FY-2020: £130k was incurred in connection with the purchase of Effective FX).

Depreciation

Tangible fixed assets are depreciated over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months (other than leasehold improvements which is a maximum of 120 months). Assets (principally property and similar leases) are also depreciated over the shorter of the useful life of the asset and the lease term.

TABLE 10 - DEPRECIATION

 FY-2021 FY-2020
 £’000s £’000s
IFRS 16 depreciation 931 940
Other depreciation 467 487
 1,398 1,427

 

Guidance: Based upon the expenditure incurred to 31 December 2021, the depreciation charges for those assets in FY-2022 will be:

 £ millions
IFRS 16 depreciation 0.8
Other depreciation 0.5
 1.3

 

Amortisation

Intangible assets acquired on acquisition are amortised over their estimated useful lives, with a maximum of 60 months for Brands and a maximum of 108 months for Customer Relationships.  The charge to amortisation for the year can be analysed as follows:

TABLE 11 – COMPONENTS OF AMORTISATION CHARGES

 FY-2021
£’000s
FY-2020
£’000s
Amortisation charge arising from the capitalisation of internally developed software in the following years:  
2018 and earlier 1,303 899
2019 1,661 1,382
2020 893 451
2021 287 -
 4,144 2,733
Amortisation charge for other intangibles 357 404
 4,501 3,137
Amortisation of acquired intangibles 1,311 1,210
Total amortisation charge 5,812 4,347

Guidance: Based upon expenditure to 31 December 2021, the amortisation charges for FY-2022 are expected to be:

 £ millions
Internally developed software 4.3
Other intangible assets 0.3
Acquired intangibles 1.3
 5.9

 

Finance and other

IFRS 16 financial charges have been calculated using the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate on the NPV of total lease payments, this is released over the lease period to the P&L.

TABLE 12 – COMPONENTS OF FINANCE AND OTHER CHARGES

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £’000s  £’000s
Increase in assessment of contingent consideration (liability) for acquisition of Casco  
46
  
793
    
Adjustment to discount on valuation of Effective 278  -
IFRS 16 lease interest expense 188  222
CBILS interest 1  -
Other interest payable 23  18
 536  1,033
Split as follows:    
Included in Finance Charges 490  391
Included in Administrative expenses 46  642

 

Impairment

Revenues from the bureau-de-change business acquired with City Forex in 2018 have declined significantly owing to prolonged COVID-19 restrictions and thus the Group concluded it should be impaired to a carrying value of £579k.

Taxation

The Group has £17.2 million of tax losses available.

The Group has been able to receive funds directly from HMRC in relation to claims made for software development.  As the Group moves into taxable profits, such claims cease to be paid but offset against future taxable profits. The Group anticipates receiving £0.4 million in relation to the claim for 2021, but possibly no further into the future.

TABLE 13– BALANCE SHEET

This table shows a compressed ‘balance sheet’ for the Group.

31.12.2021 31.12.2020
 £’000s £’000s
    
IFRS 16 assets, less IFRS 16 liabilities (388)  (345)
Other non-current assets (other than deferred tax) 32,217  36,495
 31,829  36,150
    
Liquidity (per Table 14) 10,739  8,827
Trade debtors and accrued income (see note below) 3,638  2,314
R&D rebates 398  1,367
Prepayments 998  860
Deposits and sundry debtors 329  643
Inventory of card stock 168  194
Accounts payable (1,549)  (1,556)
Affiliate commissions (1,945)  (343)
PAYE, staff commissions etc. (1,884)  (1,701)
Other accruals and other creditors (1,349)  (1,130)
 9,543  9,475
    
Earn-out balances due (Table 16)
Implied interest thereon
(1,683)
63
 (2,746)
341
 (1,620)  (2,405)
Net corporation and deferred tax 888  (547)
Net value of forward contracts 511  (31)
 (221)  (2,983)
    
NET SHAREHOLDER FUNDS 41,151  42,642
    
Retained earnings at 1 January (22,259)  (15,340)
Earnings for the year (2,424)  (6,919)
Amount attributable to the exercise of share options 93  -
Retained earnings at 31 December (24,590)  (22,259)
    
Non-Controlling interest at 1 January 101  119
Earnings for year 162  (18)
Non-Controlling interest at 31 December 263  101
    
Share capital, share premium 55,011  54,789
Other reserves 10,467  10,011
 65,478  64,800
    
CAPITAL AND RESERVES 41,151 42,642

 

TABLE 14 - LIQUIDITY FY-2021   FY-2020
£000’S £000’S
Cash at bank (see Table 15) 13,104  10,032
Balances with liquidity providers 1,675  2,776
Pre-funded balances with card provider 1,615  2,078
Gross liquid resources 16,394 14,886
    
Customer balances not subject to safeguarding (3,655)  (4,059)
CBILS loan (see below) (2,000)  (2,000)
 (5,655)  (6,059)
    
Net position 10,739 8,827

 

Exposures to banks and liquidity providers

The Group maintains strong relationships with a number of banks and counterparties for spot and forward foreign exchange transactions.  The Group has recurring obligations to safeguard customer funds under the rules of the FCA, who are the prime regulator for the Group.

The balances held at 31 December were as follows:

TABLE 15 – BANK AND SIMILAR BALANCES

£ millions Safeguarded Not required to be safeguarded Totals
BANKS   
Barclays Bank PLC 47.7 7.1 54.8
NatWest/RBS Group 106.9 3.8 110.7
Bank of England 30.9 - 30.9
Citibank N.A. 26.0 0.1 26.1
Blackrock* - 2.0 2.0
Others  0.1 0.1
31 December 2021 211.5 13.1 224.6
   
31 December 2020 96.1 10.0 106.1
    
LIQUIDITY PROVIDERS    
Barclays Bank PLC  0.4 0.4
Velocity Trade International Ltd  0.1 0.1
Sucden Financial Ltd  1.2 1.2
31 December 2021 1.7 1.7
    
31 December 2020  2.8 2.8

 

*Blackrock is the manager, the legal entity is Institutional Cash Series PLC.

 

There exist tight controls over forward contracts with daily monitoring and reporting to the Executive Directors. The out-of-the-money position at 31 December 2021 was £0.2 million.

There were, in addition, £212.0 million of customer funds safeguarded at 31 December 2021 (31 December 2020: £96.0 million).

Balances with liquidity providers and customer balances not subject to safeguarding are typically margin calls on forward contracts. Pre-funded balances are required in anticipation of customers loading their cards.  Should the Group move to self-issuing, such pre-funding will dissipate.

Trade debtors and accrued income

In common with market practice, revenue is recognised on forward transactions on the execution of the transaction.  There was one particularly large forward transaction with an investment fund client generating profits of £0.9 million and which settled in January 2022.

Affiliate commissions

The growth in the payable relates to the increase in white label business and introducers for the Solutions business.

Earn-outs

Equals Connect (previously Casco Connect)

As announced on 19 November 2019, the Group acquired Casco Financial Services Limited for a maximum consideration of £3,725,000.

Effective FX

As announced on 15 October 2020, the Group acquired the trade and assets of Effective FX Limited for a maximum consideration of £1,575,000.

Whilst IFRS-3 requires an interest discount factor to be applied, the table below shows the ‘real cash’ aspects of the acquisitions.  The accounting standard requires an annual revaluation of contingent consideration based on historic performance.

The table below shows the financial position relating to these acquisitions

TABLE 16 – EARNOUTS

  Hermex Casco Effective Total
Acquisition date 09.08.2019 19.11.2019 15.10.2020
 £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
    
Acquisition price booked at acquisition 2,000 2,236 1,575 5,811
Earn outs paid by 31.12.2020 (2,000) (1,733) (125) (3,858)
Revaluation of asset based on performance - 793 - 793
Gross outstanding at 31.12.2020 - 1,296 1,450 2,746
Paid during 2021 - (741) (368) (1,109)
Further change in consideration - 46 - 46
Gross Outstanding at 31.12.2021 - 601 1,082 1,683
    
Paid during Q1-2022 - 601 282 833
    
Due in remainder of 2022 - - 800 800
    
Maximum consideration 2,000 3,725 1,575 7,300
Total consideration 2,000 3,075 1,575 6,650
     

CBILS loan

On 23 December 2020, the Group drew-down £2,000,000 from NatWest Group under the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’). The loan carries a coupon of Bank base rate plus 2.53%.  The loan is repayable at any time, but over 60 equal instalments of £33,333 with the first instalment paid on 21 January 2022.

The interest chargeable in 2021 amounted to £1k.

Share capital, share premium and share options

The number of shares in issue at 1 January 2021 was 178,602,918.  This increased in the year through the exercise of 738,889 share options from former employees (Table 17 below), thus the number of shares outstanding at 31 December 2021 was 179,341,807.  A further 704,000 shares at nominal value were issued pursuant to the SIP and admitted to trading on AIM on 16 March 2022, resulting in a total number of shares in issue at the date of signing of the Financial Statements of 180,045,807.

At 31 December 2020, the Company had 9,838,356 options outstanding. 738,889 of these were exercised in 2021, and 376,667 lapsed.

Earnings per share are reported/calculated in accordance with IAS 33. For non-diluted, the result after tax is divided by the average number of shares in issue in the year. The average number of shares were 178,959,402 (2020: 178,602,918).

The calculation of diluted EPS is based on the result after tax divided by the number of actual shares in issue (above) plus the number of options where the fair value exceeds the weighted average share price in the year. The fair value of options is measured using Black-Scholes and Monte-Carlo. It should be noted that this calculation is based on fair value, not the difference between the market price at the end of the year or the weighted average price and the exercise price. The weighted average price was 43p (2020: 34p), the number of options exceeding the fair value was 3,553,681 (2020: Nil).

