The benefit of our partnership
Another AGM weekend is done and dusted and, not for the first time, Independents gave me plenty of good news to share. Golden Charter’s owners had another hugely rewarding year, funeral plan sales continued their growth, and most importantly, new figures have confirmed that Independents have stayed ahead of the pack, with Golden Charter plans making up 40% of 2015’s total sales.
We can all be proud of reaching that figure, but looking closely at it hints at an even more remarkable feat. Analysis suggests that Golden Charter’s share of the pre-paid market is, for the first-time, equivalent to our exclusive sellers’ share of UK funerals. That would be an incredibly important step towards our long-term goal of guaranteeing sustainability.
With the AGM having passed, and the financial year ending soon, now is an excellent time to unpack how our work together this year has been impacting on those long-term goals. That work is most obvious through that 40% figure, but beyond that are other changes that will all improve the funeral director’s experience.
For one, we have responded to some Independents’ feedback that the full return your business receives on plans is not always clear to our exclusive sellers. As such, rather than disbursing the bonus on maturing plans retrospectively once a year, that distribution is to be brought forward so you will be paid at the time of maturity. You will start to notice that change as soon as next month, and it will help your staff directly compare the value of a Golden Charter plan against those of any other companies you may provide funerals for.
That is important because your understanding of your profession is key to its future, so you need as clear-eyed a view as possible. At the AGM I noted how unusual – almost unique – it is for independent businesses to have their profession’s future in their own hands. The successful partnering of Golden Charter and Independents, which led again to those remarkable Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) figures, comes from both parties having a clear understanding of the direction in which we are heading together.
Just now, the main thing to know is how popular pre-planning is becoming. Our latest analysis of new FPA figures suggests that more than 35% of future funerals are now pre-planned, and there is no reason to believe that pace will slow. The key message from that analysis is that your market share suffers if two out of every five of your funerals are not pre-planned – and that minimum does not even take into account the effect of life assurance companies, who take another sizable slice of that business. It is through that kind of hard work that we have now achieved parity between the at-need and pre-need market share for the first-time in Golden Charter‘s history. Additionally, the gap between at-need and pre-need margin is now at the lowest level in our history. Having achieved that, it is time for us all to look towards the future.
Whether through buying businesses, entering new sectors, or any other opportunities, we need to look at those options that will continue to help the independent sector in the medium to long-term, because we cannot all ensure the profession’s future success simply by outgrowing everyone else indefinitely.
As I have outlined before, what that means now is that we begin to build-up some profit for the first time, to help us weather any bumps in the road and build a base to launch our next moves from. We have communicated the most immediate result of that, with the administration fee increasing by £50, the first rise in six years.
I would like to thank you for your support in this first step towards further success. Working together on this is a perfect example of how our partnership works to everyone’s benefit, and will help ensure that we reap the dividends long into the future.