NFU Mutual

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited
IndustryFinancial services
FounderSeven farmers in the West Midlands
HeadquartersTiddington, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Number of locations
295 [1]
Area served
UK and Channel Islands
Key people
Nick Turner: group chief executive officer.[2]
Jim McLaren: chairman.[3]
/Jim Creechan: Group Head of Legal and company secretary.[4]
Richard Morley: regulatory compliance and financial director .[5]
ProductsLife, general, pensions and investments
Number of employees
3884 (2018)

NFU Mutual (NFUM) is a UK insurance composite. As a mutual, it has no shareholders to generate profits for, with policyholders instead owning the business. The full name of the organisation is National Farmers' Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited.

The business is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, with complaints oversight available via the Financial Ombudsman Service. NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NFU Mutual, is not regulated.

The head offices are at Tiddington. The 1984 building was designed by David Lloyd Jones for RMJM.[6] It was one of the first to be designed around environmental sustainability.[6]


The Midlands Farmers' Mutual Insurance Society Ltd was formed in 1910 by seven farmers in Warwickshire. John William Lowe was the first Chair, James Robertson Black was the first secretary, and his farmhouse was the first office. In 1912, he became the inaugural Managing Director. He served the society for 42 years, becoming vice-Chair in 1946 and holding the post until his death in 1952.[7] The first accounts (1911) show income of £311 and profit of £16. By 1919, premiums had grown to £4,345 and profit to £1,825.[7]

As early as 1912, the farmers' union in Lincolnshire had approached the directors for advice about forming a mutual insurance company. They were advised to join the mutual in the Midlands that was already in existence.

In 1919, the society became the official insurer of the National Farmers' Union (itself established in 1908) and changed its name to the one it bears now. Ralph Chisholm, joined the staff during this period and went on to become the first CEO.

The First World War saw a rapid increase in the amount of land in cultivation, which lead to a 50 per cent increase in income for NFU Mutual.[7]

In 1920, offices were established in Stratford-upon-Avon. One of the first directors was Sir Basil Brooke.[7] He went on to be Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

In 1928, NFU Mutual successfully applied to the High Court to set up a life assurance business. In its first full year, the insurer wrote more than £100,000 of sums assured. It also set up its final-salary pension scheme for the benefit of its employees. By 1930, income from premiums had risen to just under £316,000 and the Mutual had eight branches.[7]

Mortgage loans from the business to directors of the company had been provided in the 1920s. These loans were immediately repaid once revealed.

NFU Mutual also held balls between 1930 and 1970.[7]

In its early days, NFU Mutual employed Sidney Carter to run a film unit. Anyone attending his film shows would be educated by current affairs films and entertained by dramas and documentaries about how they could be covered by NFU Mutual insurance.

By 1940/41, over 100,000 farmers held policies with NFU Mutual and premium income reached £1million with assets at £2 million.[7]

In 1933, taxation was introduced to cover the trading results of mutuals. This was reversed in 1944 when a tax case went to the House of Lords and the intention of the statute was defeated. The Finance Act of 1964 sought to reverse this defeat, and Edmund Chaumeton, the company secretary, led efforts to oppose regularising mutual tax affairs, a task that "every year successive governments [have been] expected to put it back in place".[7]

During World War Two, a Mutual employee named Arthur Scarf was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Scarf came from a Lincolnshire farming family and worked for the Mutual's claims department between the wars.[7]

In the 1960s, NFU Mutual's assets reached £50m, but there was a significant outbreak of foot and mouth disease on UK farmers in 1967. The insurer had first offered insurance against this disease in 1949 but the devastation was so severe that in November 1967 it decided to stop taking new business. Support from reinsurers enabled the society to offer renewals to businesses who already had cover.[7]

In the 1990s, Managing Director Andrew Young made some significant changes to the Mutual's operations, and the Group focused on the need to grow beyond farming to bring economies of scale.

In July 1998 the Board put before the members proposals to change the Articles in order to bring in unrestricted access to all of the Mutual's products. This gave the Mutual freedom to insure anyone, irrespective of profession or occupation. To reassure its core farming customers that the change would not have an adverse impact, a product called Mutual Advantage was set up, exclusive to NFU Members and provided extra discounts and cover for farming customers.[7]

In 2000, Group Premium Income passed the £1 billion mark and the company introduced Mutual Bonus, which returned £94million to policyholders.

