2009 was the twelfth consecutive year of net customer growth for Engage Mutual, with total customer numbers increasing by 2.4% to 438,000. Other highlights for the year included:
The fund for future appropriations (which measures the profit/performance of a mutual friendly society) increased by £1.2m in the year to £31.8m
Group assets under management increased by more than 5% to £624 million
More than 36,000 new policies written, with 15% of new direct customers referred by existing customers
Regular new premium life savings and protection business increased by more than 3%; £34.9m received in life fund premiums over the year
Engage Mutual Child Trust Fund contributions increased by 5.3% to £17.6 million
Non profit and with profit funds demonstrated a robust capital ratio, with more than three times coverage of statutory capital requirements
More than £47 million paid to customers in claims and maturities
Tight control on costs saw expenses, including campaign costs, reduce by 40% but new premium income for life funds reduced by only 17%, largely accounted for by a decision to move away from high commission intermediary single premium business.
Andrew Haigh, Chief Executive, stated:
“Through the challenges of the past year and beyond, our aim has been to remain focused on running an effective and successful business, and to continue to do the best we can for our customers, who are the owners of the business and who share the benefits of our success.”
“We were pleased to see good equity investment returns, and continue to work towards achieving greater scale within the organisation by progressing our acquisition strategy. We also remain focused on organic growth, an intention that will be supported by our strategy to become an e-business.”
The focus on e-commerce has delivered more than 70% of Engage Mutual’s new customers via the internet or over the telephone, and the mutual will launch a new website in 2010. The first phase of a strategy for online servicing was launched in 2009, providing the option for more than 210,000 customers to update their details and view their policies online.
Priorities in 2009 were to simplify the health cash plan operation following acquisition of Premier Health Benefits in 2008, and deliver product improvements.
From the payment of claims via direct credit, to a claims turn round commitment of two days from receipt of claim, customer service levels have been improved and further enhancements are planned for the future.
An existing successful partnership with Yorkshire Bank and Clydesdale Bank for marketing over 50s life insurance, continued in 2009 with the successful launch of Vision, a tax exempt savings plan, which added significant numbers of new customers over the course of the year.
A Funeral Funding Option offered in conjunction with the Co-operative Funeral Care as a free benefit on Engage Mutual’s over 50s life insurance has proved very popular with customers and contributed to more than £1m in revenue for 2009 from the mutual’s insurance operations.
Distribution of the Guaranteed 50 Plus Life Cover Plan via financial intermediaries was further extended through Personal Touch Financial Services, one of the UK’s largest, independently-owned, adviser support networks.
Continuing its tradition of support for charitable causes, the mutual received a gold award for payroll giving in 2009, for the fourth year running.
The relationship with neighbour, Saint Michael’s Hospice was strengthened by fund raising activities; through Engage Mutual’s membership of the Guild of Patrons; and through sponsorship of the Engage Mutual Midnight Walk. Work also began on laying the foundations for a staff volunteer programme at Saint Michael’s in 2010.
Engage Mutual’s other nominated charity in 2009 was the Alzheimer’s Society.
Super League sponsorship
The mutual confirmed its commitment as title sponsor of the Engage Super League to 2011 and also announced that it would support the work of the Steve Prescott Foundation through 2010. The Foundation raises money for two nominated charities, The RFL Benevolent Fund and the Christie Cancer Hospital in Manchester.