Analysis of the strategic landscape for mutual insurers and friendly societies

AFM is working in partnership with Whitecap Consulting and key industry partners to conduct an analysis of the strategic landscape for financial mutual organisations in the UK, which will culminate in a report later this year, with the findings to be presented at the AFM annual conference in October.

The project is being conducted with support from industry sponsors including: Altus ConsultingCirencester Friendly Society, Fidelity InternationalHolloway FriendlyMillimanOddfellows (which includes Unity Mutual), PG MutualRussell Investments, and Royal London Asset Management.

The UK’s Financial Services landscape is a complex and dynamic marketplace, and this project seeks to analyse and understand the degree to which external market forces will materially impact organisations in the sector over the next 2-3 years. Specifically, the analysis focuses on how smaller mutual insurers, friendly societies and other financial mutuals can deliver relevance and differentiation, develop competitive and sustainable strategies, and achieve digital acceleration and technology enhancements to meet customer needs.

As part of the project, an online survey is being conducted to gather views from individuals and organisations that are active in the mutual financial sector or have an interest in it:


The outcomes of the project will help the AFM and its members to develop business strategies to respond to market forces, as well as supporting the AFM develop collective initiatives to support members.

Martin Shaw, CEO at the Association of Financial Mutuals:

Mutuals are customer-owned businesses and have made a virtue for decades of better understanding the needs of their customers. Whilst the financial services marketplace was already evolving prior to Covid, we’re starting to see significant shifts in customer needs and expectations now, and it is vital that our sector embraces those and explores how best to deliver outstanding products and services for decades to come. I’m delighted to be working with Whitecap, to help inform our sector on where we go to next.

Richard Coates, Managing Director of Whitecap Consulting:

The AFM represents a fascinating and diverse range of mutual organisations and friendly societies demonstrating a broad range of scale, products, distribution strategies and business models. We are delighted to be working with Martin and AFM members and supporters, analysing this sector and helping to develop practical commercial strategies.” 

Jim Leggate, Head of UK Institutional and Middle East, Russell Investments:

“We are delighted to support this initiative and contribute to the continued growth of a very important sector of the UK insurance industry. Since joining the AFM, we have been hugely impressed by the collaborative nature of the mutual sector as it seeks to meet the needs of its customers. We hope that members will find this research to be useful and insightful, and look forward to working alongside and supporting the sector for many years to come.”

The AFM is the trade body representing 43 mutual and not-for-profit insurers, friendly societies and other financial mutuals across the UK. Between them, mutual and not-for-profit insurers manage the savings, pensions, protection and healthcare needs of over 30 million people in the UK and Ireland, with annual premium income of £19.6 billion, and nearly 30,000 employees.

Whitecap has worked with numerous mutual and membership-based organisations over recent years, supporting the analysis, development and implementation of commercial strategies. In addition, Whitecap has completed a similar analysis of the Building Society sector and has also published market sector reports on topics including FinTech, Legal Tech, and Innovation ecosystems.

If you would like to take part in the research, please complete the online survey. If you are interested in supporting as a sponsorship partner, please contact

AFM Guide to the GDPR, October 2020

In 2018 AFM formed a working group to produce a guide to implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  The guide was well-received by members in preparing them for the step change in data protection regulation at the time. Two years on, the framework has continued to evolve, and the UK Government has added further legislation, both to support GDPR and in advance of the end of the Brexit transition period.  The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has also been active and supported industry in interpreting the standards.

Given the above, we have revised our Guide, to incorporate our understanding of expectations today, and to provide more insight into current good practice. The Guide can be downloaded here.

Why cooperatives and mutuals can help “build back better” post-Covid 

Diverse forms of ownership are necessary to help re-build after the Covid pandemic, says a new report. 

The Rebuilding Business for Society report–compiled by a group of co-operative and mutual trade associations–says they can play a leading role in reinvigorating communities, especially those left behind by economic or social change. 

