NFU MUTUAL staff members took time out during their open day in Hedon to explain about the ethos that drives the organisation:
THE INTERNET is King when it comes to shopping – or so it seems nowadays – and that includes financial services. It’s now possible with a few clicks of the mouse to purchase almost everything you want. But this notion of the safe, quick-click, convenient internet sale for financial products, undertaken in minutes, is being challenged by national financial services provider, the NFU Mutual.
In contrast to the quick-click culture, NFU Regional Director Neil Brinsdon says that “time needs to be taken” when important financial decisions are made. “There are limitations to what can be achieved anonymously and safely online. We are an advice-based organisation. Our approach is about taking the time to build up trust with customers, and that requires a real-life discussion, face to face if possible, and a care and attention to detail – so we don’t sell our services online.”.
This doesn’t mean that the NFU Mutual refuses to embrace the internet, they do have an engaging website and seem to be successfully using social media. But the organisation thinks that major financial transactions such as insurance, pensions and investments are just too important to leave to internet chance. “We are dipping our toes into using social media and we have a Twitter and LinkedIn account, but we use the internet in a complementary way to help us build longer-term relationships” says Mr Brinsdon.
The NFU Mutual approach is about encouraging people not to rush into financial decisions that will impact upon their lives. Access to financial advice is important in this regard and this is driving the mutual to get as “close as possible to customers” – and that has a literal meaning according to Mr Brinsdon:
“With 300 offices, 48 agencies, and, in this region supported by about 220 support staff, we hope to be only 15 – 20 minutes drive away from being able to offer face to face support to any of our customers. Our Financial Advisers want to be able to take the time to get to know customers and understand their needs before giving advice. That means we have to be close and be able to reach them quickly.”
Rob Rounding, is the local NFU Mutual financial adviser based in the Hedon office. He recognises that there is a general lack of trust in financial institutions: “People no longer trust the banks and are looking elsewhere for financial services and products, particularly from those that are not motivated by sales commission or profit for shareholders. As a mutual organisation we are owned by our members rather than shareholders.”
It is a theme taken up Mr Brinsdon: “We are ‘mutuality in action’. Our customers are our members and its how we interact with them which sets us apart from others. It’s our Annual General Meeting next week – and every customer is invited. How many businesses can claim that!?”
Being close to its customer members, spending time to build up proper relationships, making financial decisions based on mutual trust – avoiding the quick-click, profit-driven, internet sale. It all sounds quite radical really! The ‘taking your time’ theme is explored in the NFU Mutual’s TV Ad available on YouTube:
The NFU Mutual’s team in St Augustine’s Gate, Hedon spoke to Ray Duffill.
NFU Mutual was formed in 1910 as an incentive to get farmers to join the National Farmers Union and whilst separate entities, both organisations still have a close relationship.