Despite being around for a couple of hundred years there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about exactly what a friendly society is. I can assure you that, like a family friend asked me last week, it’s not just a place where all the staff get along really well. Many, but not all, friendly societies are financial services and insurance providers, which means that, as well as having to comply with the 1974 and 1992 Friendly Societies Act, they are authorised and regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority.
Most friendly societies can trace their history back to the mid or late 1800s when, without the benefit of a welfare state and the NHS, the need for individuals to come together to help each other in times of hardship or illness was vital. For a modest contribution, these friendly societies offered members a low cost funeral plan or sickness insurance that could make all the difference between surviving and the workhouse. Friendly societies and mutual insurers were often the only means a working person had to receive help in times of ill health, unemployment or old age.
By the late 1800s there were around 27,000 registered mutual societies. Very often these would be centred around a locality, like the Ramsbottom Funeral Benefit Society, or based on your occupation. Less common, but also important, were societies that aligned with a religious, political or social cause. That’s our heritage – when we were formed in 1835 we were a friendly society providing low cost funeral and sickness plans only to those who signed the pledge to abstain from alcohol.
Most societies are now open to accepting members from any walk of life although there are some that still specialise in certain occupations like the police or military.
The one thing that all friendly societies have in common is that everything they do is for the benefit of their members. As mutual companies there are no shareholders to take any of the profits and members, who all own a part of the company, have a say in the way that the society is run. All of the profits are distributed to members. In friendly societies that provide investments and insurance, this is often via a bonus or lower premiums.
Because of their unique legal status, friendly societies can offer tax-exempt savings products that are not available from other providers such as high street banks and life insurance companies. Under current rules, this means that each person, including children, can save up to a maximum of £25 per month in a tax exempt savings plan.
As a mutual friendly society, we are proud of our heritage and ethical values. From our humble beginnings, Healthy Investment has provided low cost funeral benefits, affordable sickness insurance and regular savings plans to many thousands of members across the country for over 180 years.
Today, the Society is a modern, growing financial services organisation committed to providing ethical savings and investment products to Members. We are all about supporting people, caring about the community and playing a pivotal role in financial services for the benefit of our Members.
For further information about how we invest Members’ money and the ethical investment products we provide, please visit our website at www.healthyinvestment.co.uk or contact the friendly team at Healthy Investment on 0161 762 5790; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you can find out about our ethical products by clicking on the links below:-