Three key approaches outlined in the report include: 

  • Creating an enabling environment for forms of business ownership beyond shareholder owners
  • Providing an option for businesses that are seeking to recapitalise after the Covid pandemic to introduce employee or customer ownership, including repaying Government support out of future earnings
  • Supporting community-led economic development, particularly in the hardest-hit regions, to engage local people in incubating new forms of wealth creation which would support the Government’s ambitions to “level up” different regions.

For more, read the full report here.

Sustainability Policy

AFM is committed to promoting sustainability.

We strive to show respect for the environment and promote a broader sustainability agenda through our professional activities and interaction with members. Towards the end of 2019, we issued climate change guidance for members and introduced our online Sustainable Mutual Insurance Forum where members can highlight and discuss developments in the sustainability agenda.

We also aim to follow good sustainability practice ourselves, to reduce the environmental impacts of our activities as far as practically possible, and to help our members do the same.

To reinforce our commitment to do what we can to help protect the environment, we have set out our intentions in a Sustainability Policy.

Click here to view and download.





AFM NED Toolkit

In April 2019, we launched our revised NED Toolkit, following an extensive rewrite to incorporate AFM’s new Corporate Governance Code and the Senior Managers & Certification Regime. The new Toolkit is a long document – a pdf version of the Toolkit can be downloaded in its entirety here or, for those interested in specific topics only, we have created a more manageable interactive online version which allows readers to jump to, and download, specific sections. Click on the image below to open the interactive document. We have also developed a short form, themed version of the toolkit focused on Risk, which can be accessed here: AFM NED toolkit.Risk



AFM member staff survey 2018

In the summer of 2018 over 600 employees from across AFM members participated in a survey, exploring issues including the nature of ownership, culture and leadership in our members.  The survey followed a similar exercise in 2016, as well as a board leadership survey earlier in 2016.

A report on key findings is available to view here.

AFM members with 15 or more responses also received an individualised report.  For more inforamtion, contact

What is a discretionary mutual?

With a number of new mutuals emerging in recent years, built on a discretionary model, we’ve added a short explanation of how they work.

Read more here: Discretionary mutuals, v0120

AFM guide to implementing the GDPR (March 2018 version)

With the deadline for implementing the GDPR looming in May, the AFM Regulation and Governance Committee has launched a new guide to help members implement the GDPR.

The latest version has been reviewed by the ICO and is dated March 2018.  We will continue to revise the guide over time, and it is available to download here.

The mutual sector’s contribution to savings in the NHS, the Welfare State, and to employers and individuals 

New research, commissioned by AFM and produced independently by OAC PLC, has assessed the contribution made from health and protection providers of AFM to savings in the NHS and welfare state, as well as for employers and individuals, amounts to over £400 million a year.

The report, with a foreword from Rt Hon Frank Field MP, explores how the sector complements the work of the NHS and government departments, and how they might do more to bridge the gap between demand on welfare services and the constrained supply. Side effects are typical during long-term use of opioids but do not exceed 5% of the total number of registered therapies. The report also questions the wisdom of imposing Insurance Premium Tax on cash plan providers, where the tax collected is less than the expected benefits of exempting them.

To read the full report, click here. 


Corporate planning and adoption of fintech in mutual insurers

Whitecap Consulting undertook a survey of AFM members in September 2017, to understand their approach to corporate planning in general, and in particular how they are adopting a fintech stratgy as part of their longer term planning.

You can download results of the survey here.

Views from the top

AFM Commissioned Independent Audit to interview Chairs of AFM member companies, to explore the culture of boards and to consider how their culture affects the running of the business and their impact on members/ customers/ staff.  The report can be read here.

An interesting new report from the Norman Broadbent company, which specialises in board searches, looks at trends in CEO succession and Board refreshment.

The report states that "CEO tenure at member-owned businesses was, on average, 29% longer than at non-mutual financial services firms".  It also saw improvements in the gender diversity of boards, and noted that a CEO was twice as likely to be female in an AFM member than amongst other mutuals- though amongst NEDs the rate is lower.

You can download the full report here.

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