Despite a year which has left scars across its industry and itself facing losses, Gloucestershire firm Ecclesiastical remains upbeat about the future – and of reaching its incredible target of giving £100 million to charity.
Mark Hews, chief executive of Ecclesiastical Insurance remains optimistic about the future for the major Gloucestershire employer.
Despite Covid-19, its accounts catching a £17.8 million broadside and a battle to restore UK business’s trust in the insurance sector, Ecclesiastical remains confident it will not only thrive but achieve its goal of giving £100 million to charity.
It was a year in stark contrast to the profit before tax of £69.9 million enjoyed by the Gloucester firm in 2019, although its underwriting business still reported profits for 2020 of £12.1 million even after paying out £18.7 million in Covid-related claims.
Significant enough also for its annual report to mention is the legacy of the case which saw the industry on mass taken to the High Court where customers of business interruption insurance won a ‘significant’ victory in their fight for coronavirus-related payouts.
Ecclesiastical, which employs an estimated 500 staff in the county, was one of just two firms exonerated, but Mark Hews, its chief executive, said sadly the damage had been done.
‘We were always clear that our BI (business insurance) policies were never intended to cover pandemics and we welcomed the certainty and clarity by the High Court’s judgement in our favour,’ said Mr Hews.
‘Nevertheless, the case has damaged trust in the insurance industry and I believe we now need to work together to restore trust in insurance.’
A satisfaction survey of the firm’s customers into how it handled claims in 2020 saw it score 98 per cent satisfaction, with 92 per cent ‘extremely satisfied’ – consistent with previous years.
In his statement in the firm’s annual report Mr Hews also acknowledged the publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse on the Anglican Church investigation and its insights into the nest possible ways to safeguard children and improve the treatment of victims when disclosing abuse.
‘We will continue to review our processes as part of our commitment to continual improvement,’ said Mr Hews.
He said with a new headquarters on Gloucester Business Park, the firm was approaching 2021 and beyond with optimism and enthusiasm and believed its aim to become ‘the most trusted and ethical specialist financial services group’ – a firm with a ‘passion for doing the right thing’ was a winning strategy.
Earlier this year the firm also launched its Movement for Goods Awards for the third successive year – which will see it distribute a further a further £1million to charities nationwide.
In 2017 it set itself a target of giving £100 million to charity – and is currently teetering on £99 million.
By Andrew Merrell