Mutuality has a rich history, but it remains largely misunderstood. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the modern mutual sector, exploring its key opportunities and challenges.
Due to the benefits and service advantages mutuals can offer, there are significant opportunities for growth in the UK’s mutual sector:
- Mutuals tend to be more resilient than investor-owned firms, making them a dependable choice in a rapidly changing, uncertain economy.
- Public perceptions of business are shifting towards sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical sourcing, particularly among younger consumers.
- The mutual sector has also gained renewed political attention, with politicians from both major parties expressing their support in recent months.
But the sector also faces some key challenges:
- Relying on member funds rather than investors means mutuals have less scope for generating capital. This makes it harder for them to grow, and in some cases leads to ‘demutualisation’.
- Due to limited financial resources and smaller scale, mutuals tend be less commercially aggressive and can struggle to compete on all service expectations.
- The general public often lacks awareness and comprehension of mutuality. Insufficient ‘brand awareness’ poses a significant obstacle to future business success.
There are steps the sector and the government can take to support UK mutuality
- The sector launches an information campaign for mutuals, enhancing brand recognition. This could be achieved through a mutual kitemark scheme, public information campaigns, or mutuality support networks.
- The government creates a new capital instrument for mutuals, allowing them to raise more funds and prevent the threat of demutualisation. Australian Mutual Capital Instruments, a form of debt capital that can be converted to equity, is one such option.
- To create a better policy understanding of mutuals, mutual organisations and the government should collaborate on the creation of comprehensive data that monitors UK mutuality.