On 18 October 2021, the Company announced Discretionary Share Incentive Plans over 4,535,000 shares.  The final awards were lower, at 4,369,000.  Thus, at the date of signing of these financial statements, there were 13,091,800 options, representing 7.3% of the issued share capital and 6.8% of the enlarged share capital. 

The cost of external advice for these schemes amounted to £84k in the year (FY-2020: £Nil)

At 31 December 2021, the Company had distributable reserves of £931,411.  At the date of signing of these accounts, this was equivalent to 0.520 pence per share.

TABLE 17 – OPTIONS EXERCISED IN THE YEAR

Date exercised Number of options Grant price
20 April 2021 88,889 36.00 pence
20 April 2021 50,000 29.75 pence
21 July 2021 300,000 26.50 pence
21 July 2021 250,000 29.75 pence
26 September 2021 50,000 43.50 pence
 738,889  

 


CASH STATEMENT

The movement in the cash position is shown in the table below:

TABLE 18 - CASHFLOW FY-2021
£’000s
  FY-2020
£’000s
    
Adjusted EBITDA 6,713 1,164
R&D tax credits received (see note below) 1,367  2,539
Lease payments (principal and interest) (1,080)  (1,140)
Exceptional items (671)  (1,982)
Internally developed software capitalised (see note below) (3,028)  (4,044)
Purchase of other intangible assets (532)  (484)
Purchase of other non-current assets (78)  (160)
Acquisition costs -  (130)
Movement in working capital 1,269  1,829
 3,960  (2,408)
Earn-outs and acquisitions (1,108)  (825)
Funds from exercise of share options 220  -
External funding (CBILS) -  2,000
NET CASHFLOWS 3,072 (1,233)
Balance at 1st January 10,032  11,265
Balance at 31st December 13,104 10,032
Amount per share 7.3 pence 5.6 pence

 

R&D credits received

These are earned based on a strict set of criteria set by HMRC and broadly based on new internally generated software development.  In 2021, £0.4 million was accrued (FY-2020: £1.4 million) and £1.4 million was received relating to claims made for 2020 (FY-2019: £2.5 million).  Whilst future claims may be paid, these are unlikely to be receivable in cash.

Internally developed software capitalised

As a fintech, constantly looking to provide a series of products and platforms, the Group continues to invest and develop.  The emergence and rapid growth of the Solutions capability is one tangible deliverable.  Equals Money is another product well advanced for which investment is taking place.

 

 

Richard Cooper
Chief Financial Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 

 Note FY-2021  FY-2020
  £’000s  £’000s
     
Gross value of all transactions*1 6,529,034 3,492,671
     
Revenue from currency transactions  38,424  23,849
Revenue from banking transactions  5,667  5,110
Revenue 44,091 28,959
Transaction and commission costs  (20,071)  (10,670)
Gross Profit 24,020 18,289
     
Administrative expenses  (18,499)  (21,040)
Depreciation charge  (1,398)  (1,427)
Amortisation charge  (5,812)  (4,347)
Impairment charge  (1,638)  -
Acquisition expenses  -  (130)
Total operating expenses (27,347) (26,944)
     
Memo: Adjusted EBITDA*2 6,713 1,164
     
Operating loss A (3,327) (8,655)
Finance cost
 
 (490)  (391)
Loss before tax (3,817) (9,046)
Tax credit B 1,555  2,109
Loss after tax (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,919)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
Other comprehensive income:  
Items that may be reclassified to profit or loss     
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations  -  6
Total comprehensive loss for the year (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,913)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
  (2,262)  (6,931)
 
Loss per share C  
Basic  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
Diluted  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
     

Notes:

Adjusted EBITDA is Operating loss before: Depreciation, Amortisation, Impairments, Share option charges, and Separately identifiable items.  All income and expenses arise from continuing operations.

*1 Gross value of currency transactions sold and banking deposit transactions are a non-GAAP measure and represent the gross value of currency transactions sold to customers and banking deposits made by customers.   

*2 Adjusted EBITDA is not a GAAP measure and represents operating loss before share option charges, depreciation, amortisation and separately identifiable items (exceptional items).

 

CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

AS AT 31 DECEMBER

 2021 2021  2020 2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
ASSETS    
Non-current assets    
  Property, plant and equipment 1,257 -  1,646 -
  Right of use assets 4,874 -  6,061 -
  Intangible assets (note F) 17,492 -  19,744 -
  Goodwill 13,468 -  15,106 -
  Deferred tax assets 949 1,163  3,193 744
  Investments - 61,978  - 61,707
 38,040 63,141  45,750 62,451
     
Current assets    
  Inventories 168 -  194 -
  Trade and other receivables 8,256 339  9,586 274
  Current tax assets (R&D reclaimable) 397 -  1,367 -
  Derivative financial assets (note G) 2,593 -  3,019 -
  Cash and cash equivalents 13,104 -  10,032 -
 24,518 339  24,198 274
     
   
TOTAL ASSETS 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
     
EQUITY, AND LIABILITIES    
Equity attributable to equity holders    
  Share capital 1,793 1,793  1,786 1,786
  Share premium 53,218 53,218  53,003 53,003
  Share-based payment reserve 1,858 1,580  1,402 1,402
  Other reserves 8,609 3,187  8,609 3,187
  Accumulated (losses) / retained earnings (24,590) 1,623  (22,259) (1,625)
  Company profit / (loss) in the year - (692)  - 3,155
Equity attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC 40,888 60,709  42,541 60,908
Non-controlling interest 263 -  101 -
 41,151 60,709  42,642 60,908
     
Non-current liabilities    
  Borrowings 1,600 -  2,000 -
  Lease liabilities 4,484 -  5,509 -
  Deferred tax liabilities - -  3,740 -
 6,084 -  11,249 -
     
Current liabilities    
  Borrowings 400 -  - -
  Trade and other payables 12,002 2,771  12,110 1,817
  Current tax liabilities 61 -  - -
  Lease liabilities 778 -  897 -
  Derivative financial liabilities (note G) 2,082 -  3,050 -
 15,323 2,771  16,057 1,817
     
     
TOTAL EQUITY AND LIABILITIES 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
      

 

 


CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER

GROUP Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings    Other reserves Total attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC Non-controlling interest Total
equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
                
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  1,345  (15,340)  8,603  49,397  119  49,516
                
Loss for the year -  -  -  (6,919)  -  (6,919)  (18)  (6,937)
Other comprehensive income:                
Items that will not be reclassified subsequently to profit or loss:                
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations -  -  -  -  6  6  -  6
Other items:                
Share-based payment charge -  -  444  -  -  444  -  444
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  (387)  -  -  (387)  -  (387)
                
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  (22,259)  8,609  42,541  101 42,642
                
(Loss) / profit for the year -  -  -  (2,424)  -  (2,424)  162  (2,262)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  272  -  272
Share options exercised in year- - (93) 93 - - - -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222  -  222
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  278  -  -  277  -  277
At 31 December 2021 1,793 53,218 1,858 (24,590) 8,609 40,888 263 41,151

 

COMPANY Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings  Other reserves Total equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  958  (1,625)  3,187  57,309
          
Profit for the year and total comprehensive income -  -  -  3,155  -  3,155
 
Share-based payment charge
-  -  444  -  -  444
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  1,530  3,187  60,908
       
Loss for the year -  -  -  (692)  -  (692)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  271
Share options exercised in year -  -  (93)  93  -  -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222
At 31 December 2021 1,793  53,218  1,580  931  3,187  60,709

 

The following describes the nature and purpose of each reserve within owners’ equity:

 

Share capital                                                      Amount subscribed for shares at nominal value.

Share premium                                                  Amount subscribed for shares in excess of nominal value, less directly attributable costs.

Share-based payment reserve                         Proportion of the fair value of share options granted relating to services rendered up to the balance sheet date.

Retained deficit                                                Cumulative profit and losses attributable to equity shareholders.

 

Other reserves comprise:

     Merger reserve                                           Arising on reverse acquisition from Group reorganisation.

     Contingent consideration reserve              Arising on equity based contingent consideration on acquisition of subsidiaries.

     Foreign currency reserve                            Arising on translation of foreign operation.

 


CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF CASHFLOWS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 FY-2021 FY-2021  FY-2020 FY-2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
    
Loss before tax (3,817) (1,111) (9,045) 2,650
    
Add: Cashflows from operating activities:  
Adjustments for:   
  Depreciation 1,398 -  1,427 -
  Amortisation 5,812 -  4,347 -
  Impairment 1,638 -  - -
  Share-based payment charges 272 -  444 -
  Decrease / (increase) in trade and other receivables*1 3,614 (63)  (401) (2,507)
  (Decrease) / increase in trade and other payables*2 (2,688) 954  3,050 (143)
  Decrease / (increase) in derivative financial assets 426 -  1,542 -
 (Decrease) / increase in derivative financial liabilities (968) -  (1,511) -
 Decrease in inventories 26 -  70 -
 Finance costs 490 6  391 -
 10,020 897  9,359 (2,650)
 
 
Net cash inflow / (outflow) 6,203 (214) 314 -
    
Tax receipts 1,367 -  2,539 -
    
NET CASHFLOWS FROM OPERATING ACTIVITIES 7,570 (214) 2,853 -
    
Cashflows from investing activities   
  Acquisition of property plant and equipment (78) -  (160) -
  Acquisition of intangibles (3,560) -  (4,531) -
  Acquisition of subsidiary, net of cash acquired - -  (255) -
Net cash used in investing activities (3,638) -  (4,946) -
    
Cashflows from financing activities   
  New Borrowings - -  2,000 -
  Principal elements of lease payments (872) -  (891) -
  Interest on financial leases (194) -  (222) -
  Other interest paid (14) (6)  (27) -
  Proceeds from issuance of ordinary shares 220 220   
Net cash (outflow) / Inflow from financing activities (860) 214  860 -
    
    
NET INCREASE/ (DECREASE) IN CASH AND CASH EQUIVALENTS 3,072 - (1,233) -
Cash, and cash equivalents at 1 January 10,032 -  11,265 -
Cash, and cash equivalent at 31 December 13,104 - 10,032 -
      

 

*1 The movement in the deferred and current tax assets and the right-of use asset balances (excluding the depreciation charge) is included within the movement in trade and other receivables.

