Birmingham’s Wesleyan Assurance Society has beaten some of the giants of its industry to be named Life Insurer of the Year.
The 167-year-old mutual, which has assets of more than £4 billion, saw off the much bigger Legal and General and Scottish Widows to win the title at the British Insurance Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Wesleyan chief executive Craig Errington said: “This is a real achievement for the Wesleyan and an honour. In recent years we’ve had a vision of where we want to be and that vision has now become a reality.”
Rated one of the most financially secure mutual insurers in the country, the Wesleyan consistently achieves annual returns of about 17 per cent on its with-profits funds.
It regularly scores ten out of ten in the Cazelet Consulting with-profits ratings and recently came first in the industry for its realistic free asset ratio - another measure of financial strength - in a survey by Ernst & Young.
Its continuing success is due in part to the fact that its investment specialists did not get caught up in the dotcom and technology shares bubble of the late 1990s.
Unlike industry giants such as Standard Life which were forced to sell bombed-out shares at the bottom of the market and buy gilts, Wesleyan was able to maintain a high level investment in equities during the post-2000 bear market. It has since made money out of the stock market recovery.
The Wesleyan has in recent years converted itself from a general insurer to one specialising in tailor-made products for professionals such as lawyers, doctors, teachers and dentists.
It is in the process of doubling its workforce in order to cope with demand for its financial products.
“We remain one of the UK’s financially strongest life assurance companies,” Mr Errington said. “This financial strength is of great importance as it provides the capital we need to invest in strategic change for our policyholders.
“It also enables us to achieve competitive payouts for our with-profits policyholders and maintain a flexible investment strategy.
“Winning Life Insurer of the Year is an excellent reward for the hard work that we’ve put in over recent years, but the most important thing for us is having the trust of our customers and their confidence that we have their interests at the root of all we do.”