What is a mutual?

Mutual organisations have been around for centuries, but many people are unfamiliar with the term and what it means.

The core principle of mutual companies is that they are owned by their members – not shareholders. Mutual organisations can take many different forms.

In this article we’ll explore what a mutual is and what it means to us.

A grandfather hugs his grandson.

What is a mutual company?

A mutual is a private organisation that is owned by its customers, policy holders or employees.

Mutuals take several forms, including:

  • Friendly societies (like us)
  • Building societies
  • Co-operatives
  • Asset managers
  • Credit unions
  • Housing associations

What is a mutual fund?

Mutual organisations shouldn’t be confused with mutual funds. Mutual funds are investment funds that pool several investors’ money together to invest in a mixture of stocks, bonds and other assets.

You can find out more about OneFamily funds here.

How is a mutual business run?

Because mutual are owned by their customers, members, policyholders or employees, it means that they have a say on how mutual organisations are run.

Each year mutuals hold Annual General Meetings where members are encouraged to give feedback through surveys, focus groups or events and help shape the future of the organisation.

Did you know that the department store John Lewis is a mutual organisation? It’s owned by its employees. That means each employee gets a share of its annual profits and a say in how it is run.


Friendly societies are known for being personal, trustworthy and approachable. After all, they’ve supported communities and looked after customers’ interests since their inception.

They care about their customers and want to make a positive difference to their lives and the lives of those around them.

They’re not accountable to shareholders. They are free to focus on member’s ne

Giving something back

Mutuals are not all about products and the bottom line. Helping others to help themselves is embedded in their ethos, which is why friendly societies are recognised for providing a wider responsibility to customers and their communities.

We have supported local and national charities, individuals in need and community projects across the country through the OneFamily Foundation. Find out more about what we do and how we help members here, or find out more about us here.

Note: We take care to ensure all Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication. Individual circumstances differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.