NFU Mutual

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The National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited
TypeMutual
IndustryFinancial services
Founded1910
HeadquartersTiddington, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Key people
Group Chief Executive: Nick Turner[1]).
ProductsLife, general, pensions and investments
Number of employees
3884 (2018)
Websitewww.nfumutual.co.uk

The National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited, trading as NFU Mutual, is a UK registered mutual insurance composite. It underwrites more than £1.5 billion (2018) in annual premium in life and general insurance lines for rural communities within the UK. NFU Mutual is based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. NFU Mutual is owned by its policyholders.

History[edit]

NFU Mutual was formed in 1910 by seven farmers in the Stratford-upon-Avon area as the Midlands Farmers Mutual Insurance Society Ltd, and in 1919 won a bid to insure the National Farmers Union of England and Wales, which had been established in 1908.[2]

In recent years, under the leadership of Lindsay Sinclair, the company has moved away from its rural base and moved to centralise the business - a move which has reputedly been met with some dissatisfaction among its networks of agents.[3]

A subsidiary, Avon Insurance, was established in 1925 to provide insurance to non-farming customers,[4] and later specialised in personal accident insurance. Avon closed to new business in 2013.[5]

In 2013 NFU Mutual cut 150 jobs.[6] In 2015 it cut a further 85 jobs and closed two call centres[7]

Nature of business[edit]

NFU Mutual has assets of more than £18 billion.[citation needed]

In 2019 NFU Mutual posted a loss exceeding a quarter of a billion pounds.[8][9][10][11]

Originally providing insurance only for members of the National Farmers Union, the mutual diversified outside the farming industry during the 1980s, such that now over half of the policies by number now originate outside the farming community.[citation needed]

NFU Mutual Direct was set up in 1996 to provide telephone and internet call centre services.

NFU Mutual sells policies predominantly through a network of agents, located mainly in rural areas. At the end of 2018, NFU Mutual had over 3,800 employees, and 654 agents working out of 310 offices.[12] This network has a close relationship with the National Farmers Union (NFU); many of the agents double as local union representatives. Many agents are self-employed; all are tied to NFU Mutual products.

In 2013 anti-badger culling activists stated they had hacked the company, which the business denied.[13] Later that year, the NFU was placed at the bottom of a table of value producted by the ABI for pensions annuities, with only Scottish Widows providing a poorer product,[14] The insurer had a customer retention rate, in 2018, of 95.5%.[12]

In 2017 the company funded the development of a retail park in the Leeds area.[15]

NFU Mutual were rated by consumer group Which? as 'Insurance Provider of the Year' in 2018 and have been a Which? Recommended Provider for home and car insurance since they started awarding these in 2010.[16]

Headquarters[edit]

The head offices are at Tiddington. The 1984 building was designed by David Lloyd Jones for RMJM. Faced in Bath stone, it was one of the first to be designed around environmental sustainability.[17]

Mutual bonus[edit]

As the NFU Mutual does not have shareholders, a large proportion of its profits are returned to customers in the form of a discount off the premiums of renewing customers. Member currently receive a discount of between 12.5% and 17.5% (2018/2019) depending on how long they have been a member.

Personnel[edit]

There are currently 12 people on the board of directors, notably.[18] Ian Geden, a former Chief Executive, was at NFU Mutual for more than 40 years.[citation needed]

Gender pay gap[edit]

In 2020 there was a gender pay gap of 53.7% lower pay for bonuses to female staff, and women's pay in the top quartile was 10.2% lower.[19] In 2018, the Treasury Select Committee chairwoman Nicky Morgan wrote to NFU Mutual about its non-engagement with the Women in Finance Charter[20]

Controversies[edit]

Business ethics[edit]

In November 2020, following criticism in the press and campaigning,[21][22] the ethics of the company's conduct in deducting Coivid-19 support grants from its contractually obligated payments triggered by Covid-19 were called in to question in debate in the House of Commons between Ben Lake MP and John Glen MP as HM Treasury minister, with the minister stating:

I am aware that NFU Mutual has continued to make such deductions. As stated in my letter, these grants are intended to provide emergency support to businesses at this time of crisis, and it is the Government's firm expectation that they are not to be deducted from business interruption insurance claims.... The FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] has also made it clear that it may intervene and take further actions where firms do not appear to be meeting the FCA's expectations and treating their customers fairly"[23]

Executive pay[edit]

The pay of senior executives out of mutual funds has attracted criticism, most recently concerns were renewed in 2018 and 2019.[11][3]

Climate change[edit]

In 2020, Ethical Consumer returned a "worst" verdict on NFU Mutual in a study examining it against environmental and carbon assessment criteria, including commitments to fossil-free investing, having targets in line with international climate agreements and visible public policies that report on emissions from investments, and further criticized them for "just talking about the climate impact of their offices" rather than the far more significant impact of their investments.[24]

Employee fraud[edit]

In 2011, an employee of NFU Mutual insurance, Gordon Murray, was jailed for a £400,000 fraud.[25][26] In 2018, Iain Wishlade, an NFU Mutual employee was also jailed for fraud.[27][28]

Discrimination[edit]

In 2018, adverse comments about policies of discrimination against some customers were made.[29]

Customers wrongly pursued[edit]

In 2016 NFU Mutual sought to force 56 year old Miss Govina to pay a £128,000 bill for damage to a cottage from a water burst, even though she was covered by an insurance policy. The NFU Mutual lost this case in court and was also ordered by Mr Justice Holgate to pay a £100,000 legal costs bill on top of the costs of the damage.[30]