The same year saw attempts made to create shareholder ownership and accountability to the NFU Mutual.

Former NFU Mutual director John Murray[8] initially approached five venture capitalists in the hope of launching a bid. Windfalls for members were anticipated.[9] Commenting to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee[10] 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

In 2002, Andrew Young retired and was succeeded by Ian Geden, who came from a farming family near Stratford-upon-Avon and had joined the Mutual as a professional trainee in 1969. He became Group Chief Executive in 2005 when that post was created. During his term, the general insurance premium income grew from £603m to £944m.[7]

In 2007, a series of floods brought more than 13,000 claims costing close to £100m, making it the most expensive weather event in the Mutual's history.[7]

In 2008, Lindsay Sinclair became Chief Executive (the first such appointment from outside NFUM). He was Group Executive for more than 12 years, before retiring in March 2021.

In 2013, NFU Mutual cut 150 jobs. In the same year, Bit Back, a forum for Animal Liberation Front activists said they had hacked the company's records. NFU Mutual said there was no sign customer records has been tampered with. A further 85 jobs were cut in 2015 when NFU Mutual closed two call centres.[11]

In 2015, NFU Mutual asked the Prudential Regulation Authority to make an exception and reduce the scale of reserves required for it under Solvency II Regulations. This reduced solvency obligation is still in place for NFU Mutual.[12] This concerns the amount of capital that insurance companies must hold to reduce the risk of insolvency.

A swimming pool for the staff at head office was closed and filled in in 2016, creating space for additional meeting rooms.[13]

In March 2021, Nick Turner took over as the current NFU Mutual's Chief Executive.[14]

NFU Mutual was among those who lost shares of £58million connected with the collapse of Made.Com, reported in August 2022 in The Times [1]

NFU Mutual was named Which? 'Insurance Brand of the Year' for 2022'.[15]

The drought that summer also saw a huge growth in farm and combine harvester fires, reported for claims and settlement [16] - such fires cost the Mutual around £100 million in the previous when incidents were lower.[17] The number of fires was subsequently revised upwards to over 800.[18] That year the Annual report stated:

[A]Principal Risk and Uncertainty, Strategic [is that] NFU Mutual’s customer base changes substantially beyond expectations Unexpected changes to NFU Mutual’s current or target customer base which impact on insurable risks, including changes to the farming industry or other significant target trade sectors, customer demographic or behavioural changes.[19]

NFU Mutual has also announced large payouts relating to storm damage, saying it dealt with over 20,000 claims at a cost of over £170 million following Storm Arwen and Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin.[20]

Following the invasion of Ukraine, NFU Mutual revealed it would divest from Russian holdings as soon as practically possible. The business represented it had limited exposure to Russian assets, and stated that therefore the impact on customers and portfolio performance would be limited.[21]


Senior leadership team[edit]

The board (as of November 2022) consisted of the following people: Jim McLaren MBE (chair), Nick Turner (CEO), Richard Morley (Finance Director []) Steve Bower (Customer Services Director), Nick Watson (Sales & Agency Director) -- the non-executive directors are John Deane, Brian Duffin OBE, Ali Capper, Christine Kennedy OBE Jon Bailie, David Roper; these individuals "are responsible for the overall direction of the Company and setting the Company’s values and standards".[22] Beyond this the executive team has these additional people: Gina Fusco (Strategy & Marketing Director), Trisha Jones (HR Director), Tim Mann (IT Director), Iain Baker (Risk Director).[23] The NFUM’s current Group Head of Legal and Company Secretary is Jim Creechan,[24] he succeed Bill Cooper in 2002, who died in 2022.[25]

NFUM's Amanda Mason chairs the Association of British Insurers's influential conduct regulation committee, and the NFUM have just recruited the ABI's Head of Conduct Regulation to go and work for them.[26]

Executive pay[edit]

According to NFU Mutual's Annual Report and Accounts 2021, Nick Turner, who became Chief Executive of the insurer that year, was paid over £1.04 million by the business in 2021, including bonuses. The former CEO, Lindsay Sinclair, took £879,444 from the business in 2021.[27]

Group Chief Executive Lindsay Sinclair who retired at the end of March 2021 after more than 12 years in the role.

