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Building a brand around the short-term broker

22 August 2011 Gareth Stokes
Gareth Stokes, FAnews Online Editor

Gareth Stokes, FAnews Online Editor

“We all protect the things we value most. That’s why as a broker I am trusted to give you the right advice… And help you to choose the right short-term insurer!”

Short-term insurer Mutual & Federal (M&F) has upped the stakes in the battle for customer and broker loyalty. The company unveiled its new brand – complete with refreshed logo and details of an extensive television, radio and Internet advertising campaign – at a breakfast presentation in Johannesburg last Friday, 19 August 2011. Short-term insurance brokers will love the insurer’s new marketing campaign, because it applauds and acknowledges the value a broker contributes to the industry. FAnews believes this pro-broker message is long overdue… The opening line of today’s newsletter is quoted verbatim from M&F’s 30-second television advert: “We all protect the things we value most. That’s why as a broker I am trusted to give you the right advice… And help you to choose the right short-term insurer!”

“We’ve built this business on the back of our relationship with brokers,” said M&F chief executive, Peter Todd, before adding that he remained a strong believer in the value of advice. The short-term insurance space is more competitive than ever before. Wherever you turn there’s a new insurance company offering product cheaper, faster – and often nastier – over the Internet. “This proliferation of short-term competition means that the need for advice is probably more important than it ever has been,” he said. “The broker has a massive role to play in our industry, and the challenge will be for the broker to demonstrate the value he/she adds!”

“To be the short-term insurer of choice”

One of the most important steps during the brand redesign was to create a vision that the company, its staff, the broker distribution chain and clients could “buy” into. “We are busy crafting and creating a new Mutual & Federal,” said Todd… And the group’s clear and simple path is now encapsulated in its vision, which was re-stated as “to be the short-term insurer of choice.” Todd spent some time explaining what this “choice” referred to.

First, consumers should choose the insurer ahead of its multitude competitors. Second, brokers should choose M&F ahead of competitors. Success in this area would be measured through policy count in the broker space as well as how brokers rate the group in various industry surveys. A third “choice” would be for staff to choose the company… “In our industry there is a huge issue around talent and skill and we want to attract the talent and skills into our business – be a net gainer of people rather than a loser,” opined Todd. And finally, the company had to deliver results for its only shareholder, Old Mutual PLC.

Old Mutual and M&F went through a rocky patch recently, when the parent decided to “sell” the then JSE-listed insurer. The transaction fell through and a decision was subsequently taken to buy out minorities and de-list the business. The good news is that the parent company is once again fully behind the insurer. Todd explains: “We’ve got very strong support from Old Mutual PLC. There is a new management team in place who come from a short-term insurance background. They understand our business.” With the many challenges in the 21st Century financial services space Old Mutual has also cottoned on to the benefit of continued diversity within the group!

Getting ready for the next hundred years…

M&F can trace its history back 180 years, making it one of the oldest – if not the oldest – company in the country. Todd joked that the group didn’t have a motor book when it was established – simply because its 1831 start preceded Hendry Ford’s Model-T by some eight decades! Today M&F occupies a top three slot in South Africa’s short-term insurance world.

“We have a track record in terms of being a tenacious business and we want to grow on those foundations and really position ourselves in terms of the value we bring to our customers,” said Todd. The new logo, which is a symbol representing the overall brand, is among the many changes made to drive the company’s vision home. The predominant green colour remains to create affinity with other group companies, while the words “Mutual” and “Federal” now appear in the same font as the parent company Old Mutual. The background – which depicted Table Mountain – has been dropped in order to create a consistent logo for activities throughout Africa. “We have aspirations to grow further into Africa and it is important for us to have a logo and a brand that can transcend boundaries…. We are introducing this logo in Namibia and Botswana too,” said Todd. And the ampersand (“&”) has been given more prominence.

In conclusion Todd said that the new advertising campaign clearly illustrated the positioning of the broker as a critical link between M&F and the consumer. Going forward the company would focus on the positive aspects of the short-term industry – the fact millions of South Africans are saved from financial ruin every year! After all, insurance is about protecting people, protecting assets and safeguarding what is important to the client.

Editor’s thoughts: We enjoyed Mutual & Federal’s brand reveal. And – judging by the applause the new television advertisements drew – the audience appreciated the changes too. For us the positive from the presentation was a long overdue focus on the value of short-term insurance brokers to the insurance consumer. Would you agree that the value of advice has been neglected by product providers of late? Please add your comment below, or send it to gareth@fanews.co.za

Comments

Added by barry, 24 Aug 2011
Well, said Barbara! I've been in the market for 43 years and nothing has changed. All the marketing blurb in the world does nothing if in particular claims service is bad, which includes untrained staff. The last thing a broker wants to do, is have to argue the point with someone who has no understanding of the product. i also understand " economics" and the cost of doing business, but it's amazing how many large companies are not prepared to stand by and help the small broker get established, but when they have built up a large book the "M&F's of this world" can't understand why we don't want to move our book across to them! Not to mention the fact that the large established companies should be happy to assist those entrereneurs who are looking to create jobs for others.
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Added by Barbara, 22 Aug 2011
Hi, as a new Broker to the playing field, I was a bit disappointed that M&F was not really keen to take me on - I only got my FSP licence in 2010 and didn't have a "book" to show (yet). But with my dealings in the past with MF through brokerages that I worked in, I believe their marketing is fantastic (considering who they have behind them) and I know they have had issues the last 5 years establishing a program for the staff at MF to ease their work load and help with the large logistics of all their clients, but I had found that the most important department when it came to short-term insurance, the claims, was sorely lacking. There were those individuals that strived to do their best but I really hope that if I ever do decide to have a relationship with MF (I believe they have some lovely products on offer), I hope that this department is not left out of their new "brand". Becuase all the clever adverts in the world will never make up for poor claims handling.
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