Sheffield Mutual achieves solid results as investment ISA grows in popularity

A Yorkshire-based mutual achieved 'solid' growth over the last financial year, which was largely due to the continuing popularity of its with-profits investment ISA.

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

In 2017, Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society saw its total assets increase by 22 per cent to £138.4 million while premium income increased by 13 per cent to £19.7 million.

Traditional membership grew by 6 per cent to 11,294 and new policies increased by 4 per cent to 1,996. Including the Child Trust Fund, the society now has 78,317 policies and accounts.

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Sheffield Mutual, which is based in Barnsley, was established in 1892 to provide funeral and sickness benefit schemes to its members in times of hardship.

It is a member-owned mutual friendly society and now provides a range of life insurance based, mainly tax exempt, savings and investment plans within a traditional with-profits fund.

The society, which has 12 staff, aims to offer a more personalised service than its competitors.

Tony Burdin, the chief executive, said: “We’ve had a very good year by all key measures and I would like to thank my excellent team of staff for their hard work and dedication.

“It is the friendly, efficient and personalised service they provide, as well as our excellent policy returns, which sets us apart from many of our competitors.”

A spokesman added: “Sheffield Mutual generates investment returns for its policyholders through a diversified with-profits fund, which achieved an excellent investment return of 8.01 per cent in 2017.

“This result, combined with the fact that Sheffield Mutual has no shareholders to pay, enabled the society to distribute annual bonuses to policyholders worth in excess of £1.5 million.”

The spokesman added that the society had strengthened its financial base and the available capital resources of £17.15 million are 163 per cent of the regulatory solvency capital requirement.

Jamie Bellamy, the finance director, said the mutual sector’s founders could be regarded as the original crowdfunders.

Crowdfunding involves funding a project by securing small amounts of money from a large number of people, which is similar to the way the first mutuals were established in the 19th century.

He added: “We have very competitive rates for our investment ISA, when compared with the cash ISAs on offer in the market.”

He said the mutual’s success was due to good long term management.

He added: “It’s just about managing your risks and identifying your strengths and not growing too rapidly.”

Mr Bellamy said that a lot of Sheffield Mutual’s growth was by word of mouth because of its personal service.

He added: “We also rebuilt the website a couple of years ago and that’s helped to drive the business forward. Members do feel their voices are heard.

“We may invest in more overseas markets over the next year, but this will not form a significant part of the asset mix.

“We see the commercial property investment returns for the society as stable, mainly due to rental income. We’ve made a positive start to 2018 and are confident of achieving our targets.”

Over the last nine years, the society has been led by Mr Burdin, who is a passionate and life-long supporter of the mutual movement. Mr Burdin started his financial services career at the Halifax Building Society in 1980. He went on to hold senior roles at Leeds Building Society and Scarborough Building Society, and he became CEO of Sheffield Mutual in 2009.

Over the last financial year, Mr Burdin’s total remuneration, including pension contributions was £149,588, up from £132,250 the previous year. The society is a member of the Association of Financial Mutuals and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society launched a Community Fund in 2014 to help local good causes.

Donations are available for amounts up to £1,000 and priority will be given to projects or initiatives aimed at relieving hardship, poverty or suffering.

Sheffield Mutual’s chief executive Tony Burdin said: “We’re keen to ensure that our community fund is fully utilised, so I would encourage any local good causes looking for funding, within our criteria, to apply.”

Interested local charities and community groups can apply for a Community Fund donation, by writing to Tony Burdin, chief executive, at 3 Maple Park, Maple Court, Tankersley, Barnsley S75 3DP, or through the society’s website