*2 The movement in the deferred and current tax liabilities and the lease liability balances is included within the movement in trade and other payables.

2019

Final Results

30 March 2022

‘'Significant growth and operational progress, along with strong cash generation

Equals (AIM:EQLS), a leading fintech payments group focused on the SME marketplace, announces its final results for the year-ended 31 December 2021 (the ‘year’ or ‘FY-2021’) and an update on trading for the period from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022.

 

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FY-2021: Financial Summary

  FY-2021   FY-2020   Change*
£ millions  £ millions   
Underlying transaction values      
-          FX 4,352  2,672  + 63%
-          Banking 1,331  821  + 62%
-          Solutions Platform 846  -   
-          Total 6,529  3,493  + 87%
      
Revenue 44.1  29.0  + 52%
% of revenue from B2B 81%  70%   
      
Gross profits 24.0  18.3  + 31%
      
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7 1.1   
      
EBITDA 5.7  (2.0)   
      
Loss after taxation (2.3)  (6.9)   
      
Memo:     
  Capitalised staff costs 3.0  4.0  - 25%
  Separately reported items (below Adjusted EBITDA) 0.7  2.6  - 73%
  R&D credits received 1.4  2.5   
  Impairment of travel cash business 1.6  -   
  Cash per share (at balance sheet date) 7.3p  5.6p  + 30%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

FY-2021 Financial Highlights

  • Total Revenue increased by 52% to £44.1 million (FY-2020: £29.0 million), supported by:
    • Like for like transactional values increasing by 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
    • Immediate success in the Solutions Platform which contributed £0.8 billion in transaction values and £3.6 million in revenues
  • Gross profits increased 31% to £24.0 million (FY-2020: £18.3 million)
  • Cash-based expenditure fell a further 7% (£1.6 million) to £21.2 million (FY-2020: £22.8 million)
  • Adjusted EBITDA** increased to £6.7 million (FY-2020: £1.1 million)
  • Year-end cash increased 31% to £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

 FY-2021 operational and product highlights

  • Focus on B2B and non travel-related revenue streams successfully continued
    • Business customer revenue increased to represent 81% of total revenues (FY-2020: 70%)
    • Non-travel revenue represented 94% of the total, up from 91% in FY-2020
  • Group continuing to attract larger corporates: won a significant mandate to transact a single but complex trade yielding £1.5 million of revenue and £0.8 million of gross profits
  • ‘Own-name’ multi-currency IBAN launched mid-year
  • Improved sales and data focus through both staff hires and CRM; a significant contributor to increased revenues
  • R&D continued throughout the year, with further technical developments including ‘Confirmation of Payee’ and Linked cards
  • Operational improvements through greater reconciliation automation and client onboarding

Q1-2022 Group highlights

  • Revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 up 78%, and averaged £222k per day (same period 2021 £125k)
  • Total revenue from 1 January 2022 to 28 March 2022 of £13.6 million
  • Strong performance across all sectors

Commenting on the Results, Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of Equals Group PLC, said:

“We ended 2021 in a very strong position, both financially and operationally.  The surge in our reported revenue and EBITDA speaks to a successful repositioning of our model to focus on B2B and away from legacy travel operations.  This process began in 2020, put us on the front-foot for 2021, and we are now progressing into 2022 with sustained confidence.  Our product set is being adopted by existing and new customers at a faster rate than we anticipated and that has allowed us to more quickly develop and roll out new functionality to a broader range of customers.  We are making excellent progress in the early stages of 2022 with rapid growth continuing while we navigate the geo-political backdrop.  We remain highly confident for our prospects both in 2022 and beyond.”

Analyst meeting

A conference call for analysts hosted by Ian Strafford-Taylor (CEO) and Richard Cooper (CFO) will be held at 09.30 today, 30 March 2022.  A copy of the presentation will be available after midday on the Equals website.  A copy of the Final Results presentation is also available at the Group’s website: https://equalsplc.com.

For retail investors, an audiocast of the conference call with analysts will be available after midday today:

https://webcasting.buchanan.uk.com/broadcast/62319d7461bd9a4d10292906

 

Notes

*Transactions with business customers are reported as ‘B2B’ and transactions with retail customers are reported as ‘B2C’.

**Adjusted EBITDA is defined as: earnings before depreciation, amortisation, impairment charges, share option charges, foreign exchange differences and separately reported items. Separately reported items are large, non-recurring items.

*** The financial statements were approved for release at 07:00 hours on 30 March 2022 to the London Stock Exchange via RNS after being approved by the Board on 29 March 2022 after the close of the stock market on that day.

 

For more information, please contact:

Equals Group PLC  
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO
Richard Cooper, CFO
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7778 9308
www.equalsplc.com
 
Canaccord Genuity (Nominated Advisor / Broker) 
Max Hartley / Georgina McCooke
Alex Aylen (Sales)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7523 8150
 
 
Buchanan (Financial Communications)  
Henry Harrison-Topham / Steph Whitmore / Toto Berger
[email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7466 5000
www.buchanan.uk.com

 

Notes to Editors:

Equals Group is a technology-led international payments group augmented by highly personalised service for the payment needs of SME’s whether these be FX, card payments or via Faster Payments. Founded in 2007, the Group was listed on AIM in 2014 and currently employs around 250 staff across sites in London and Chester.  For more information, please visit www.equalsplc.com.

 

Chief Executive Officer’s Report

2021

Management’s objective for 2021 were to significantly increase both the quantum and mix of revenues from B2B customers and products. We achieved both by building on the payments infrastructure and connectivity already assembled, and further enhanced this by providing customers with ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts. Concurrently, the Group expanded and refined its sales processes and go-to-market strategy.

Summary of financial performance

I am delighted to report that:

  • Like for like transactions executed on the Group’s platforms rose 63% to £5.7 billion (FY-2020: £3.5 billion)
  • Transactions from our new Solutions Platform were £0.8 billion from a standing start (FY-2020: Nil)
  • Revenue rose 52% to £44.1 million, with £15.3 million in Q4-2021 alone
  • Adjusted EBITDA rose from £1.1 million to £6.7 million
  • Year-end cash closed at £13.1 million (FY-2020: £10.0 million)

A full financial analysis is presented in the Chief Financial Officer’s Report which follows this statement.

COVID-19

2021 saw the world continue to struggle through COVID-19 variants and lockdowns. Despite this, the Group achieved rapid growth, benefiting from measures taken in 2020 to focus the Group on a B2B customer base and thereby reducing any reliance on the legacy B2C travel-related products.  In addition, the lessons learned in 2020 in terms of hybrid working meant that the Group could operate efficiently throughout the year during the various phases of the pandemic.

Marketplace and competitive landscape

The global payments market is a complex space and can be measured in many trillions of pounds, comprising all the various payment mechanisms from cash, cards, account-to-account transfers, and other methodologies across physical, internet and mobile interfaces. Against this background, the Group remains somewhat unique in that it spans both account-to-account transfers and cards, overlaid on infrastructure providing bank-grade connectivity and security on superior customer interfaces. The flexibility in the payment methodology that the Group can support from one unified platform is increasingly vital to business customers, for example many e-commerce businesses only accept card payments whereas other companies may typically only accept bank transfers.

Within the vast payments market, the Group remains strongly focused on the B2B customer segment. Within that, it has identified small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the optimal target audience for its products and services. The Group aims to deliver this via its ‘Equals Money’ proposition – a single platform comprising account-to-account transfers and card products for both UK and international transactions. The Group’s ‘target’ customer is an SME between 50-500 employees with UK and overseas payment needs. Engineering, product, and design resources are focused on providing solutions to this customer segment; however, the Group’s products equally serve both smaller and larger B2B customers.

Despite the continuing growth of fintech within the wider market, it remains the case that most payments activity continues to flow through the incumbent banks and payment networks. Therefore, winning business from these institutions remains a key focus for the Group in terms of both product development and sales and marketing activities. However, investment into the fintech competitors of Equals also makes it essential that the Group continues to innovate and invest into its platform and connectivity to remain ahead of the competition in its chosen B2B payments space.  The success of this strategy to date is clear in the Group’s FY-2021 results.

Performance in 2021

A key milestone to achieving accelerated growth for the Group was passed in May 2021 when Equals launched its capability to offer ‘own-name multi-currency IBAN’ accounts to its customers. This enables the business customers of Equals to pay and receive into a single account in their own name, and that account can process all currencies automatically.  Further, the Group can offer its customers the flexibility to open multiple own-name IBAN accounts or multiple sub-accounts within a single IBAN.  This flexibility places Equals in a position where it can solve many payment and reconciliation problems for business customers, all delivered through one unified platform.

Equals Solutions

The own-name multi-currency IBAN capability, and the flexibility it offers, underpinned the creation of a new revenue stream: Equals Solutions.  Launched in June 2021, it contributed £0.3 million to revenues in the first half-year and £3.6 million for the full year, with a significant £1.7 million contribution of which was the fourth quarter showcasing its rapid growth and take-up by business customers.

Equals Solutions is targeted at larger corporates and provides a bespoke platform for each client. The flexibility in terms of being able to onboard a complex B2B customer rapidly and provide multiple own-name IBAN accounts and sub-accounts combined with the ability to implement complex authorisation hierarchies and protocols for the customer is a capability that few companies can offer. Incumbent banks are unable to compete given their operations remain on slow and often outdated infrastructure, while a typical fintech competitor concentrates on B2C not B2B customers and even may only have some – and not all – of the capabilities needed. Equals are therefore set apart given it provides a complete suite of services and products with the latest tech proposition.

