Scottish Friendly posts strong results despite turbulent year
Scottish Friendly, Scotland’s largest financial mutual, has announced that sales of its investment ISAs reached a record high in 2020 despite it being one of the most turbulent years in the company’s 160-year history.
Own-brand sales rose by 13% to £15.7 million in the year to 31 December 2020. A fifth of Scottish Friendly’s branded sales were generated via mobile channels thanks to increased targeting last year.
Overall, total sales rose year-on-year from £37.8m APE to £42m, which is the second highest in the company’s history.
However, the mutual has said that this year’s results have been overshadowed by the recent passing of Scottish Friendly’s chief executive Jim Galbraith.
Jim joined the company in 1988 and gave the best part of his career to strengthening, guiding and driving Scottish Friendly forward. Appointed as a director in 2006 he was made deputy chief executive in 2009 and took over leadership of the business from Fiona McBain in 2017.
During his tenure, Jim assembled a highly experienced senior team including finance director, Martin Pringle, who has been appointed by the board as acting CEO.
Mr Pringle takes over the reins as Scottish Friendly’s membership reaches an all-time high. It increased from 712,000 in 2019 to 745,000 in 2020 and it means the business now administers more than one million policies.
Meanwhile, Scottish Friendly’s assets under management remained stable during 2020 at £5.3 billion, reflecting market movements and some anticipated run-off of the acquired Canada Life business.
Over the past 12 months, the pandemic has led Scottish Friendly to increase the focus on staff health and well-being.
The business has created an entirely new HR function and launched several new initiatives, including HR drop-in sessions and online fitness classes, all designed to help support the continued wellbeing of our colleagues.
It has also invested heavily in technology and infrastructure to make it as easy as possible for staff to work remotely, with all colleagues now using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) from home.
Martin Pringle, Scottish Friendly’s acting chief executive, said: “Since Jim’s passing, it has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved with Scottish Friendly.
“We will now focus on building on the legacy he left behind and carrying forward the financial mutual ethos he proudly promoted. I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by very talented colleagues and a highly experienced senior team.
“The business has shown great resilience over the past year to manage the shock of a global pandemic and still continue to grow and innovate.
“We responded quickly to events of early 2020 to help set staff up at home and ensure we were able to continue to serve the needs of our members.”
He added: “In spite of all the personal and business challenges we’ve faced, we have achieved the second best set of results in our 160 year history. We can look forward with hope and optimism for another successful year in 2021.
“Although Jim is no longer with us, we are all determined and highly motivated to repay the faith he placed in all of us, by delivering the best possible value and service to all our current and future members.”
Neil Lovatt, commercial director, Scottish Friendly, commented: “On a personal and professional level we continue to mourn the loss of Jim. He was an inspiring and passionate leader of Scottish Friendly.
“One of his many strengths was his kind and thoughtful nature. He cared deeply about the people he worked with and played a fundamental role in making sure that colleagues were supported through the pandemic. The health and wellbeing of staff, members and the wider community has been our priority this year and will continue to be so.
“Jim’s vision and stewardship has been borne out completely in this latest set of stellar annual results. Our sales have continued to increase despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic and our branded ISA sales have hit a record high.
“Overall we now administer over one million policies and crucially, our membership has increased with more people placing their faith in us as an organisation to help them achieve their financial goals. A fitting tribute to Jim who dedicated his professional life to the promoting the values of Scottish Friendly as a mutual.”