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Scottish Friendly – 2021 Financial Highlights.

Pic Peter Devlin - Scottish Friendly

Scottish Friendly’s status as a mutual means that we are not driven by shareholder dividend needs. Instead we are owned and run for the benefit of our members and any profits are reinvested for the interest of those members.

Scottish Friendly firmly believe that saving and investing should be for everyone, which is why we have a commitment to offer understandable and accessible products to our customers and business partners, helping to secure a better financial future for individuals and their families.

We’re proud to be one of the largest mutual life offices in the UK, and one that’s been around for 160 years.

Covid-19

Despite the successful rollout of vaccinations across the UK, we are only really beginning to enter the post Covid-19 phase and understanding the true effects the pandemic has had on society and the longer term implications on our economy.

Our priority, from the outset has been on protecting our colleagues, our customers and the wider community. Many of our colleagues continue to work from home, showing extraordinary resilience under exceptional circumstances that have lasted longer than any of us could have imagined.

As we enter this new phase, we can already see the early indicators of the challenges that lie ahead. Many UK household savings are being severely squeezed, with a rising cost of living crisis already taking its toll. With this continued pressure on families’ financial resilience and lack of protection this leaves people in danger of investing less for the long-term and saving more for emergencies due to uncertainties over the immediate future.

Last year Scottish Friendly showed that it was up for the challenges that lay ahead and our objective remained clear: We’re in this together and we will continue to help support and protect individuals and their families during this continued period of uncertainty.

Strategy

Despite the continued challenges we faced, Scottish Friendly has had another strong set of results.

This demonstrates that our long-term strategy, flexibility, resilience and commitment from our colleagues empowers us to navigate the most difficult of challenges whilst keeping on track to serve our members and build the business for the future.

Our defined strategy, to Diversify and Grow, continues to comprise three core elements within the life and pensions market, namely:

  • Organic growth through the development of our own brand product range and distribution channels;
  • Partnering (new partners and new offerings to existing partners; and
  • Mergers and consolidation within the life sector.

We will continue to provide products and services that cater for everyone, regardless of age, income or any previous financial experience. We are strongly capitalised and well placed to deliver on our strategic objectives and to further consolidate ourselves as one of the UK’s leading financial mutual societies.

Our strategy throughout the year was clear. First and foremost, we wanted to ensure that we could look after the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, whether in the office or working from home. Our colleagues continued to adapt and have shown incredible resilience, for which Scottish Friendly is extremely proud.

Our IT department has reacted at pace to the ever evolving challenges we’ve faced as an organisation. We have invested heavily in IT infrastructure and cyber security to further safeguard customer data.

In addition, we have strengthened our HR function with a number of key appointments in order to support colleagues. This has been reflected in our colleague engagement survey results, including 86% of colleagues saying they are proud to work for Scottish Friendly and more than 9 in 10 (91%) saying they enjoy working with their team. In addition, we launched a new HR system and automated how Colleagues complete mandatory training, as well as launching our company values and the rollout of a new colleague recognition scheme. We strengthened our Risk Management Framework and set up a nominations committee.

Due to the continued increase in customer enquiries into our customer contact centre, we have made further appointments to help mitigate any adverse affects we’ve experienced on our service levels. We accept that there is always room for improvement and we are making good strides to enhance and improve the service we offer to our members.

Our solvency position has remained strong and well in excess of regulatory requirements, despite a challenging economic environment. This means that our customers can be confident in our ability to meet our promises to them today and in the future.

New investment relationships were established, helping us to deliver investment returns for our customers and we have continued to look at innovative product development opportunities, in particular in the Over 50’s Life Insurance market. We also launched our first Ethical fund into our overall fund range.

Scottish Friendly understands that in order to keep moving forward we must continually look at ways to further improve the products we develop and the service we offer to our customers. With the rising cost of living crisis set to be with us for some time, it is more important than ever that we differentiate ourselves from other financial services providers.

Through innovation, efficient customer services and responsible capital management, Scottish Friendly is well placed to achieve our objective to provide long-term sustainable growth in value for our members.

Our ongoing investment in innovative products, technology and customer service gives us the confidence that we will continue to add value to existing and future members.

Organic Growth

With the continued uncertainty from the ongoing pandemic, 2021 was a year, for many of us where, being able to put money away for a rainy day seemed more important than it ever had been.  Being active in reaching our customers through media, largely consumed from within the home – finding us on the radio, in the press, social media, in your parcel delivery boxes and mail delivered into your home, app or inbox – we had a record-breaking year of helping customers to invest for better days.

Scottish Friendly’s e-business and direct marketing activity delivered strong sales growth despite the continued economic uncertainty, with a quarter of the business coming from our mobile app, as we move ever closer to becoming an app-first financial services provider.

Paper-based marketing activity again reduced again this year, helping to lower our carbon footprint.  Continuing to invest more in digital marketing, developing our website and the mobile app experience for our customers means that we will keep moving forward to deliver the best experience for our customers, as we move into 2022 and the challenges it may bring.

Partnership business process outsourcing

Our distribution strategy is diverse by design, as an insurer we recognise that it is important not to put all our eggs in one basket. This continues to prove beneficial to our members, particularly during the ongoing turbulent market conditions of 2021.