Equals Money

Equals Money combines account-to-account payments, card payments and current accounts in one unified platform and is targeted at SME customers.

Along with Equals Solutions, the ability to offer own-name IBAN accounts to customers has significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Equals Money platform. In addition, during 2021 the Group implemented additional developments to the Equals Money platform including a new customer interface via website and app, batch payments and multi-tier configurable approval functionality.

Equals Pay and Equals Exchange

Equals Pay is the Group’s customer-facing international payments product. Numerous enhancements have been made to this product, including the ability to make batch payments and improved forward contract functionality.

Equals Exchange is the Group’s internal dealing platform which runs on the same infrastructure as Equals Pay.  This was launched during the year and is proving a very capable platform and is well regarded by Equals’ dealers.

Other achievements and product launches

  • Improved onboarding journey for all customers allied to automated compliance checks to minimise new-customer friction
  • Appointment of new Head of Sales and simplification of commission structure
  • Implementation of Growth Team comprising marketing and business development
  • Continued development of CRM (HubSpot) platform yielding improved sales traction
  • Creation of Data Team and investment into data capabilities and insights
  • Further upgrades to the Group’s compliance capabilities and personnel
  • Joining the ‘Confirmation of Payee’ scheme for UK Payments
  • Implementation of automated reconciliations utilising Kani-payments platform, resulting in additional operational efficiency
  • Launch of ‘Linked Cards’ for FairFX B2C cards platform
  • Banking platform re-branded

Strong financial performance – growth and resilience throughout the year

2021 was a year of significant growth for the Group in terms of transaction volumes, revenues and expanded product suite delivering enhanced operational capacity. Growth was broad-based across the B2B products, aided by the advent of the Equals Solutions revenue stream in June. The growth in revenues has flowed through to EBITDA as the Group became increasingly operationally geared and also cash generative.

The transaction table below shows how the volumes through the Group’s platform have almost doubled since 2019 despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Overall transaction volumes have increased by 97% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 63% over 2020 activity. Within these totals, currency transactions have increased by 105% since 2019 and 63% since 2020, whilst banking transactions have increased by 73% and 62% respectively.

Table A: Transaction amounts since January 2019

In £ millions Banking Currency sold Like for like total Solutions Platform Group total
      
Q1-2019 171 451 622 - 622
Q2-2019 189 448 637 - 637
Q3-2019 202 575 777 - 777
Q4-2019 209 643 852 - 852
Total, FY-2019 771 2,117 2,888 - 2,888
      
Q1-2020 194 664 858 - 858
Q2-2020 169 533 702 - 702
Q3-2020 221 660 881 - 881
Q4-2020 237 815 1,052 - 1,052
Total, FY-2020 821 2,672 3,493 - 3,493
Increase on prior year +21% +21%
      
Q1-2021 230 829 1,059 - 1,059
Q2-2021 340 909 1,249 143 1,392
Q3-2021 374 1,199 1,573 313 1,886
Q4-2021 387 1,415 1,802 391 2,193
Total, FY-2021 1,331 4,352 5,683 846 6,529
Increase on prior year +63% +87%

 

The ability to process a doubling of activity in two years demonstrates the resilience of the platform the Group has built, the value of the investment in infrastructure which was commenced in 2018, along with the acquisition of Casco in 2019. Furthermore, the acceleration in transactions in the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY-2021 shows the effect of the own-name IBAN roll-out combined with Equals Solutions driving increased activity.

The revenue table below tells a similar story with strong revenue growth compared to both 2019 pre-pandemic levels and the 2020 performance. Overall revenues grew 43% over 2019 levels and 52% over the Covid-impacted 2020 result. Within the revenue performance, the shift towards B2B is clear to see.  FY-2021 revenues were split 81% B2B and 19% B2C compared to a 55/45 split in FY-2019 and a 70/30 split in FY-2020.

Table B: Revenues since January 2019

In £’000s B2B B2C Total Revenue margin Revenue per day*
Q1-2019 3,831 3,087 6,918 1.1% 110
Q2-2019 4,069 3,636 7,705 1.2% 124
Q3-2019 4,164 3,847 8,011 1.0% 123
Q4-2019 5,231 3,080 8,311 1.0% 128
Total, FY-2019 17,295 13,650 30,945 1.1% 121
Mix 56% 44%
      
Q1-2020 5,354 2,672 8,026 0.9% 125
Q2-2020 3,928 1,819 5,747 0.8% 99
Q3-2020 5,273 2,033 7,306 0.8% 112
Q4-2020 5,797 2,084 7,881 0.7% 122
Total, FY-2020 20,352 8,608 28,960 0.8% 114
Change on prior year +18% -37% -6%
Mix 70% 30%
      
Q1-2021 5,626 2,438 8,064 0.8% 128
Q2-2021 7,179 1,662 8,841 0.7% 145
Q3-2021 9,925 1,980 11,905 0.8% 183
Q4-2021 12,873 2,408 15,281 0.8% 239
Total, FY-2021 35,603 8,488 44,091 0.8% 174
Change on prior year +75% -1% +52%
Mix 81% 19%

 

* based on underlying, not rounded, figures and expressed as revenue divided by the number of working days in each quarter.

 

In terms of growth and productivity, revenue per employee rose by 80% to £172k per employee (FY 2020: £96k), a testament both to productivity, incentives and strong headcount control.

Product outlook

Unified platform – Equals Money & Equals Solutions

Great strides were made during 2021 in the development of ‘Equals Money’, which incorporates the payments, cards and current account solutions that the Group can offer in one unified platform and ties directly into the strategic vision for the Group to simplify money movement for business customers.

The investment made in prior years to assemble infrastructure providing bank-grade security and connectivity, including the integration into the Faster Payments network and the implementation of the Citibank partnership to provide ‘local’ settlement in over 40 countries, form the underlying platform for clearing payments efficiently.  The scalability of this platform has been evidenced by the doubling of transaction volumes processed in the last two years.

To optimise revenues from this assembled infrastructure, it is essential to make it simple both to become a customer and then for that customer to use the platform.  For the customer acquisition journey, investment has been made into further refining the onboarding process, utilising automated compliance checks overlaid with additional compliance personnel to fast-track non-standard cases. For the ease-of-use of the platform, the Group has applied extensive resources into refining the User Experience (UX) utilising both extensive research into customer needs and the in-house product and design expertise at Equals.

In 2022 the Group will continue to invest in platform capabilities, onboarding efficiency and UX to constantly improve both the platform functionality and usability. This is expected to translate into increased revenues from existing customers whilst improving sales success and conversion of leads into new customers. Further, the Group will integrate the platforms with major accountancy software providers thereby providing another sales channel and expanding the pool of customers who can access Equals’ products and services.

Payment infrastructure, ‘Boxes’

2021 saw major advances in the Group’s capabilities to deliver enhanced account services to its customers.  The most significant advance was the ability to give a customer an ‘own name multi-currency IBAN’ – an account in their own name denoted by a unique IBAN (‘International Bank Account Number’) which supports multiple currencies.  As the account is in the name of the customer, a so-called ‘first party’ account, this allows more use-cases than payments into a ‘pooled account’ from a compliance perspective.  Further, having one IBAN for all currencies enables a customer to provide one single account identifier to all of its customers and suppliers, thereby simplifying both sales and procurement processes.

To offer own-name multi-currency accounts, many third-party integrations were needed, including partner banks and SWIFT.  However, the key framework to support the flexible platform we require is referred to as ‘Boxes’.  A Box is our internal title for a single currency container in which you can store an asset.  Hence, each own-name multi-currency IBAN has one Box per currency.  Further flexibility is gained by the fact that a Box can support sub-Boxes so a customer can pay directly into their IBAN or directly to a sub-Box.  This sub-Box capability allows us to offer customers an own-name IBAN with unlimited sub-accounts if they require it.

The Boxes infrastructure also provides the capability for an Equals Customer to create own-name IBAN accounts for its own customers – subject to Equals compliance checks. This capability can resolve complex reconciliation issues for companies that have multiple parties paying into one bank account per currency. Each party can have a unique IBAN to pay into, in any currency, and therefore the Equals customer knows at point of receipt of funds who has remitted them.

Supporting this configuration is the Boxes service which automatically creates a Box on receipt of funds and auto-processes funds into and out of a Box via SWIFT, BACS, Faster Payments and SEPA.

Further development of the Boxes infrastructure is planned for 2022, enabling us to deliver key additional functionality for both Equals Money and Equals Platforms including real-time running balances, statements and enhanced reporting for customers, bulk payments and the recently announced direct integration into the SEPA (Single European Payments Area) network. In addition, the Group will build out its capability to offer its IBAN and Boxes functionality via API – thereby allowing more sophisticated customers to directly integrate with the Equals platform and support white-label opportunities.

Card Products

Similar to the account-to-account payment infrastructure that Equals has assembled, 2021 saw significant progress in the development of the Group’s card platform that underpins a strong pipeline of customer-facing features to be deployed in 2022. The new infrastructure can power the Group’s card products for the medium term and allow Equals to run card schemes in overseas locations. 2022 will see the launch of the new Equals Money card, replacing the Equals Spend cards which run on legacy infrastructure. The new cards, which are multi-currency, can be both virtual and physical and have many more features and capabilities. Equals are also moving towards being its own Issuer for its card products, thereby eliminating another party from the supply chain and speeding up development cycles.

