A chat with our CEO, Ann-Marie O'Dea

To look back on another busy and exciting year for Shepherds Friendly Society, we sat down with our CEO, Ann-Marie O’Dea, to see what the year has brought for the Society, and what we are looking forward to in 2017!

1) Coming towards the end of 2016, what have been the key highlights for Shepherds Friendly?

2016 has been another extremely successful year for the Society. In November 2015, we moved head office to Haw Bank House in Cheadle, and this allowed us to make operational improvements that have helped the business in 2016. For example our IT infrastructure has been completely remodelled allowing us to future proof this area of the Society and pass on the benefits this brings to members.

In 2016 we attracted extremely high numbers of new members across our entire product range, which was especially pleasing.  Feedback scores concerning new member satisfaction with all aspects of the joining process have remained high, which is a testament to the work undertaken by all members of staff to ensure members interests are at the heart of everything they do.

2) Were there any major challenges or obstacles that we had to deal with?

The time up to and following the EU referendum was a period of uncertainty for all. We had comprehensive plans in place for either outcome which meant it was business as usual for us, and we have a solid capital buffer in place to protect us from any drops in the stock market. Obviously this period of uncertainty could continue for the next couple of years, but I am confident that the Society will more than cope with any changes we may have to face.

3) Is there anything you are particularly proud of that we achieved this year?

Reaching our 190th anniversary as Shepherds Friendly! The Society has come a long way since its foundation on Christmas Day in 1826, but one thing we have always tried to do for the last 190 years is keep the interests of our members at the forefront of everything we do. To celebrate our 190th anniversary, we are running competitions to try and find the child born on Christmas Day at 18:26 in honour of when we were founded, as well as our longest-serving member and the family with the most generations of members!

We were also delighted to be recognised as the fastest-growing  member of ICMIF (International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation) in the UK for 2014/15 {1}, proving that we continue to grow and improve as a modern mutual to best serve the needs of our members. These are the latest figures available to us, and we are confident that we have improved on these results even more in 2016.

I’m also very proud of the continued work we do to support our chosen charity, Seashell Trust. Seashell Trust is a charity based near our head office in Cheadle, which helps to support children and young adults with complex learning difficulties with education and care. Our staff regularly volunteer there, and we also have fundraising events that take place throughout the year to support them, and we look forward to continuing to help them achieve their aims.

4) What can our members look forward to in 2017?

After a busy 2016, we have another exciting year planned for 2017! A major project we are currently working on is our member log-in area, where our members will be able to log-in and view the value of their plans online, which is an exciting development for us and shows we are continuing to develop as a modern mutual.

We will also be looking to launch the new Lifetime ISA that has been announced by the government, which adds another option to our members if they choose to save for their first home or retirement.

Ultimately, everything we have planned is designed to make the experience that our members have with us the best that it can be. As a friendly society, our members are the owners, so everything we do is geared to their interests.




{1} ICMIF Members: Key Statistics Report 2015