The AGM took place on 27th June 2019, held at the National Conference Centre, part of the National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull.
In his eighth speech as NFU Mutual’s Chairman, Richard Percy began by addressing the effects of global, political and economic uncertainty on NFU Mutual’s group results:
“Following several years of exceptional growth, global and UK stock markets together with the UK commercial property market contracted in a turbulent final quarter of 2018. NFU Mutual is not immune to the effects of global political and economic uncertainty. The effect of the market fall was reflected in our investment out-turn, leading us to report an overall Group loss of £290 million.
“This shouldn’t however, overshadow the strong performance of our core general insurance business which delivered its eighth consecutive year of underwriting profit totalling £142 million.
The value of investments go up and down, just like the value of farmland. But we have a policy of looking at investments over the long run and our great financial strength means we are resilient to short-term changes in investment markets.”
He went on to say:
“By running our business in the long-term interests of our members, we remain able to set ourselves apart from competitors who are often criticised for exploiting loyalty. We, in contrast, offer value to our members and reward their loyalty.
“We gave back a total of £253 million in Mutual Bonus discounts in 2018, compared with £168.3 million in 2017 and £79 million in 2016. I’m pleased to report that from 1st July 2019 we will only be reducing this discount by one percentage point as part of the plan set out in 2016 to reduce levels gradually. We therefore expect to return high levels of Mutual Bonus again in 2019.”
Moving on to talk about the General Insurance side of the business, Richard said:
“Gross Written Premium Income reached £1,568 million at the end of 2018, showing a 5.7% increase over the last year. We compare favourably with many of our key competitors who showed little or no growth in a very challenging market. We also saw exceptional ongoing persistency levels, which is the percentage of members renewing their policies with us, at a record 95.5%. I’m proud to be part of a financial services organisation that attracts such customer loyalty and, in turn, recognises and rewards that loyalty.”
Richard continued by introducing the work of the Farm Safety Foundation, set up by NFU Mutual in 2014 as an independent charity to confront the problem of farm accidents and educate the next generation of farmers:
“Research recently revealed that four out of five young farmers consider mental health to be the biggest hidden danger facing farmers today. In February 2018, thanks to a member’s contribution at this AGM in 2017, the Farm Safety Foundation decided to do something about it and the ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign was born.
“We fully support the work the Foundation is doing in this area. They have the opportunity to challenge and change attitudes to risk and mental health and make farming safer for everyone; especially for the next generation of young people coming into the industry.”
Attendees were shown a ‘FaceTime a Farmer’ video showing the work of Linking Environment and Farming - one of charities the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust has supported. Speaking of the Trust Richard added:
“Over the last 20 years the Trust has made over 400 donations totalling more than £4million to a wide range of rural initiatives all over the UK. ‘FaceTime a Farmer’ is a fantastic initiative to help children learn where their food comes from and how a farm operates all year round. If urban children begin to understand farming they can go on to value what farmers do.”
Richard closed by saying a few words of thanks:
“Whatever may be in store for us all in 2019, I am very positive about the outlook for NFU Mutual. Our people are the driving force behind our success and I would like to thank all our staff right across the organisation as well as our management team for their continued dedication.
“This year we were again recognised as the only UK-based employer to have a Great Workplace Award from global engagement specialists, Gallup. We’re very proud to have won this award for four years in a row now. It’s a great testament to the commitment, passion, and hard work that everyone puts into making NFU Mutual a Great Place to Work which is fundamental to the future success of our business. I’d also like to extend my thanks to all our Agents and their staff.
“Finally, I would like to thank our members here today, and indeed all our members. Thank you for sharing our values and for your ongoing loyalty to our unique organisation, NFU Mutual.”
The AGM vote was administered and independently scrutinised by the Electoral Reform Services to ensure both accuracy and fairness.