The fact that Unica could continue to grow in 2020, a turbulent year dominated by Covid-19, reinforces the positive expectations for the years ahead. However, there is still considerable uncertainty in 2021 about the duration and effects of the Covid-19 crisis. The preventive measures in society at large were extended in the first few months of 2021 in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. The response from the private sector appears calmer this time, now that it can draw on the experience following the initial phase of the Covid-19 crisis and changes in the Covid-19 policy do not lead to fluctuations in the market to similar extents.
Even so, the continuing Covid-19 crisis remains a reason for caution. Despite the high degree of crisis resilience that Unica showed in 2020, Unica keeps a close eye on developments to ensure that it can respond immediately if situations arise that threaten the health of its employees or the continuity of business activities. Unica expects that it will be able to manage any such potential threats using the resources that were deployed for this purpose in 2020 and the carefully designed set of measures that are now available.
With the start of the vaccination programme in January 2021, there is cautious confidence that the Covid-19 crisis can be brought to an end in the foreseeable future. By that time, the long-term consequences of this crisis will become evident. Unica expects the long-term impact on its business activities to be limited. The outlook for technical services is as favourable as ever given the continuing task of making the built environment more sustainable, the need for careful technical management and maintenance, and the expansion of the intelligent digital services that Unica can offer through its network of companies. The modifications to office spaces that are expected following the Covid-19 crisis may even have positive effects on the supply of work. If offices are given a new function, specialised technical knowledge is essential to carry out necessary modifications, transformations and redevelopment.
The long-term effects of the Covid-19 crisis will also lead to some changes to Unica’s internal operations. The forced switch to working from home for nearly all office employees has shown that working remotely is often perfectly possible. Once the Covid-19 crisis is over, it will be desirable for both practical and social reasons for employees to meet at the office regularly, but some working from home and online meetings will remain a permanent feature. This may offer opportunities for improving the sustainability and efficiency of Unica’s own assets. This will also lead to a structural reduction in carbon emissions as mobility, and thus emissions by the vehicle fleet, will decline.
A change in direction for property and mobility requirements fits with Unica’s decision to pay more attention to social relevance alongside stable economic growth. In the next few years, the policy regarding environmental, social and governance issues will be further refined to continue to meet the expectations of the market and society at large.
After the slight fall in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Unica will focus its financial growth targets in 2021 on the recovery of the profit margin. This does not mean revenue growth will be ignored: Unica expects controlled growth in 2021 as well. All nine clusters of companies have considerable growth potential; therefore further growth is expected over the next few years in all business activities. This organic growth will be reinforced by various acquisitions that Unica has planned for 2021. Adding parties to the network of companies that extend the organisation’s specialist fields or regional presence is a method that has been applied successfully in recent years and has proven its worth for Unica.
The increasingly close collaboration between companies within and among clusters means that Unica is increasingly able to offer clients added value and integrated solutions. A key unifying factor is digital technology supplementing the traditional technical skills that Unica offers. The investments in the new ICT landscape, due to be completed in 2021 and 2022, form the foundation for the digital transformation that Unica is undergoing.
The main factor driving Unica’s success is the technical know-how of its professionals, ranging from the mechanics to the ICT architects. Accordingly, retaining its employees and contributing to their health will remain priorities in Unica’s policy for 2021 and the years to follow. Unica will also continue to invest in increasing its appeal on the labour market, not just to facilitate further growth of the organisation but also to strengthen its diversity and provide employees the opportunity for career progression within the company.
The decentralised set-up with more than 30 companies operating independently proved its worth once more in 2020 and it will remain the basis enabling our organisation to operate proactively and energetically. With respect to various social challenges, Unica is in an excellent position to assist clients over the next few years in taking on the challenges they face now and in the future. To summarise, Unica is perfectly positioned for further growth and continued success.
Given the turbulence of the past year, the Board of Directors considers itself fortunate to have such a pleasant and constructive working relationship with the Supervisory Board, the management and the Works Council. The dedication of our more than 3,000 employees and the trust that our business relations have in us also deserve a great deal of gratitude. We have great confidence in the prospects for 2021 and look forward to continuing our working relationships.
Hoevelaken, 26 March 2021
John Quist, CEO
Bert Moser, CFO