The Association of Financial Mutuals (AFM), the trade body representing mutual insurers, friendly societies and other financial mutuals operating within the UK, held its annual conference and AGM with the theme of ‘Making Mutuality Meaningful’ on 16th-17th October at Crowne Plaza Hotel at Heythrop Park Resort near Chipping Norton.
This year’s event was again well attended, with the majority of delegates being made up from board members of the member mutuals.
As associate members of the AFM, Barnett Waddingham has sent delegates and speakers to the conference in the past, but this was only the second time that we had opted to exhibit a stand there. The Barnett Waddingham team consisted of the AFM veteran; Kim Durniat as well as the relative newcomers Andy Scott and Amit Lad.
At our stand we talked to delegates about their needs and outlined what services we could offer to assist them. We gave out goody bags with relevant literature accompanied by highly desirable and useful water bottles and puncture repair kits. We conducted a code-breaking challenge1 where delegates could pit their wits against a computer and see how quickly they could crack the code. Congratulations to Niall Clifford from Mercer and to Philip Whitefield from Cirencester for being the fastest competitors on each day of the conference. We will be sending them a bottle of champagne each. With an impressive time of 15 seconds, Philip Whitefield was the fastest competitor of the entire conference and so we will be making a donation of £150 to his charity.
Presentations and sessions
As delegates, we were also keen to attend the range of informative sessions that were offered.
The theme of the conference was ‘Making Mutuality Meaningful’. The first session on this theme focussed on the wider operating environment for Mutuals, including the political and regulatory arena they operate in, as well as how a diverse marketplace for financial services can help deliver good outcomes for consumers and for society. The second session on this theme looked more specifically at the kind of solutions being developed by Mutuals to a changing business environment, looking at how Mutuals are achieving new opportunities, and what alternatives are open when business is in decline.
There we also a range of other talks and workshops that covered topics including; market outlooks and multi-asset investing, regulatory requirements on threshold conditions, an update on the Solvency II timeline, achieving sustainable growth, cloud computing and social networking.
Whilst the days at the conference are strongly focussed on the business aspect and by the end of the first day our feet were aching from standing and our voices were sore from talking so much, the evening is designed for relaxation. So, we turned our attention towards the black tie dinner and entertainment that was planned. All were curious as to who the guest entertainer would be, and whether the organisers were going to bring back the controversial Bobby Davro from a couple of years ago. You could almost see the relief in peoples' eyes when Steve Hunt was announced as the evening’s entertainer.
Despite the wide range of issues that the mutual sector is having to contend with all at once, the mood was positive and delegates seemed optimistic about the future.
Throughout the two days that we were there we spoke to a range of delegates and gained insight into the current needs of the mutual sector, gained useful updates on the relevant issues, and managed to speak to many contacts! All in all a successful trip and we hope to see you there next year.
1. The code breaking challenge was based on the old mastermind board game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastermind_(board_game)