Despite the various challenges Covid-19 and multiple storms, floods and fires presented, the overall scorecard for last year was one for the record books.
This was underpinned by improved levels of both employee and client engagement. On the back of this, the Mutual experienced very strong net client growth (up 6.8% year on year) as more and more people and businesses elected to put their trust in a 100% New Zealand owned Mutual.
During the year the Mutual passed the significant milestone of 100,000 clients, something that we had been working towards since 2014.
Headline growth for the year at 11% well outpaced the insurance industry average of 2%. Importantly this was good quality growth in key target markets that was well underwritten, rather than growth for growth’s sake.
Posting a net profit after tax of close to $60m was pleasing and primarily due to a very good underwriting result, a relatively benign year in terms of storm and catastrophe events, and a bounce back in equity markets which benefited our investment returns. In a volatile industry like insurance, the Mutual needs a good financial result like this occasionally. If we look at the last five years, profits have ranged from an exceptional near $60m this year to a loss of $3m in 2017 when the business was impacted by both the Kaikoura Earthquake and multiple storm events in the same year. On average over this period the after-tax profit has been $19m per annum, which is about the level we need to support a steadily growing business such as ours.
Another highlight this year was the increased awareness of our Life & Health business. This dimension of the Mutual is important in the context of our core purpose of giving rural New Zealand a better deal and this equally applies to life and health insurance alongside our general insurance offering.
This is my final FMG post as Chief Executive. In stepping down from FMG at the end of August after close to 13 years at the helm, I feel I am handing over the reins of a Mutual that is in good shape and great heart. There is no doubt in my mind this has been a collective team effort. Special thanks to my Executive and Senior Leadership team colleagues for their unwavering commitment throughout, as well as all my colleagues more broadly.
Thank you also to Tony Cleland, our FMG Chair, and the FMG Board for its support and giving me the opportunity to lead what is a fine organisation that plays a vital role as the farmers’ and growers’ insurance Mutual. My time with FMG has been a career highlight for me personally.
Finally, thank you to all our clients and members for your trust and loyalty over a long period. It is very much appreciated and highly valued. I wish you all the best for the future.