Sales and Marketing – a high growth agenda

The Group further enhanced its capabilities in Sales and Marketing in 2021. The roll-out of HubSpot, the new CRM system for Equals, continued during the year, focusing on the B2B customer segment. Many activities previously performed in isolation are now processed automatically via the HubSpot platform so that the Group has a single database on customers and a central hub from which all customer interaction is performed and recorded. The focus for 2022 will be to harness this capability to drive new customer acquisition and to further drive enhanced revenues from the existing client base.

Equals created a ‘Growth Team’ during the year which combined marketing with the overall growth agenda. This team is responsible for HubSpot in terms of ensuring optimisation of how it is used across the Group and that the benefits derived from it are maximised. The focus of the team is to enable growth by a combination of delivering increased revenue from existing customers whilst driving new customer acquisition. The key for the success of the team is the interaction with the revenue teams to support them in reaching their targets.

In keeping with the overall strategy of the Group, the focus for growth is on the B2B customer base. Unlike B2C customer acquisition, where above-the-line (‘ATL’) marketing such as TV and billboard advertisements augmented by digital marketing is the driving force, B2B customer acquisition relies more on the outbound sales function augmented by and integrated with a coherent digital marketing strategy and content production.  Accordingly, the Growth Team works very closely with the Sales functions across the Group in defining campaigns and assisting the sales efficacy with targeted digital marketing and an in-house pay-per-click (‘PPC’) team.

The challenge for Equals in 2022 in sales and growth is managing the transition from being a product-led business to a platform-led business.  Previously, the Group has sold its products – International Payments, Card Products and Current Account products – using largely separate sales teams and marketing strategies.  As Equals moves forward, it will be selling Equals Money to the SME customer base and Equals Solutions to the larger B2B customers. The transition from product to platform differentiates Equals from vanilla FX businesses, as the Group can compete not just on FX rates, but on platform capability and service. The Sales skills required are also different and therefore the Group appointed a new Head of Sales during the year, revised the commission structure and upgraded its sales teams.

The steps taken in 2021 position Equals well for the transition from product to the platform as it now has a stronger sales team, a single-source-of-truth CRM platform and the Growth Team is established internally as the fulcrum around which will drive the Group’s unified Sales approach.

Board composition

On 9 April 2021, we welcomed Christopher Bones as a Non-Executive Director of the Company with his background in both Human Resources and Marketing. He has been invaluable in the formulation of a compensation strategy for the Group as well as assisting in the development of a go-to-market strategy.

Employees

The Group has been focusing on enhancing ‘bench-strength’ to support the executive layer that sits just below the Board. Pursuant to this, the Group took on a Head of Compliance to compliment the already strong operational team, and the CFO, Richard Cooper, recruited a new Director of Finance to enable him to work even more closely with myself on corporate opportunities and investor relations.

The Group’s employees continue to be its greatest strength.  The loyalty, commitment, and hard work demonstrated in 2020 and now in 2021 has been tremendous and deserves to be acknowledged. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank every colleague for everything they have done for the Group. We are delighted to have a diverse workforce and are proud to train and promote from within as well as seek fresh talent from elsewhere.

Three senior members of the executive team left the Group during 2021 and I thank them for their time whilst at Equals.

Whilst the Group continues to seek efficiencies and has a strong cost-control culture, the Board intends to invest these gains in further capacity for growth rather than reductions in staff numbers.  This in turn will benefit investors as Equals will have strong operational gearing as it grows, with its cost base increasing at a lower rate than transactions and revenues.

The labour market in the UK, particularly in the fintech space, is extremely competitive. Accordingly, in 2021 the Group introduced a company-wide share-ownership scheme (‘SIP’) where all eligible employees received the same number of shares in Equals. The Group will seek to make similar awards on an annual basis. In addition, Equals introduced a long-term incentive plan (‘LTIP’) scheme for senior employees and a similar plan with performance conditions for Executive Directors. Both the SIP and the LTIP schemes have lengthy vesting periods and thereby provide strong retention benefits for the Group.

ESG

Equals wholeheartedly embraces ESG initiatives and takes Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (‘EDI’) extremely seriously. Our EDI strategy, which covers not only employees but also customers, includes an internal EDI network populated with elected representatives and regular employee surveys. This is a key objective for all Executive Committee members and forms part of their appraisal.

Future plans and opportunities

The strategic direction of the Group remains clearly focused on the B2B customer segment with Equals Money being targeted at the SME base and Equals Solutions at larger corporate opportunities. The growth potential, now that Equals has assembled the core capabilities of own-name IBAN and bank-grade connectivity and clearance, is extremely strong due to the complexity and time required to replicate the Group’s capabilities and will only be enhanced by the developments planned for 2022.

Equals will continue to look for growth opportunities and can do so with a strong balance sheet and cash position.  The Group will examine overseas expansion beyond its current predominantly UK-centric customer base and will also take a considerate and opportunistic approach to acquisitions as they present themselves.

Recent geo-political events

The current uncertainty caused by the conflict from Russia to Ukraine does not have a material impact on Equals as the Group’s direct exposure to the region is extremely limited. In addition, clearly, to the extent the situation affects global confidence and trade volumes, this could impact general commercial activity levels during 2022.  We have not seen any direct impact to date but continue to monitor the situation closely.

Q1-2022 trading and Outlook

2022 has started exceptionally well with revenues to 28 March, 78% higher than the same period in 2021 at £13.6 million.  Strong revenue growth continues to come from B2B with all product lines progressing well.  Equals Solutions, which contributed £3.6 million of revenues in FY-2021, has already contributed £2.6 million in FY-2022 to-date and is expected to continue to grow strongly as the Group adds new functionality to its payments platform during the year.

Equals, therefore, has a strong outlook resulting from the investments it has made to create a payments platform comprising International and Domestic Payments, Card Payments and Banking Services underpinned by exceptional technology and direct connections to multiple payment networks.  Further investments made in compliance, onboarding and user experience mean that the rich functionality of the platform is made easily accessible to current and potential customers.  Finally, advances made in Sales, Marketing and Data mean that Equals now sells its products and platform more efficiently.  Accordingly, the Board looks forward to the future with confidence.

 

Ian Strafford-Taylor
Chief Executive Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

 Chief Financial Officer’s Report

I present my review and financial analysis for the year ended 31 December 2021.

TABLE 1: INCOME AND EXPENSE ACCOUNT

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £ millions  £ millions
Revenue (table 3) 44.1  29.0
    
Gross Profits (table 3) 24.0  18.3
Less: Marketing (1.2)  (1.2)
Contribution 22.8 17.1
Expenditure (table 9) (16.1)  (16.0)
Adjusted EBITDA 6.7  1.1
Less:    Share option expense (0.3)  (0.4)
Less:    Exceptional items and acquisition costs (0.7)  (2.7)
EBITDA 5.7 (2.0)
    
IFRS 16 Depreciation (0.9)  (0.9)
Other depreciation (0.4)  (0.5)
Amortisation of acquired intangibles (1.3)  (1.2)
Other amortisation (4.5)  (3.2)
Contingent consideration cost (0.1)  (0.6)
Impairment of the Bureau operations (1.6)  -
 (8.8)  (6.4)
    
EBIT (3.1) (8.4)
    
Lease interest (0.2)  (0.2)
Foreign exchange differences (0.1)  (0.2)
Contingent consideration finance charges (0.3)  (0.2)
 (0.6)  (0.6)
    
LOSS BEFORE TAXATION (3.8) (9.0)
    
Corporate and deferred taxation 1.1  0.7
R&D tax credits receivable 0.4  1.4
 1.5  2.1
    
LOSS FOR THE YEAR (2.3) (6.9)

 

 

TABLE 2: EARNINGS PER SHARE

Normal Adjusted
    
Basic 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p
    
Diluted 2021 (1.35)p (0.73)p
 2020 (3.87)p (2.33)p

 

 

TABLE 3: REVENUE AND GROSS PROFITS

 

A. Revenue summary by business line

 FY-2021 FY-2020
£ millions Revenues Gross profits  Revenues Gross profits
International Payments (Table 4) 29.5 14.0  17.4 11.1
Spend Platform 6.3 4.3  3.7 2.0
Personal cards 2.4 1.6  2.1 1.1
Banking 5.6 4.0  5.1 3.8
Bureau operations and other 0.3 0.1  0.7 0.3
 44.1 24.0  29.0 18.3

B. Revenue and gross profits by customer grouping and markets

 B2B v B2C Non-travel v Travel
£ millions B2B B2C Total  Non-travel Travel Total
REVENUES
-                      2021 35.6 8.5 44.1 41.4 2.7 44.1
-                      2020 20.4 8.6 29.0  26.3 2.7 29.0
% change* +75% -1% +52%  +58% - +52%
       
GROSS PROFITS       
-                      2021 16.6 7.4 24.0 22.1 1.9 24.0
-                      2020 12.8 5.5 18.3  16.8 1.5 18.3
-                      2021 % 47% 87% 54% 53% 70% 54%
-                      2020 % 63% 64% 63%  64% 56% 63%

 

*based on underlying, not rounded, figures.

 

The Group has many individual revenue lines (and associated variable costs), but broadly these can be summarised as follows:

International payments:

This includes direct, affiliate and white-label foreign exchange for business customers and to a lesser extent, affluent private customers.

It also includes the bulk of the ‘solutions’ product, launched during the year, which leads with an own-name IBAN, facilitating both same-to-same transactions and currency A to currency B transactions, as well as bulk payments using our ‘Faster Payments’ membership gateway.

The white-label business trading under the Equals Connect brand, allows smaller providers to ‘piggy-back’ off our excellent compliance processes and speed of delivery.

The white-label business acquired in 2019 had a stellar year growing its revenues from £2.4 million to £7.7 million, although at a tighter gross profit margin of 14% due to both competitive pressures and one particularly large affiliate.

The Material trade (announced on 28 October 2021) was a ‘bonus’ but took many weeks to see through a highly complicated transaction and demonstrates the ability of the Group to deal with transactions of this size and complexity.