Sinclair's drawings were over £2.2 million annually before he left,[27] a matter about which concerns were raised in 2019.[28][29] Customer Services Director Steve Bower was paid a total of over £662,000, and Finance Director Richard Morley took home more that £738,000.[30]

Long Term Incentive Plan (LTIP)[edit]

An Long Term Incentive Plan grant is made each year with performance conditions covering a three year period. Under the rules of the plan the maximum grant for the CEO is an additional 150% of base pay, and 108% for executive directors.[31]

Director fees[edit]

NFUM does not prescribe a cap on fees or operate a standard percentage increase, and non-executive directors typically took in excess of £70,000 a year in remuneration in 2021.[30] Of the more senior executives and directors, the chairman, Jim McLaren, took over £200,000 in remuneration, in 2021.[27] Non-Executive Directors no longer accrue pension benefits with NFU Mutual, but some former Non-Executive Directors (or their widows) are still receiving a pension, on an ex gratia, non-contractual and unfunded basis. The total cost of these pensions for 14 former Directors or widows in 2021 was £211,437.91 (2020: £218,841).


There are around 900,000 members of the NFU Mutual.[32] As NFU Mutual has no shareholders, it represents that a proportion of its profits, if any, are returned to policyholder members in the form of an adjustment on quoted premiums of renewing customers. A claimed discount of between 8.5% and 13.5% (2022/2023) is currently asserted by NFU Mutual (without any external adjudication), which the business brands "Mutual Bonus".[33]

Membership is conferred automatically on holding a policy, but under the Articles of Association the Designated Officer, or the board, may deny membership to any individual for "any reason", thereby expelling them from the governance of the business.[34]

Annual General Meeting[edit]

Under NFU Mutual's articles of association,[35] each policy generates a distinct right to speak and vote at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), scrutinise the accounts, and hold the management to account, as well as an ownership right in the business.[36]

The AGM is generally held at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire and is open to all policyholder members.[37]


NFU Mutual reported complaints in the first half of 2022. This accounted for 2.75 per 1000 insurance policies, 0.85 per 1000 life and pension policies, and 0.69 per investment policies.[38]

Climate change[edit]

In 2020, Ethical Consumer criticised NFU Mutual for "just talking about the climate impact of their offices" rather than the far more significant impact of their investments. NFU Mutual responded saying: "We avoid areas we consider harmful such as predatory lenders, certain munitions, and climate-unfriendly companies with no plans to help decarbonisation."[39] Two years later the company announced a carbon reduction strategy relating to its own operations and the impact of its investments.[40]

Insurance frauds[edit]

There have been periodic frauds on the NFUM by its policyholder members and third parties[41][42] The most serious of these saw the perpetrator jailed for 20 years following the arrangement of an explosion which injured 81 people.[43]

In 2022, a man who orchestrated an unsuccessful 'crash for cash' scam against an NFU Mutual policyholder was subsequently convicted for Contempt of Court for lying about the incident, after NFU Mutual challenged his account.[44] Another case saw a factory worker fake a life-changing injury in order to win a six-figure payout from an NFU Mutual insured company.[45]

David Phillips, Claims Validation Technical Manager at NFU Mutual, is currently Chair of the cross-industry General Insurance Fraud Committee.[46] In 2022 NFUM won several industry fraud awards.[47]

Affiliates and agents[edit]


NFU Mutual sells policies predominantly through a network of agents. Agents were traditionally Group Secretaries of the NFU. The Union, as employer, paid them a salary and the Mutual paid them commission.[7] At the end of 2018, NFU Mutual had over 3,800 employees, and 654 agents working out of 310 offices.[48]

Farming unions[edit]

NFU Mutual has made financial contributions to UK farming unions during that time. For example, in 2021, the insurer donated >£7m to the UK's farming unions.[49]

NFU Mutual is the official insurer of the main farming unions of the UK, with these associations beginning as follows: National Farmers' Union of England and Wales (1919);[7] NFU Scotland (1922); Ulster Farmers' Union (1930); Manx NFU (1947); Scottish Crofting Federation (1986). In 1922, NFUM became the insurer to NFU of Scotland; the Ulster Farmers' Union followed in 1930.


