Mutual Benefits: Scottish Friendly Puts Its Money Where Its Heart Is

Looking after members, not shareholders, makes for a healthy workplace.

Scottish Friendly’s is one of the UK’s largest mutual life offices, with a history reaching back 160 years — and it has never been driven by the needs of shareholders.

CEO: Stephen McGee

CEO: Stephen McGee

As a mutual, it is owned by, and run for, the benefit of members — and profits are reinvested. Scottish Friendly firmly believes in the democratisation of savings and investment, and is committed to creating user-friendly, accessible products.

During the pandemic, the priority was on serving and supporting members, colleagues, and the community. “Our staff showed great resilience under difficult circumstances that have lasted longer than any of us could have imagined,” said a spokesperson.

The purpose-led organisation offers products and services that do not discriminate by age, income, or financial experience. The strategy is “to diversify and grow” — which has three core elements.

  • Organic growth via a branded product range and distribution channels
  • New partnerships, and new products launched with existing partners
  • Acquisition and consolidation.

The focus has brought in record sales of £46.9m APE (it was £42m for 2020). Assets under management increased to £5.4bn, with solvency capital at a strong 174 percent, well above regulatory requirements. Member numbers increased from 745,000 to 776,000.

Of the total, protection sales were £25m (2020: £24.1m) and savings and investments — which include the Scottish Friendly brand, whole of life and savings partners — amounted to £21.9m (2020: £17.9m). Included within savings and investments, Scottish Friendly own brand sales increased in 2021 to £18.4m (2020: £15.7m)

Environment, Social & Governance

Scottish Friendly aims to responsibly invest customers’ funds, and stewardship is consistent with sustainability aspirations. In 2021, the mutual developed its own ESG framework with a focus on sound corporate governance, responsible investing, and improvement of the communities in which it operates. It has made a commitment to net-zero by 2030 for direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, and across the entire business and supply chain by 2050.

Scottish Friendly staff

Scottish Friendly staff

The Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour delivers a programme of virtual activities, live-streaming entertaining educational content into classrooms and living rooms across Britain. With input from some of the UK’s most popular authors and illustrators, the content has been viewed 150,000 times via social media and an on-demand library hub.

An ongoing relationship with the Action for Children charity has raised £23,500 to support vulnerable children, young adults and their families across Scotland.

Corporate Governance

The strength and flexibility of the mutual’s governance processes helped it to respond to regulatory changes and best-practice developments. It is a member of the Association of Financial Mutuals and supports its governance standards. There is a commitment to driving continued improvement in all key processes.

Scottish Friendly Headquarters

Scottish Friendly Headquarters

Regulatory Environment

Last year came many enhancements to policies, processes and systems to ensure compliance with requirements of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Particular areas of focus include operational resilience, climate change, and the fair treatment and protection of vulnerable customers.

Scottish Friendly has won increasing coverage in national, trade and online media outlets, as well as targeted social media exposure. This was achieved by a tailored programme of press activity, including corporate news, consumer thought-leadership research, and regular commentary on industry topics.

Developments

The strategy continues to deliver for Scottish Friendly customers, and there is a commitment to a diverse and innovative product range.

All success stories are the result of co-operation and concerted effort. In a recent colleague engagement survey, 86 percent of respondents said they were “proud” to work for Scottish Friendly — and nine in 10 were happy working with their team. To maintain the focus on wellbeing, the HR function has launched a colleague-recognition scheme.

There has been a strategic investment relationship with JP Morgan Asset Management and abrdn plc. These relationships provide market insights, support the delivery of investment returns, and provide additional flexibility in volatile investment markets.

There has been investment in new tech to strengthen the mutual’s risk-management framework with automation, new technology and continual cost-management. Through innovation, efficient customer services and responsible capital management, Scottish Friendly is well placed to achieve its objective: to provide long-term, sustainable growth for its members.


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