While some partners continued found the new environment challenging and uncertain, Scottish Friendly continued to support them through this difficult period. Additionally Scottish Friendly continued to strengthen our relationships with Beagle Street and Guardian Financial Services.

Our sustained investments in Whole of Life product design and innovative ways of finding distribution has begun to bear fruit.  Importantly we are ready to launch a series of new over 50’s plans with a radical bottom-up redesign. This new approach will solve some of the major issues with traditional products available in the market. As ever our aim is to provide customers with a fairer and better deal via product innovation and distribution. The plans will be sold through the Scottish Friendly brand and with our funeral partners as they move towards regulation in 2022.

Our diverse and innovative approach, contributed strongly to the Group’s overall results in 2021. We are confident our investment in innovative products, technology and customer service will continue to add value to our members and growling list of distribution and product partners.

Mergers and consolidation

Scottish Friendly has a long and proven track record of acquiring and administering large books of insurance business, including a significant book of UK life and pensions business from Canada Life in 2019. Mergers and acquisitions remains a key part of our strategy and we will continue to look for appropriate mergers and acquisition opportunities in the future.

Corporate social responsibility

The Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour, supported by Scottish Friendly and organised by Scottish Book Trust, continued to deliver a full programme of virtual activity, live streaming engaging and educational content into classrooms and living rooms across the UK throughout 2021.

Working with some of the UK’s most popular authors and illustrators, the production of fun and exciting video content has been viewed over 100,000 times through social media and a purpose built on demand library hub.

While visiting children in person will remain an integral part of the tour when safe to do so, a virtual element will remain front and centre. This will ensure the tour reaches as many children as possible in our efforts to help improve literacy among young people.

Scottish Friendly also continued its relationship with Action for Children, providing much needed support during a cost of living crisis that is impacting so many vulnerable families throughout Scotland. In December, Scottish Friendly pledged to donate £10 to the children’s charity for every ‘My Adult ISA’ or ‘My Junior ISA’ policy opened by a customer, or who added a new policy. In total, £23,500 was raised and will be distributed by Action for Children to some of the most vulnerable children, young adults and their families across Scotland.

Alzheimer Scotland was chosen as a charity to support by Scottish Friendly colleagues in 2021, with fundraising activities including a Memory Walk and Wear Your Pyjamas to work day. A charity committee will develop a programme of activity for colleagues throughout 2022.

Corporate recognition

During the course of 2021 Scottish Friendly’s achievements were once again recognised with a number of prestigious industry awards accolades. These included Best UK Mutual Insurer at the Capital Finance International Awards and Best Junior ISA Provider at the Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts awards, both of which were won for the third consecutive year. In addition, Scottish Friendly won Best Junior ISA Provider UK and Most Innovative Mutual Insurer UK at the Global Brands Magazine awards, and were highly commended for best financial protection provider at the What Mortgage awards. These awards reaffirm the trust and support we continue to earn from our customers, the financial services industry and the wider business community. These awards are achieved due to the unwavering motivation, drive and commitment shown by our colleagues through these continually challenging times. Therefore, on behalf of myself and the rest of the Board and Executive, we dedicate these awards to our colleagues.

Scottish Friendly’s UK media profile continued to increase significantly in 2021, with a 100% increase in the volume of press coverage across national, trade, regional and online media outlets, in addition to targeted exposure across social media channels. This was achieved through a tailored programme of press activity, including corporate news targeting business pages, consumer thought leadership research in the nationals, and regular commentary on industry topics affecting everyday lives, including inflation, interest rates and the general rising cost of living crisis.

Investment Strategy

Scottish Friendly aims to invest its funds in a responsible manner. An approved ESG Policy for investments is monitored by the Investment Committee. In 2021, we have continued to develop capabilities in this area. We are also working with investment managers and this is something that we will continue to do going forward.

The Investment Strategy is set based on due consideration of the long-term interests and expectations of the different groups of policyholders and sub-funds, within the context of the solvency position and risk appetite of Scottish Friendly. The performance of the strategy is reviewed regularly, with changes made, where appropriate, to reflect changes in the business or market environment.

Outlook

Although Covid-19 continues to dominate the headlines, we’re now entering a new level of uncertainty as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic. With a rising cost of living crisis affecting many UK households and early indicators suggesting negative economic effects already surfacing, we are under no illusion that difficult times lie ahead. One certainty during this period is that Scottish Friendly will continue to look after the wellbeing of our colleagues and to provide the very best level of service to our existing and new members.

Despite this level of uncertainty, we continue to remain well capitalised, with financial results yet again demonstrating our agility, drive and determination to successfully navigate through difficult times. Scottish Friendly takes strength from its mutual status. We have experienced many economic cycles over our 160 year history and have a proven track record of being flexible and agile, always taking the long-term view which has served us well, enabling us to protect value during short term turbulence while planning measures to enhance our asset base in the future.

We fully recognise the challenges that lie ahead and our priority remains on the health and safety of our colleagues who have shown steadfast commitment during these times. The future may remain uncertain, however we are confident in our ability to steer through the struggles that lie ahead.

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