Friendly focus

This article considers the top six Friendly Societies with an adviser focus. We look at headline numbers, products and market and strategic positioning, finishing with provider-specific content.

Headline numbers

Society Accounts Customers Staff Income (1) Assets
OneFamily 2019 c2.6m 486 112m 7.5b
The Exeter 2019 c98k 145 68m 245m
Shepherds 2019 c98k (2) 70 23m 139m
Cirencester 2019 c42k 72 20m 154m
British 2019 c32k 57 11m 76m
Holloway 2019 25k+ 82 9m 80m


  1. Premium income
  2. 98k is the in force plan count (2018 accounts, members not disclosed).

Several Societies saw significant growth over the 2018-19 period.


Society IP 50+ Term Bonds (1)
OneFamily N Y (2) N Y
The Exeter Y N Y (3) N
Shepherds Y Y N Y
Cirencester Y N N N
British Y N N N
Holloway Y N N Y


  1. This is shorthand for a combinations of traditional savings plans (with a limits of e.g. £ per month contributions), ISAs, Child Trust Funds and JISAs (the CTF replacement).
  2. The Exeter offers two term products for those it believes are under-served.

Summary of over-50s providers

Market and strategic positioning

The six Societies covered in this document fall into three categories.

The big society is OneFamily. While they probably want to grow their protection presence, the main immediate challenge is to maintain and ideally grow their core business, which is small retail investments — in particular the former Child Trust Funds, which start maturing in September 2020.

The growing society describes The Exeter. They have clearly made significant advances in recent years, including the development of new products and volume growth. We should probably expect them to do more of the same. At what point might they break into the “main” term market?

The niche societies are the final four players: British, Cirencester, Holloway and Shepherds are smaller and more niche than the two Societies above. While some have investment products as well as Income Protection none have life or critical illness term. Who will make the break?

Friendlies: their straplines

Do a Google search and you find:

No strapline is offered by The Exeter (where a Google search brings up The Exeter: Home) and Cirencester (where a Google search brings up Cirencester Friendly).


With 2.6m customers OneFamily stands out. Interestingly 1.6m are young people with Child Trust Fund accounts which start to mature in September 2020. Retaining these will be the challenge.

OneFamily’s products are:

The Exeter

The Exeter has c98k customers and as at 31/12/2019 employed 145 staff, including management.

The Exeter’s products are:

Unusually, The Exeter’s insurance businesses consists of both life and general insurance, respectively 1-2 and 3-4 above. Distribution is primarily through financial advisers and broker networks.

The Exeter has actively developed its product range in recent years. A new version of the PMI plan (Health+) was launched in September 2018, while 2019 saw Real Life rolled out to the whole adviser market and a range of free medical advice and treatments service, including a HealthWise app..

Managed Life is specialist life cover for people who suffer from type 2 diabetes or who are overweight. It has reviewable premiums: The Exeter asks for evidence of the customer’s condition each year and if the policyholder gets healthier premiums reduce — and vice versa.

Real Life is specialist life cover for people living with serious or multiple health conditions.

Health+ is private medical insurance.

The Exeter is clearly advancing, with a vision to become the protection provider of choice for its customers and distribution partners by developing quality products, efficient processing and rapid claims payment. Interestingly it also seeks M&A opportunities.

Shepherds Friendly Society

Established in 1826, Shepherds offers the following products:

Cirencester Friendly Society

Founded in 1890, Cirencester has a long history. It now sells several Holloway and non-Holloway Income Protection products, although it has avoided short term Income Protection (STIP) variants.

British Friendly Society

British Friendly’s 2018 accounts suggest that it want to grow in its members’ interests, expanding its distribution and product reach — potentially beyond income protection.

It no longer sells a traditional Holloway plan, with growth since 2011 coming from “pure protection” Income Protection products.

Holloway Friendly Society

In line with several other societies, Holloway has invested in upgraded IT systems (PRISM for Holloway). Perhaps it is this which allowed it in 2018 to achieve an average time from application to underwriting decision of just 4 hours.