The emotional connection

I’m just back from an exhilarating, if short, trip to Australia. The main purpose of the trip was to run a strategy day for the board and senior...

I’m just back from an exhilarating, if short, trip to Australia. The main purpose of the trip was to run a strategy day for the board and senior management of Unimutual. They wanted to learn about mutual strategies adopted by other ICMIF members with a view to further improving their unique business.

Unimutual provides commercial insurance cover for 23 Australian universities. The risks covered are vast, varied and complicated and whilst there are only 23 members, the challenge to embed mutual strategies and member engagement is not easy as university personnel constantly change and competition for their business is intense.

The aim of the day was to build mutual strategies that the key stakeholders in the universities could understand and appreciate as being mutual and only available from Unimutual.

Then there was the challenge of promoting all the ‘great work’ that they do. There were stories of claims paid in the face of adversity – and there have been plenty of these examples during the last few years following natural catastrophes – which highlighted the extra value that this mutual creates. During the session we agreed that these true stories would help their brand establish the emotional connection with their members. I shared ICMIF members’ stories, case studies and campaigns from around the world which illustrated the varied and innovative ways that mutuals and cooperatives get their ‘value’ message across to members and potential members.

By the end of the day the Board and senior management were delighted with the output and it was extremely satisfying to see how much value they derived from investigating what other mutual and cooperative insurers from across the world are doing.

ICMIF members who fully utilise their membership clearly have the competitive edge.

I also managed to spend some valuable time with our other five member organisations in Australia and I also presented to a potential member. I also found time to catch up with ICMIF Chair, John Balmforth and the International Co-operatives Alliance (ICA) President, Dame Pauline Green.

Pauline was there to officially launch the cooperative coin and stamps that the Australian Government produced as part of their United Nations International Year of Co-operatives celebrations.

Whilst in Sydney, Pauline and I shared a platform to talk to the credit unions and friendly societies about the great things going on globally for our respective sectors. ICMIF and ICA member, ABACUS, set up the meeting, which Pauline had to cut short as she secured live interview on a topical news program ‘The Drum’ aired on national TV channel ABC. She got 10 minutes prime time coverage talking exclusively about cooperatives, a great promotion for our sector, which then led to a number of radio interviews.

It is great to see the national media recognising the relevance and impact of the cooperative and mutual story. I am sure the legacy of the TV coverage will be used in Australia to promote our sector for a while.

Social Business Australia (SBA), the newly formed association set up by ICMIF member Capricorn and Chaired by Capricorn’s new CEO, Greg Wall, were the architects behind the stamp and the coin idea and have even managed to get endorsements from actor Hugh Jackman for the IYC, “cooperatives give people the practical means to change their lives for the better… In 2012, I hope everyone comes to better understand the transforming power of cooperatives all over the world including Australia”.

There are so many great examples of innovation, lateral thinking and creativity in our industry. The more we share, the more our industry will grow and the greater the emotional connection will develop between our sector and potential customer members. People are waking up to the mutual and cooperative difference. Thank you for making this happen.

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