This morning we published our annual results for 2017.
You can read our news release which talks about our work last year, the things we’ve done recently and what comes next.
Please also have a look at Steve’s message to all colleagues which includes how we’re doing across Co-op, and has news about a big expansion of our Co-op Academies Trust and our new business acquisition.
Here’s how we’re doing in Co-op Funeral and Life Planning.
In 2017 we started bringing together our Funeralcare and Legal Services businesses to better serve our members and customers, offering them a wider range of services and products.
Our goal is to better identify and meet the needs of our members and clients in At Need and Pre Need funeral service along with power of attorney, will writing, probate and other legal services. We aim to provide more support to our families when it matters most. This will be an area of significant focus in 2018.
Last year was eventful and not without its challenges. We made important and necessary changes to our business and throughout you’ve continued to do what matters most by putting our clients first. We’ve continued to lead the way on funeral affordability, holding prices for At Need and Pre Need, we’re bringing our clients more choice and transparency, and we did the right thing by offering free funerals for children up to the age of 17 – something that the government has also since agreed to support.
Our Funeral and Life Planning business had revenue totalling £343m which was £14m up on 2016. We provided 99,925 at need funerals, up 2.4% on last year, and a growing number of our clients are choosing Simple funerals. Our At Need market share was 16.2% while Pre Need share was 33.2% at the year-end (5.2% up on 2016). We are the biggest provider of probate services in the UK supporting 3,500 families last year.
Operating profit, which includes property and business disposals, was £66m, down £35m on the previous year mostly due to the sale of our crematoria. Underlying operating profit was £66m (2016: £71m), slightly down on last year due to Membership rewards and the impact of the crematoria sale along with bank separation costs in Life Planning and the significant investment in holding our Simple funeral price.
Throughout 2017 we continued to tackle funeral affordability by maintaining the price of our Simple Funeral and our market leading pre-paid plans, ensuring transparency and choice is always front and centre in our decisions and propositions.
We sold 68,969 funerals plans, an increase of 9,950 on 2016. At the start of 2018 we were awarded the ‘Best Funeral Plan Provider’ at the Moneynet Personal Finance Awards. We’ve also received top marks from Fairer Finance – 5 stars for our silver and gold funeral plans.
The number of legal cases we handled was 16,342, up 321 on 2016.
We opened 63 new homes during the year, bringing the total estate to 1,079 funeral homes and a further 100 had rebrands or refits during the year. By the end of 2018, all private name funeral homes should have received the Co-op brand.
We launched our market leading Co-op Commitment, which protects our clients’ plans when they opt to pay in instalments over 2-25 years. If they die after the first 12 months of their plan, but before all the instalments have been paid, we will still deliver all the services provided in the plan, with no more for their family to pay, giving our clients peace of mind. No other provider does this.
You may have read in the press last week that Theresa May has announced her commitment to support the end of funeral poverty, by establishing a fund for grieving parents who lose a child, meaning they will no longer be required to pay for the burial or cremation of their child.
For the last 30 years we’ve helped approximately 25,000 families who’ve lost a child under the age of 16 by not charging for our funeral director services. We’re not the only funeral providers to do this, but in 2017 we decided to go a step further and we no longer charge for funerals for children aged 17 and under.
2017 also saw our new mortuary in Edinburgh open. This is a world-class, industry leading mortuary and we are extremely proud of it. We’ve set the standards high and over the course of 2018 we’ll share more of our plans for our mortuary business with you.
We’ve made significant investment in developing and trialling Co-op Guardian, the service we’ve designed for Funeralcare, by Funeralcare. It’s already being used in several regions and roll out will be complete by the end of 2018. We’re setting the benchmark in how funerals are administered and allowing our colleagues to spend more time caring for our families.
In October we set up a new online hub for colleagues running bereavement clubs around the country, so that knowledge and experience could be shared more widely and more clubs could be set up.
Following the success of our online will writing service, we’ve also put our Lasting Powers of Attorney process online.
We’ve just announced, as part of our ambition to grow our business and provide a better service to our clients, that we’ve acquired Simplify Probate, the UK’s second largest provider of probate services. This is a really exciting move forward for us and our new colleagues joining the Co-op, as we expand our presence in this market and develop what we’re able to offer our clients.
We’ve achieved a great deal together in 2017. In 2018 we’ll continue to transform our business, setting the standard for our industry and doing right by our clients and their families by providing exceptional service.
Thank you for all your continued efforts throughout the last year and for always putting our clients at the heart of what you do.