At the end of September, Companies House (CH) released both its strategy for 2020 to 2025 and its business plan for the coming year.
The strategy sets out the aims and goals of CH over the coming 5 years, while the business plan details how CH intends to implement year one. The reports were written in the context of two principle concerns - (1) that the UK's corporate framework is open to misuse and that this could lead to a lack of confidence in the data which is available on CH and (2) technological developments drive expectations in what services CH can and should deliver. The 2020 -2025 strategy reiterates CH's purpose of 'driving confidence in the UK economy' and states that CH's focus over the coming 5 years is to fulfil this purpose whilst preventing and tackling economic crime.
The strategy sets out six (commendable) goals for CH which are held under the headings of; registers, services and people. The themes are :- inspiring trust and confidence, combatting economic crime through active use of analysis and intelligence, providing brilliant services which deliver a great user experience, delivering value through efficient use of resources and promoting a culture internally enabling CH people to flourish and driving high performance
Throughout the strategy report CH cite the use of technology as a means of achieving several of these goals – eg developing technology to help verify information and using artificial intelligence to spot false information on a CH register. The report also details that CH will transform its online services. The 2020-21 business plan sets out that CH will be re-designing existing digital filing systems and developing new ones in an effort to make online systems accessible and easy to use. The first change in this area will be a 'simplified online journey for checking company data and submitting a confirmation statement where there have been no changes to that data'.
The strategy report also focuses on preparing and advocating for the legislative change CH say is needed to achieve its goals. Amongst other actions, CH plan on seeking additional powers to challenge and remove incorrect data and will work to identify gaps in legislation that restrict its ability to report suspicious behaviour. In its business plan CH state that they will be working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on legislative reform following the 2019 consultation on Corporate Transparency and Register Reform.
Other key actions detailed in the 2020-2021 plan include that CH will change its organisational structure to organise itself around its three main services:- a filing service, a service to obtain company information and an intelligence and enforcement service. CH plans to assess the success of, and make improvements to, its tools and will be decommissioning its WebCHeck and CH Direct services.
CH's strategy ultimately has two stated (commendable) end goals ultimately :-(1) 'to have registers which are more efficient, effective and resilient whilst combatting misuse of corporate entities' and (2) 'to establish a balance between effective regulation and ease of doing business, and between transparency and protection of an individual’s privacy'.
Co-authored by Andrew Walker and Jack Townsend