Solutions, as fully described in the CEO’s Report came on stream late in H1-2021 and ramped-up each month since.

 


TABLE 4 – INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS, FY-2021 and FY-2020

FY-2021 Turnover
£ millions
Number of
transactions
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,473.1 88,314 16.7 65.4 62%
White label 1,094.2 34,090 7.7 70.8 14%
Material trade 114.4 1 1.5 132.3 54%
FX trades from Solutions clients 241.1 584 2.5 101.8 24%
Sub-total, currency 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4 47%
Other flows from Solutions clients 845.9 3,241 1.1 13.0 89%
Totals 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9
      
      
-                      B2B 4,400.6 97,515 26.3 59.8  
-                      B2C 368.1 28,715 3.2 88.5  
Totals by segment 4,768.7 126,230 29.5 61.9  
      
-                      Spot 3,199.1 114,391 23.2 72.5  
-                      Forward 723.7 8,598 5.2 71.9  
Total, from currency trades 3,922.8 122,989 28.4 72.4  

 

FY-2020 Turnover
£ millions
Number of transactions
 
Revenue
£ millions
Margin       (in bp*) Gross profit %
Core 2,088.7 84,069 15.0 71.8 69%
White label 279.0 10,624 2.4 86.0 29%
Material trade - - -  -
Solutions - - -  -
TOTALS 2,367.7 94,693 17.4 73.5 64%
      
-                      B2B 1,975.0 60,953 13.7 69.4  
-                      B2C 392.7 33,740 3.7 94.2  
      
-                      Spot 1,716.3 86,015 11.5 67.0  
-                      Forward 651.4 8,678 5.9 90.6  

 

*bp = Basis Points representing 100th of 1%.

 

B2B continued to grow, and of the total of revenues from International Payments, represented:

-          91% of total turnover (FY-2020: 83%),

-          89% of total revenue (FY-2020: 79%), and

-          77% of total transactions (FY-2020: 64%).

Part of the growth driver for this was the White-label offering, Equals Connect which trades exclusively through affiliates, and therefore at a lower gross return.

Of the total revenues from International Payments, Spot transactions represented:

-          82% of turnover (FY-2020: 72%),

-          82% of revenue (FY-2020: 66%), and

-          93% of transactions (FY-2020: 91%).

Forward margins fell slightly in the aggregate caused mainly by customers taking shorter-dated forwards through Brexit and COVID-19 uncertainty.

Average transaction values from the core and white label books and composition between B2B/B2C and Spot/Forward were:

 

TABLE 4a – International Payments, transaction sizes, FY-2021 and FY-2020

  FY-2021
£’000s
 FY-2020
£’000s
  Transaction size  Transaction size
 Core 28.1  20.2
 White-label 32.1  26.3
     
 -                      B2B 34.2  32.4
 -                      B2C 12.8  11.6
     
 -                      Spot 25.0  20.0
 -                      Forward 84.2  75.0

 

Spend platform:

This is a card-loaded expenses platform delivered via mobile phone or other devices. Extensively used in the film production industry, it enables tight control of corporate expenses but gives companies great flexibility to be agile in their requirement to commit funds.  This segment is regarded as B2B.

 

TABLE 5 – SPEND PLATFORM

FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 333.9  203.3
Number of loads 448k  330k
Number of transactions 3,131k  1,872k
Revenue (£ millions) 6.3  3.7
Average revenue/transaction 201p  200p

 

FY-2021 saw a strong rebound from the COVID-19 impact in FY-2020 – particularly in the final quarter.  A greater number of customers (and their employees) were signed-up and able to benefit from advanced product features.

Personal cards

The origin of the Group in 2007 was a pre-paid web and mobile-enabled card for affluent individuals, often with family financing needs to be served through our ‘linked-cards’ option.  This segment is categorised as B2C.

TABLE 6 – PERSONAL CARDS

 FY-2021 FY-2020
Card loads (£ millions) 61.4  64.4
Number of loads 250k  340k
Number of transactions 1,106k  938k
Revenue (£ millions) 2.4  2.1
Average revenue/transaction 212p  225p

 

This business saw a modest increase over 2020, but since December 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the Group has witnessed an upturn in usage and revenues.  The card product is often used by the owners of the SMEs served by our Spend platform, so it remains a useful but not core product.  Given the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, the Group limited its marketing expenditure in this segment in FY-2021.

Banking services

A suite of bank-style accounts for emerging corporates, established trusts and personal individuals who want a way to control their expenditure.  The B2B segment of this income is marginally more than 50% of its total.

TABLE 7 – BANKING SERVICES

FY-2021 FY-2020
Deposits (£ millions) £1,331  £821
Transactions 5,458k  3,715k
Number of accounts 14.5k  14.2k
Revenue (£ millions) £5.6  £5.1
Revenue per account £392  £354

 

Bureau de change

A legacy of the City Forex acquisition in 2018, the Group retains two branches in the City of London, mainly serving corporates in the insurance and other professional services sector, along with walk-in traffic from workers in the City.  Thus, there is a mix of B2B and B2C revenues.  Owing to the impact of COVID-19, a decision was made to impair the goodwill of this business in FY-2021 and the corresponding impairment is £1,638k

Variable costs:

There are three main categories of variable cost:

(a)      Transaction costs – these are third party costs applying to all the above, and range from banking fees to MasterCard costs, and variable KYC and KYB costs.

(b)     Affiliate commissions (or introducer fees); mainly a revenue sharing model applying to International Payments.

(c)     Staff commissions; revenue related commissions payable, through the payroll, to a cohort of highly motivated professionals who may earn monthly, quarterly and annual commissions based on their own success.

The table below shows which business units have the various cost components:

TABLE 8 – VARIABLE COSTS BY BUSINESS LINE

£ millions International payments Cards Banking
Transaction costs 1.7 2.7 1.6
Affiliate Commissions 5.0 - -
White label commissions 6.3   
Staff commissions 2.8 - -
Totals FY-2021 15.8 2.7 1.6

 

Marketing costs

These include costs relating to the Equals brand, along with specific marketing programmes, relating more to Spend and Banking than other product sets.

Overheads

As with many ‘fintechs’, the Group has as its largest cost, staff, followed by IT expenditure, premises, professional fees (many relating to our position on AIM), and modest other expenses.

Staff costs include employment taxes, employee benefits and contractor fees – mainly in our Engineering team.  With just over 255 staff, the split of staff is more heavily weighted towards revenue earning/maintaining staff along with product development personnel.

Revenue per employee increased 80% to £172k, up from £96k in 2020. Base cost (meaning, salary, ERs NIC and employers pension contribution) rose from £50k per employee to £52k per employee during the year. Value added per employee rose 160% from £46k to £120k in the year.

Expenditure that meets the obligations and criteria of IAS 38 are capitalised and amortised over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months from inception.

TABLE 9 - COMPONENTS OF EXPENDITURE

£ millions FY-2021 FY-2020
Staff costs 15.7  16.9
-                      Less capitalised (3.0)  (4.0)
-                      Less: exceptional items (0.7)  (1.4)
-                      Less IFRS 16 (vehicles) (0.1)  -
Net staff costs 11.9 11.5
    
IT and telephone 2.1  1.7
-                      Less capitalised (0.3)  (0.4)
Net IT costs 1.8 1.3
    
Premises costs 1.8  2.0
-                      Less IFRS 16 (1.0)  (1.0)
Net premises costs 0.8 1.0
    
Professional and compliance fees 1.3  1.4
Travel and entertainment 0.3  0.4
Bad debts and similar -  0.4
 16.1  16.0
    
Analysed between:   
   Gross expenditure 21.2  22.8
   Taken to the balance sheet (4.4)  (5.4)
   Below adjusted EBITDA (0.7)  (1.4)
Totals per Table 1 16.1  16.0
    
Year-end number of staff 255  270

 

Exceptional items

As announced in the interim results on 14 September 2021, the Group carried out some restructuring of a layer of senior management, and the termination and similar costs for that layer have been taken as an exceptional item being £0.7 million.

In 2020 exceptional items were higher at £2.7 million with £1.6 million against COVID-19 and £1.1 million against the migration away from Wirecard, a previous card programme manager for the Group.  Of the 2020 costs, £2.0 million was cash incurred, and the balance was related to write-offs.

There were no acquisitions in the year and therefore no expenditure was incurred. (FY-2020: £130k was incurred in connection with the purchase of Effective FX).

Depreciation

Tangible fixed assets are depreciated over the anticipated useful life with a maximum of 60 months (other than leasehold improvements which is a maximum of 120 months). Assets (principally property and similar leases) are also depreciated over the shorter of the useful life of the asset and the lease term.

TABLE 10 - DEPRECIATION

 FY-2021 FY-2020
 £’000s £’000s
IFRS 16 depreciation 931 940
Other depreciation 467 487
 1,398 1,427

 

Guidance: Based upon the expenditure incurred to 31 December 2021, the depreciation charges for those assets in FY-2022 will be:

 £ millions
IFRS 16 depreciation 0.8
Other depreciation 0.5
 1.3

 

Amortisation

Intangible assets acquired on acquisition are amortised over their estimated useful lives, with a maximum of 60 months for Brands and a maximum of 108 months for Customer Relationships.  The charge to amortisation for the year can be analysed as follows:

TABLE 11 – COMPONENTS OF AMORTISATION CHARGES

 FY-2021
£’000s
FY-2020
£’000s
Amortisation charge arising from the capitalisation of internally developed software in the following years:  
2018 and earlier 1,303 899
2019 1,661 1,382
2020 893 451
2021 287 -
 4,144 2,733
Amortisation charge for other intangibles 357 404
 4,501 3,137
Amortisation of acquired intangibles 1,311 1,210
Total amortisation charge 5,812 4,347

Guidance: Based upon expenditure to 31 December 2021, the amortisation charges for FY-2022 are expected to be:

 £ millions
Internally developed software 4.3
Other intangible assets 0.3
Acquired intangibles 1.3
 5.9

 

Finance and other

IFRS 16 financial charges have been calculated using the lessee’s incremental borrowing rate on the NPV of total lease payments, this is released over the lease period to the P&L.