In 2019, errors by NFU Mutual, in failing to properly record insurance a customer had taken out, resulted in a customer having a £200,000 car seized and their customer facing criminal charges.[31]

Demutualisation[edit]

Around the year 2000, a number of attempts were made to privatise the NFU Mutual.[32][33]

Former NFU Mutual director John Murray[34] initially approached the five venture capitalists in the hope of launching a bid. One of the reasons this was advanced the opinion that the company was "eroding its value by selling insurance to non-farming customers at knockdown rates"; at the time, windfalls for members of between £20,000 and £25,000 were anticipated.[35]

Commenting to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee[36] on the possibility of demutualisation, Andrew Young, the then Managing Director said:

In our view, members of a mutual should... decide how the business is run, and if they are not satisfied they should get rid of the Board and the management rather than demutualise... current governance mechanisms give ample opportunity to do that.

Court Cases[edit]

NFU Mutual v HSBC[edit]

In 2010, the NFU Mutual brought an action in the High Court, making a claim against HSBC. In the case, (The National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited v HSBC Insurance (UK) Limited [2010] EWHC 773 (Comm)) the NFU Mutual had sought to require HSBC to pay a contribution to the >£1.8 costs of fire damage to a property that NFU Mutual was insuring for a purchaser after the exchange of contracts. The NFU Mutual lost the case.[37]

Smith v NFU Mutual[edit]

In Smith (Leah) v National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited and Robinsons Services Limited [2019] NIQB 37, the company sought to deny liability for an accident sustained in the course of an employee's attendance at work, but the court found against the company.[38]

References[edit]

  • Victor Head; A Triumph of Hope, The Story of the National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited; The National Farmers Union; 1985
  1. ^ "NFU Mutual announces retirement of group chief executive Lindsay Sinclair".
  2. ^ "About us". NFU Mutual Careers. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Bennett2011-08-31T00:00:00+01:00, Ellen. "IT Investigates: NFU Mutual reaps a bad harvest". Insurance Times. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  4. ^ "About Avon Insurance". Avon Insurance. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Avon Insurance plc: Annual Report 2018". Companies House. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  6. ^ Newsdesk2013-02-07T07:35:00+00:00. "NFU Mutual to make 150 job cuts". Insurance Times. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  7. ^ Newsdesk2015-10-08T15:19:00+01:00. "NFU Mutual to cut 85 jobs and close two service centres". Insurance Times. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  8. ^ "NFU Mutual reports £290m loss in 2018". www.farminguk.com. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  9. ^ Gangcuangco, Terry. "NFU Mutual suffers £290 million financial loss". www.insurancebusinessmag.com. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  10. ^ "NFU Mutual posts £290m loss". Farmers Weekly. 25 March 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Mutual defends top man's £2m pay". The Scottish Farmer. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Report and Accounts 2018" (PDF). NFU Mutual. pp. 1, 7, 32, 76. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Anti-badger cull protesters claim NFU Mutual hacking attack". www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Pensions: the good, bad and ugly". The Guardian. 24 August 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  15. ^ "St James Securities and National Farmers Union Mutual agree funding for Sheffield Retail Park". Yorkshire. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Which? Awards 2018: winners revealed". Which?. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  17. ^ Historic England. "National Farmers Union Mutual and Avon Insurance Group Headquarters". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  18. ^ "NFU Mutual Executive Team". Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  19. ^ NFU Mutual. Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  20. ^ https://www.irvinetimes.com/news/national-news/15994604.banks-given-friday-detail-commitments-women-finance-charter/
  21. ^ "NFU Mutual slammed by campaigners over business interruption claims". NS Insurance. 17 July 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  22. ^ Brennan, Harry (21 July 2020). "Small firms accuse insurers of holding out on payouts for lost profits and 'taking from taxpayers'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  23. ^ "NFU Mutual: Coronavirus". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  24. ^ "Insurance industry 'in denial' over its impact on climate change, study claims". The Independent. 24 November 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  25. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-14120503
  26. ^ https://www.postonline.co.uk/claims/2095428/nfu-fraud-manager-jailed-for-ps410-000-scam
  27. ^ https://www.insurancetimes.co.uk/news/fraudster-who-stole-129000-from-three-insurance-firms-he-worked-for-is-jailed/1428057.article
  28. ^ https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/burton/man-accused-defrauding-three-burton-1655487
  29. ^ https://pressgazette.co.uk/daily-mail-features-writer-denied-home-insurance-for-being-a-newspaper-journalist/
  30. ^ 2016-02-08T06:30:00+00:00. "Judge rules tenants are covered by landlord's policy in NFU legal defeat". Insurance Times. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  31. ^ "Cops sorry for seizing £200,000 Ferrari". The Mail. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  32. ^ "NFU Mutual faces £3bn bid". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  33. ^ "Overcapitalised NFU Mutual to face takeover?". Farmers Weekly. 7 September 2001. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  34. ^ "NFU Mutual responds to speculation that independence is under threat Life insurer underlines commitment to mutuality". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  35. ^ Amanda Swinburn 2001-12-06T00:00:00+00:00. "Investors force NFU to listing". Insurance Times. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  36. ^ "House of Commons - Treasury - Minutes of Evidence". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  37. ^ "NFU v HSBC". Pinsent Masons. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  38. ^ "[2019] NIQB 37". Judiciary NI. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2021.

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