NFU Mutual offers personal insurance products such as home, private motor, pet and travel. They also offer agricultural and commercial insurance to business customers of various sizes.[50] In 1928, NFU Mutual set up a final-salary pension scheme for employees and establish a life assurance business, which wrote more than £100,000 of sums assured in year one.[7]

Diverse life insurance products including term assurance are offered to the market by NFU Mutual working with AIG.[51]

The business offers various investment and pension products and sells financial advice.[52]

Financial performance[edit]

The business currently underwrites around £1.825billion in annual general insurance premiums for UK policyholders.[53] At the end of 2021, its total funds under management were £22.2bn.

An underwriting loss of £89m was made inn 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available though the Group achieved an overall profit of £182m.[54][27]

The business reported losses of £143m for 2020 and an underwriting profit of £109m.[55] In 2019, the Group made profits of £573m and reported an underwriting profit of £167m.[56]

Losses of £290m (with an underwriting profit of £142m) occurred in 2018.[57][58][59][28] That year, Nick Turner's "new business engine" also had to downgrade targets by £7million pounds."[60]

In 2013, the NFU was placed in a table produced by the Association of British Insurers for pensions annuities.[61]

In 2018, customer retention on renewal had stood at of 95.5%,[62] but in 2022 it stood at to 82.6% in respect of motor customers.[63]

The British Motor Museum: this venue is regularly used for Annual General Meetings where all policy holders can hold the directors and executives accountable for the conduct of the NFU Mutual's business by speaking and voting

Subsidiaries and acquisitions[edit]

A subsidiary, Avon Insurance, was established in 1925 to provide insurance to non-farming customers,[64] and later specialised in personal accident insurance. Avon closed to new business in 2013.[65] The establishment of this enterprise was opposed by NFU hierarchy and the NFUM directors were required to agree that they would "consult on such matters in future".[7]

In 1929, NFUM bought another farming insurance company, Northern Farmers. In 1930, it bought a printing business, Edward Fox & Son.[7]

Between 1948 and 1974, NFUM had operations alongside unions in Central and East Africa, including what was then known as Rhodesia and Kenya. Operations in Kenya ceased in 1964 and Rhodesia in 1974.

NFU Mutual acquired the Islands Insurance Group in 1987, providing access to NFU Mutual products for customers in the Channel Islands.[66]

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd is a health and safety company set up in 1997 that work with a variety of sectors including farming and manufacturing.[67] NFU members receive a discount on some Risk Management Services through Union Advantage.[68]

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

NFU Mutual supporting neighbourhood watch with signage

Charitable activities[edit]

NFU Mutual Charitable Trust[edit]

NFU Mutual set up a Charitable Trust in 1998 to deal with need concerned with 'agriculture, rural development and insurance.'[69]

In 2022 it pledged to donate £1m to 'national and regional charities' as part of NFU Mutual's overall donation of £3.25m to charity.[70] In 2022 it donated £30,000 to help the NFU support and expand its education projects.[71]

In the past 24 years the independent charity has distributed funds averaging around £250,000 per year.[72]

In 2022 the NFUM Charitable Trust pledged £150,000 to Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine Appeal.[73]

Farm Safety Foundation[edit]

In 2014, NFUM set up the Farm Safety Foundation, an independent charity to help young farmers challenge their behaviours and change their attitude to farm safety.[74]

The Foundation aims is to have zero avoidable deaths on farms and run an annual Mind Your Head campaign concerning mental health issues.[75]

Agency Giving Fund[edit]

In 2020, NFU Mutual set up a fund for its agency offices to use in order to distribute money to charities in their local communities. A total of £1m was distributed in the first year.[76]

In 2021, the Agency Giving Fund distributed £2m to charities and in 2022 it has distributed £1.92m.[76]

Property dealing and development[edit]

In 2021, NFU Mutual bought a unit near Milnrow for £27 million,[77] it also committed to spending £100 million on 6 sheds near Clowes.[78]

Also in 2021, NFU Mutual's plans to develop a giant warehouse 14 metres from one residential property in Witney, with trucks coming and going at all times of night were branded "completely unacceptable" by residents and attracted over 190 objections.[79][80] Nevertheless, in April 2022 NFU Mutual's management allocated in excess of a further £20 million of members' funds to this speculative investment with its commercial partner Tungsten.[81][82]

In March 2022 plans were announced to build a speculative £34 million shed in Staffordshire.[83] Work has since began on the shed.[84]

In April 2022, a shed was traded with Valor for £50 million.[85]