TABLE 12 – COMPONENTS OF FINANCE AND OTHER CHARGES

 FY-2021  FY-2020
 £’000s  £’000s
Increase in assessment of contingent consideration (liability) for acquisition of Casco  
46
  
793
    
Adjustment to discount on valuation of Effective 278  -
IFRS 16 lease interest expense 188  222
CBILS interest 1  -
Other interest payable 23  18
 536  1,033
Split as follows:    
Included in Finance Charges 490  391
Included in Administrative expenses 46  642

 

Impairment

Revenues from the bureau-de-change business acquired with City Forex in 2018 have declined significantly owing to prolonged COVID-19 restrictions and thus the Group concluded it should be impaired to a carrying value of £579k.

Taxation

The Group has £17.2 million of tax losses available.

The Group has been able to receive funds directly from HMRC in relation to claims made for software development.  As the Group moves into taxable profits, such claims cease to be paid but offset against future taxable profits. The Group anticipates receiving £0.4 million in relation to the claim for 2021, but possibly no further into the future.

TABLE 13– BALANCE SHEET

This table shows a compressed ‘balance sheet’ for the Group.

31.12.2021 31.12.2020
 £’000s £’000s
    
IFRS 16 assets, less IFRS 16 liabilities (388)  (345)
Other non-current assets (other than deferred tax) 32,217  36,495
 31,829  36,150
    
Liquidity (per Table 14) 10,739  8,827
Trade debtors and accrued income (see note below) 3,638  2,314
R&D rebates 398  1,367
Prepayments 998  860
Deposits and sundry debtors 329  643
Inventory of card stock 168  194
Accounts payable (1,549)  (1,556)
Affiliate commissions (1,945)  (343)
PAYE, staff commissions etc. (1,884)  (1,701)
Other accruals and other creditors (1,349)  (1,130)
 9,543  9,475
    
Earn-out balances due (Table 16)
Implied interest thereon
(1,683)
63
 (2,746)
341
 (1,620)  (2,405)
Net corporation and deferred tax 888  (547)
Net value of forward contracts 511  (31)
 (221)  (2,983)
    
NET SHAREHOLDER FUNDS 41,151  42,642
    
Retained earnings at 1 January (22,259)  (15,340)
Earnings for the year (2,424)  (6,919)
Amount attributable to the exercise of share options 93  -
Retained earnings at 31 December (24,590)  (22,259)
    
Non-Controlling interest at 1 January 101  119
Earnings for year 162  (18)
Non-Controlling interest at 31 December 263  101
    
Share capital, share premium 55,011  54,789
Other reserves 10,467  10,011
 65,478  64,800
    
CAPITAL AND RESERVES 41,151 42,642

 

TABLE 14 - LIQUIDITY FY-2021   FY-2020
£000’S £000’S
Cash at bank (see Table 15) 13,104  10,032
Balances with liquidity providers 1,675  2,776
Pre-funded balances with card provider 1,615  2,078
Gross liquid resources 16,394 14,886
    
Customer balances not subject to safeguarding (3,655)  (4,059)
CBILS loan (see below) (2,000)  (2,000)
 (5,655)  (6,059)
    
Net position 10,739 8,827

 

Exposures to banks and liquidity providers

The Group maintains strong relationships with a number of banks and counterparties for spot and forward foreign exchange transactions.  The Group has recurring obligations to safeguard customer funds under the rules of the FCA, who are the prime regulator for the Group.

The balances held at 31 December were as follows:

TABLE 15 – BANK AND SIMILAR BALANCES

£ millions Safeguarded Not required to be safeguarded Totals
BANKS   
Barclays Bank PLC 47.7 7.1 54.8
NatWest/RBS Group 106.9 3.8 110.7
Bank of England 30.9 - 30.9
Citibank N.A. 26.0 0.1 26.1
Blackrock* - 2.0 2.0
Others  0.1 0.1
31 December 2021 211.5 13.1 224.6
   
31 December 2020 96.1 10.0 106.1
    
LIQUIDITY PROVIDERS    
Barclays Bank PLC  0.4 0.4
Velocity Trade International Ltd  0.1 0.1
Sucden Financial Ltd  1.2 1.2
31 December 2021 1.7 1.7
    
31 December 2020  2.8 2.8

 

*Blackrock is the manager, the legal entity is Institutional Cash Series PLC.

 

There exist tight controls over forward contracts with daily monitoring and reporting to the Executive Directors. The out-of-the-money position at 31 December 2021 was £0.2 million.

There were, in addition, £212.0 million of customer funds safeguarded at 31 December 2021 (31 December 2020: £96.0 million).

Balances with liquidity providers and customer balances not subject to safeguarding are typically margin calls on forward contracts. Pre-funded balances are required in anticipation of customers loading their cards.  Should the Group move to self-issuing, such pre-funding will dissipate.

Trade debtors and accrued income

In common with market practice, revenue is recognised on forward transactions on the execution of the transaction.  There was one particularly large forward transaction with an investment fund client generating profits of £0.9 million and which settled in January 2022.

Affiliate commissions

The growth in the payable relates to the increase in white label business and introducers for the Solutions business.

Earn-outs

Equals Connect (previously Casco Connect)

As announced on 19 November 2019, the Group acquired Casco Financial Services Limited for a maximum consideration of £3,725,000.

Effective FX

As announced on 15 October 2020, the Group acquired the trade and assets of Effective FX Limited for a maximum consideration of £1,575,000.

Whilst IFRS-3 requires an interest discount factor to be applied, the table below shows the ‘real cash’ aspects of the acquisitions.  The accounting standard requires an annual revaluation of contingent consideration based on historic performance.

The table below shows the financial position relating to these acquisitions

TABLE 16 – EARNOUTS

  Hermex Casco Effective Total
Acquisition date 09.08.2019 19.11.2019 15.10.2020
 £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
    
Acquisition price booked at acquisition 2,000 2,236 1,575 5,811
Earn outs paid by 31.12.2020 (2,000) (1,733) (125) (3,858)
Revaluation of asset based on performance - 793 - 793
Gross outstanding at 31.12.2020 - 1,296 1,450 2,746
Paid during 2021 - (741) (368) (1,109)
Further change in consideration - 46 - 46
Gross Outstanding at 31.12.2021 - 601 1,082 1,683
    
Paid during Q1-2022 - 601 282 833
    
Due in remainder of 2022 - - 800 800
    
Maximum consideration 2,000 3,725 1,575 7,300
Total consideration 2,000 3,075 1,575 6,650
     

CBILS loan

On 23 December 2020, the Group drew-down £2,000,000 from NatWest Group under the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’). The loan carries a coupon of Bank base rate plus 2.53%.  The loan is repayable at any time, but over 60 equal instalments of £33,333 with the first instalment paid on 21 January 2022.

The interest chargeable in 2021 amounted to £1k.

Share capital, share premium and share options

The number of shares in issue at 1 January 2021 was 178,602,918.  This increased in the year through the exercise of 738,889 share options from former employees (Table 17 below), thus the number of shares outstanding at 31 December 2021 was 179,341,807.  A further 704,000 shares at nominal value were issued pursuant to the SIP and admitted to trading on AIM on 16 March 2022, resulting in a total number of shares in issue at the date of signing of the Financial Statements of 180,045,807.

At 31 December 2020, the Company had 9,838,356 options outstanding. 738,889 of these were exercised in 2021, and 376,667 lapsed.

Earnings per share are reported/calculated in accordance with IAS 33. For non-diluted, the result after tax is divided by the average number of shares in issue in the year. The average number of shares were 178,959,402 (2020: 178,602,918).

The calculation of diluted EPS is based on the result after tax divided by the number of actual shares in issue (above) plus the number of options where the fair value exceeds the weighted average share price in the year. The fair value of options is measured using Black-Scholes and Monte-Carlo. It should be noted that this calculation is based on fair value, not the difference between the market price at the end of the year or the weighted average price and the exercise price. The weighted average price was 43p (2020: 34p), the number of options exceeding the fair value was 3,553,681 (2020: Nil).

On 18 October 2021, the Company announced Discretionary Share Incentive Plans over 4,535,000 shares.  The final awards were lower, at 4,369,000.  Thus, at the date of signing of these financial statements, there were 13,091,800 options, representing 7.3% of the issued share capital and 6.8% of the enlarged share capital. 

The cost of external advice for these schemes amounted to £84k in the year (FY-2020: £Nil)

At 31 December 2021, the Company had distributable reserves of £931,411.  At the date of signing of these accounts, this was equivalent to 0.520 pence per share.

TABLE 17 – OPTIONS EXERCISED IN THE YEAR

Date exercised Number of options Grant price
20 April 2021 88,889 36.00 pence
20 April 2021 50,000 29.75 pence
21 July 2021 300,000 26.50 pence
21 July 2021 250,000 29.75 pence
26 September 2021 50,000 43.50 pence
 738,889  

 


CASH STATEMENT

The movement in the cash position is shown in the table below:

TABLE 18 - CASHFLOW FY-2021
£’000s
  FY-2020
£’000s
    
Adjusted EBITDA 6,713 1,164
R&D tax credits received (see note below) 1,367  2,539
Lease payments (principal and interest) (1,080)  (1,140)
Exceptional items (671)  (1,982)
Internally developed software capitalised (see note below) (3,028)  (4,044)
Purchase of other intangible assets (532)  (484)
Purchase of other non-current assets (78)  (160)
Acquisition costs -  (130)
Movement in working capital 1,269  1,829
 3,960  (2,408)
Earn-outs and acquisitions (1,108)  (825)
Funds from exercise of share options 220  -
External funding (CBILS) -  2,000
NET CASHFLOWS 3,072 (1,233)
Balance at 1st January 10,032  11,265
Balance at 31st December 13,104 10,032
Amount per share 7.3 pence 5.6 pence

 

R&D credits received

These are earned based on a strict set of criteria set by HMRC and broadly based on new internally generated software development.  In 2021, £0.4 million was accrued (FY-2020: £1.4 million) and £1.4 million was received relating to claims made for 2020 (FY-2019: £2.5 million).  Whilst future claims may be paid, these are unlikely to be receivable in cash.

