SCOTTISH Friendly’s new chief executive Stephan McGee has underlined his confidence in the prospects for the savings and life insurance specialist and said it could use acquisitions to accelerate growth.
Mr McGee took charge of the Glasgow-based mutual last week after holding senior positions at financial services heavyweights such as Lloyds Banking Group and Aegon UK.
He took up the appointment following a year in which Scottish Friendly made progress in the face of challenges.
The society’s former chief executive Jim Galbraith passed away in April last year. Financial services sector veteran Martin Pringle became acting chief executive. Financial services firms had to respond to volatile market conditions amid the fallout from the pandemic.
However Scottish Friendly grew sales and member numbers to record levels, of £46.9m and 776,000 respectively, last year.
Mr McGee is confident he can make further progress.
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He reckons it is well placed to compete in a market that is set to grow strongly in coming years as people tare required to take greater responsibility for saving for their futures.
The firm markets own-branded savings products and sells life insurance via partners. It also administers books of insurance business acquired from others.
While the company faces lots of competition, Mr McGee noted it serves a wider range of customers than some bigger fish.
“We are not competing with businesses that are looking to capture high net worth customers,” said Mr McGee. “We provide products and services for the whole population.”
For example, he noted that savings customers are required to pay in only relatively small monthly amounts into their accounts.
Mr McGee said he believed strongly that the fact Scottish Friendly is a mutual owned by its members worked to the benefit of the firm and those members. It can invest for the long term and think about how to meet the needs of customers over their lifetimes without having to worry about the demands that might be made by shareholders.
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The firm began life in 1862 as the City of Glasgow Friendly Society, offering funeral and sickness benefit plans to lower income families.
Mr McGee said he has not set targets in terms of growth in sales and customer numbers but expects Scottish Friendly to invest heavily in products and service delivery to help it make further progress on both measures.
Scottish Friendly could use strategic acquisitions to speed growth.
Regarding potential targets, Mr McGee said: “I have some ideas but there is nothing we are working on at this time.”
Scottish Friendly acquired a big book of life and pensions policies from Canada Life in 2019.
Mr McGee said Scottish Friendly is likely to create jobs if its growth push is successful. It employs around 235 people in Glasgow.