In July 2022, NFU Mutual withdrew from a number of the shed schemes selling eight of them to American-based investment firm Barings LLC for £234m. Commenting on the transaction, Bearing said they had picked up the property following a "pricing shift in the sector, [in a deal that represented a] short-term relative value opportunity" for them.[86]

In October 2022, along with partners Apache, Harrison Street, NFUM obtained a loan of £70 million from Deutsche Bank to finance a £150 million build-to-rent development in Liverpool.[87] A 325 rental-home unit neighbourhood in Liverpool was funded with NFUM capital and loans and opened in late 2022.[88]

The architect-designed NFU Mutual head office building

Research and reports[edit]

Each year, NFU Mutual issues a Rural Crime report based on its claims data.[89]

In October 2022 the business released research indicating their customers had "put a hold on their [investment] plans while... assessing uncertainty overshadowing" them.[90]

Since 2016 NFU Mutual has produced an annual responsible business report to highlight support of its communities and members. [91]

Sky News recently reported on the impact of livestock worrying to include NFU Mutual figures and research stating that the cost of dog attacks on livestock cost £1.8m last year, up from £1.3m in 2020.[92]

Notable people[edit]

Sir Basil Brooke, early director of the NFU Mutual was an early Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

During World War II, Arthur Scarf, an employee was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.[7] A former First World War pilot, George Lindsay, was NFU Mutual General Manager between 1944 and 1955.[7]

Lord Curry of Kirkharle, a former chairman
Lord Curry of Kirkharle, a former chairman

A former chairman of NFUM is Lord Curry of Kirkharle.[7]

The York offices of NFU Mutual

Noteworthy court cases[edit]

In 2010, 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)) NFU Mutual had sought to require HSBC to pay a contribution to the more than £1.8 million costs of fire damage to a property that NFU Mutual was insuring for a purchaser after the exchange of contracts. NFU Mutual lost the case.[93]

In 2017, Preston-based law firm Barber & Co were ordered to pay costs to NFU Mutual after the firm represented a claimant in an injury case without instruction. Barber & Co lost the case and HHJ Peter Hughes referred the case onto the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Lancashire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for further action. The law firm claimed the case was the result of "two non-qualified fee earners creating false documentation."[94]

Business interruption and Covid-19[edit]

An NFU Mutual agency in Usk. One local office of over 295 nationally.

NFU Mutual was not involved in the Financial Conduct Authority test case on business interruption payments during Covid, but following the case published a response confirming that "our position is unchanged following the appeal in the Supreme Court - our three core non-damage business interruption policies to not respond to COVID-19 related losses."[95] The insurer said this meant it had no liability to meet claims for COVID-19 related business interruption. This has angered some NFU Mutual policyholders and led to the initiation of proceedings to challenge NFU Mutual's position.[96] One policyholder involved said early on: "They have quite happily taken the premiums for the last 15 years but the one time I need it I'm not going to get any help off them. It's disgusting that the insurance industry is allowed to do this".[97] In April 2020, an NFU Mutual customer questioned the insurer's position on business interruption in evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee.[98]

In 2022 (following the handing down of the UK Supreme Court decision in the FCA test case), plans to bring proceedings in a group action against NFU Mutual with Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP acting as solicitors were announced.[99][100] A lawyer involved said: "We expect this represents only a very small number of potentially hundreds of NFUM policyholders possibly affected".[101] [102]

In a Chartered Institute of Insurance podcast at the beginning of the pandemic in May 2020, a director of the NFU Mutual, Nick Turner (at the time sales and agency director, and subsequently CEO) stated that the company would "have to work to renew trust with certain customers", but that this would be "challenging".[103] Turner accepted that policyholders not receiving business interruption payments could impact their welfare and mental health in this same podcast,[103] a point reiterated in commentary by Jim McLaren, as chairman, in another podcast, who said: "And you mentioned mental health and it's a crucial area and one that's often overlooked other than by those who are suffering from real mental health challenges.  And again, the Mutual recognises that."[104]

In November 2020, the company's decision to deduct COVID-19 support grants from insurance payments made in relation COVID-19-caused disruption were called into question in debate in the House of Commons with John Glen MP 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

NFU Mutual policyholders invited to claim after Covid cover complaints upheld.[105]


  • Victor Head; A Triumph of Hope, The Story of the National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited; The National Farmers Union; 1985
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