Internally developed software capitalised

As a fintech, constantly looking to provide a series of products and platforms, the Group continues to invest and develop.  The emergence and rapid growth of the Solutions capability is one tangible deliverable.  Equals Money is another product well advanced for which investment is taking place.

 

 

Richard Cooper
Chief Financial Officer

29 March 2022

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 

 Note FY-2021  FY-2020
  £’000s  £’000s
     
Gross value of all transactions*1 6,529,034 3,492,671
     
Revenue from currency transactions  38,424  23,849
Revenue from banking transactions  5,667  5,110
Revenue 44,091 28,959
Transaction and commission costs  (20,071)  (10,670)
Gross Profit 24,020 18,289
     
Administrative expenses  (18,499)  (21,040)
Depreciation charge  (1,398)  (1,427)
Amortisation charge  (5,812)  (4,347)
Impairment charge  (1,638)  -
Acquisition expenses  -  (130)
Total operating expenses (27,347) (26,944)
     
Memo: Adjusted EBITDA*2 6,713 1,164
     
Operating loss A (3,327) (8,655)
Finance cost
 
 (490)  (391)
Loss before tax (3,817) (9,046)
Tax credit B 1,555  2,109
Loss after tax (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,919)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
Other comprehensive income:  
Items that may be reclassified to profit or loss     
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations  -  6
Total comprehensive loss for the year (2,262) (6,931)
     
Attributable to:  
Owners of Equals Group PLC  (2,424)  (6,913)
Non-controlling interest  162  (18)
  (2,262)  (6,931)
 
Loss per share C  
Basic  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
Diluted  (1.35)p  (3.87)p
     

Notes:

Adjusted EBITDA is Operating loss before: Depreciation, Amortisation, Impairments, Share option charges, and Separately identifiable items.  All income and expenses arise from continuing operations.

*1 Gross value of currency transactions sold and banking deposit transactions are a non-GAAP measure and represent the gross value of currency transactions sold to customers and banking deposits made by customers.   

*2 Adjusted EBITDA is not a GAAP measure and represents operating loss before share option charges, depreciation, amortisation and separately identifiable items (exceptional items).

 

CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL POSITION

AS AT 31 DECEMBER

 2021 2021  2020 2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
ASSETS    
Non-current assets    
  Property, plant and equipment 1,257 -  1,646 -
  Right of use assets 4,874 -  6,061 -
  Intangible assets (note F) 17,492 -  19,744 -
  Goodwill 13,468 -  15,106 -
  Deferred tax assets 949 1,163  3,193 744
  Investments - 61,978  - 61,707
 38,040 63,141  45,750 62,451
     
Current assets    
  Inventories 168 -  194 -
  Trade and other receivables 8,256 339  9,586 274
  Current tax assets (R&D reclaimable) 397 -  1,367 -
  Derivative financial assets (note G) 2,593 -  3,019 -
  Cash and cash equivalents 13,104 -  10,032 -
 24,518 339  24,198 274
     
   
TOTAL ASSETS 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
     
EQUITY, AND LIABILITIES    
Equity attributable to equity holders    
  Share capital 1,793 1,793  1,786 1,786
  Share premium 53,218 53,218  53,003 53,003
  Share-based payment reserve 1,858 1,580  1,402 1,402
  Other reserves 8,609 3,187  8,609 3,187
  Accumulated (losses) / retained earnings (24,590) 1,623  (22,259) (1,625)
  Company profit / (loss) in the year - (692)  - 3,155
Equity attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC 40,888 60,709  42,541 60,908
Non-controlling interest 263 -  101 -
 41,151 60,709  42,642 60,908
     
Non-current liabilities    
  Borrowings 1,600 -  2,000 -
  Lease liabilities 4,484 -  5,509 -
  Deferred tax liabilities - -  3,740 -
 6,084 -  11,249 -
     
Current liabilities    
  Borrowings 400 -  - -
  Trade and other payables 12,002 2,771  12,110 1,817
  Current tax liabilities 61 -  - -
  Lease liabilities 778 -  897 -
  Derivative financial liabilities (note G) 2,082 -  3,050 -
 15,323 2,771  16,057 1,817
     
     
TOTAL EQUITY AND LIABILITIES 62,258 63,480  69,948 62,725
      

 

 


CONSOLIDATED AND COMPANY STATEMENT OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER

GROUP Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings    Other reserves Total attributable to owners of Equals Group PLC Non-controlling interest Total
equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s £’000s £’000s
                
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  1,345  (15,340)  8,603  49,397  119  49,516
                
Loss for the year -  -  -  (6,919)  -  (6,919)  (18)  (6,937)
Other comprehensive income:                
Items that will not be reclassified subsequently to profit or loss:                
Exchange differences arising on translation of foreign operations -  -  -  -  6  6  -  6
Other items:                
Share-based payment charge -  -  444  -  -  444  -  444
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  (387)  -  -  (387)  -  (387)
                
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  (22,259)  8,609  42,541  101 42,642
                
(Loss) / profit for the year -  -  -  (2,424)  -  (2,424)  162  (2,262)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  272  -  272
Share options exercised in year- - (93) 93 - - - -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222  -  222
Movement in deferred tax on share-based payment reserve -  -  278  -  -  277  -  277
At 31 December 2021 1,793 53,218 1,858 (24,590) 8,609 40,888 263 41,151

 

COMPANY Called up share capital  Share premium  Share- based payment  Accumulated losses / retained earnings  Other reserves Total equity
 £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s  £’000s £’000s
At 1 January 2020 1,786  53,003  958  (1,625)  3,187  57,309
          
Profit for the year and total comprehensive income -  -  -  3,155  -  3,155
 
Share-based payment charge
-  -  444  -  -  444
At 31 December 2020 1,786  53,003  1,402  1,530  3,187  60,908
       
Loss for the year -  -  -  (692)  -  (692)
Share-based payment charge -  -  271  -  -  271
Share options exercised in year -  -  (93)  93  -  -
Shares issued in year 7  215  -  -  -  222
At 31 December 2021 1,793  53,218  1,580  931  3,187  60,709

 

The following describes the nature and purpose of each reserve within owners’ equity:

 

Share capital                                                      Amount subscribed for shares at nominal value.

Share premium                                                  Amount subscribed for shares in excess of nominal value, less directly attributable costs.

Share-based payment reserve                         Proportion of the fair value of share options granted relating to services rendered up to the balance sheet date.

Retained deficit                                                Cumulative profit and losses attributable to equity shareholders.

 

Other reserves comprise:

     Merger reserve                                           Arising on reverse acquisition from Group reorganisation.

     Contingent consideration reserve              Arising on equity based contingent consideration on acquisition of subsidiaries.

     Foreign currency reserve                            Arising on translation of foreign operation.

 


CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF CASHFLOWS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2021

 FY-2021 FY-2021  FY-2020 FY-2020
 Group Company  Group Company
 £’000s £’000s  £’000s £’000s
    
Loss before tax (3,817) (1,111) (9,045) 2,650
    
Add: Cashflows from operating activities:  
Adjustments for:   
  Depreciation 1,398 -  1,427 -
  Amortisation 5,812 -  4,347 -
  Impairment 1,638 -  - -
  Share-based payment charges 272 -  444 -
  Decrease / (increase) in trade and other receivables*1 3,614 (63)  (401) (2,507)
  (Decrease) / increase in trade and other payables*2 (2,688) 954  3,050 (143)
  Decrease / (increase) in derivative financial assets 426 -  1,542 -
 (Decrease) / increase in derivative financial liabilities (968) -  (1,511) -
 Decrease in inventories 26 -  70 -
 Finance costs 490 6  391 -
 10,020 897  9,359 (2,650)
 
 
Net cash inflow / (outflow) 6,203 (214) 314 -
    
Tax receipts 1,367 -  2,539 -
    
NET CASHFLOWS FROM OPERATING ACTIVITIES 7,570 (214) 2,853 -
    
Cashflows from investing activities   
  Acquisition of property plant and equipment (78) -  (160) -
  Acquisition of intangibles (3,560) -  (4,531) -
  Acquisition of subsidiary, net of cash acquired - -  (255) -
Net cash used in investing activities (3,638) -  (4,946) -
    
Cashflows from financing activities   
  New Borrowings - -  2,000 -
  Principal elements of lease payments (872) -  (891) -
  Interest on financial leases (194) -  (222) -
  Other interest paid (14) (6)  (27) -
  Proceeds from issuance of ordinary shares 220 220   
Net cash (outflow) / Inflow from financing activities (860) 214  860 -
    
    
NET INCREASE/ (DECREASE) IN CASH AND CASH EQUIVALENTS 3,072 - (1,233) -
Cash, and cash equivalents at 1 January 10,032 -  11,265 -
Cash, and cash equivalent at 31 December 13,104 - 10,032 -
      

 

*1 The movement in the deferred and current tax assets and the right-of use asset balances (excluding the depreciation charge) is included within the movement in trade and other receivables.

*2 The movement in the deferred and current tax liabilities and the lease liability balances is included within the movement in trade and other payables.