Public Sector, Corporate Enterprise and National Government Organisations Highlight Ongoing Budgetary Constraints and Need for Enhanced Risk Management
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND and WATERLOO, ON–(Marketwired – May 8, 2013) – The Global Enterprise Mobility Alliance (GEMA) and BlackBerry® (
Plans to sell off the Co-operative Group’s insurance operations will mark a historic shift, while appetite for co-op insurance continues elsewhere
The Co-operative Group recently announced that it wants to sell off its general insurance operations. If it goes ahead, it will mean the end of almost a century and a half of co-operative insurance in Britain.
The original Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) was set up in 1867 to provide fire insurance for the rapidly increasing number of retail societies within the co-operative movement. In 1912, it became part of what is now the Co-operative Group following a take-over by the co-operative wholesale societies.
Despite suffering a £662m loss, the group maintains that the general insurance sale is still part of its strategy, following the sale of its life insurance and fund management business. Barring last-minute regulatory issues, Royal London is set to acquire this side of the old CIS business for £219m.
But although Britain is turning its back on co-operative insurance, the rest of the world is not. The desire of co-operatives to be able to insure with one of their own — rather than through a commercial insurer — has allowed successful insurers to become established throughout the global co-operative movement. Indeed, the world’s largest co-operative, Zenkyoren, gets its massive £70bn annual turnover from servicing the needs of the country’s agricultural co-ops.
Zenkyoren was set up in 1951. Six years earlier, a similar process in Canada saw the creation of what has become the Co-operators insurance company, now operating throughout the country. It markets itself on its co-operative ethos and principles and has taken a particularly strong line on issues around sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Like Zenkyoren and most other co-operative insurers, however, it is not directly owned by individual members: it’s a ‘secondary co-op’. It is collectively owned by a consortium of forty-five Canadian co-ops, credit unions and other organisations who jointly appoint its board and share its financial success.
And the impulse which led to Zenkyoren and the Co-operators is still very much alive. In Malawi, for instance, credit unions and co-ops are working hard to create their own national co-operative insurance company. The country’s federation of savings and credit co-operatives, MUSCCO, which already offers basic loan protection insurance, is making common cause with agricultural and consumer co-ops to try to raise enough capital to license a new insurer.
But collectively, co-op insurers are feeling rather chipper at the moment: the market share of the total insurance business held by them has been climbing since the financial crash. According to the International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), the insurance market share held by co-ops and mutuals has climbed from 23.7% in 2007 to nearly 27% today.
ICMIF is unusual among the international sectorial co-operative federations in having opened its membership to mutual insurers as well as co-operatives. It’s CEO, Shaun Tarbuck, argues that this growth is a direct result of popular disenchantment with shareholder-owned financial businesses with their focus on short-term profit maximisation. “I think organisations that have a values-based strategy are much more appealing to the general public,” he says.
He accepts that, until recently, co-ops and mutual insurers were often coy about promoting their different governance structure, but he says this is now changing. “We’re definitely seeing a trend towards organisations marketing their values, whether this is based on their being member-owned, on sharing profits or on business sustainability,” he says.
This sort of positive endorsement is a welcome turnaround from the situation during the dark days of demutualisation. Britain was particularly badly hit as, one by one, major mutual insurers like Standard Life, Norwich Union and Friends Provident followed the well-trodden building society route and turned themselves from member-owned institutions into plcs. Because of the demutualisations, Britain has now the smallest co-op and mutual market insurance share of any major economy, at around 6%.
The largest remaining life and pensions mutual is Royal London, so at least the Co-operative Group’s former life business will remain in the broader co-op and mutual family. The sale of the general insurance is much less advanced and could conceivably still be cancelled as the group tries to rebuild its long-term strategy following the Lloyds bid withdrawal. But, in the event of a sale, it would sell re-badged insurance products under the Co-operative Insurance name.
JunosV Contrail Family of Products in Trials With Fortune 500 Multinationals Including Service Provider and Enterprise Customers
NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – May 1, 2013) – The Global Enterprise Mobility Alliance (GEMA) today announced that noted enterprise mobility expert Nicholas (Nick) McQuire has been named managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) of the alliance. McQuire comes to GEMA from the London office of research organization IDC, where he served as the vice president of enterprise mobility strategies.
Read the original here: The Global Enterprise Mobility Alliance Adds Nicholas McQuire as Managing Director and CEO
Activist hedge fund ValueAct took a big stake in Microsoft, saying the company’s future lies in enterprise software and the cloud.
Read this article: Hedge fund takes $2 billion stake in Microsoft
A co-operative development worker explains how to deal with some common skill shortages
Meetings that never seem to end or dissolve into frequent arguments; members leaving; frequent disputes; difficulty in retaining people on your board or management committee.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you may have a co-operative skills deficit.
What do I mean by co-operative skills? When I explain it to people I often use the analogy of a car. You go to the showroom, you are shown all these amazing vehicles, you choose the one you like the look of and, importantly, one that will meet your needs – whether that be off-road, commercial vehicle or zippy runner for about town. It’s only when you drive it away from the forecourt that you realise you’ve never driven a car before and never had any proper lessons.
Trying to manage a co-operative without members possessing co-operative skills can be like trying to drive a car without ever learning to drive – with the added complication of several of you trying to drive at once. Co-operative skills could be described as the understanding of how to work effectively with other people on an equal basis towards commonly held aims and objectives.
Legal structures and governance systems used by co-operatives are a technology. Like all technologies, you need to understand it to be able to use it effectively. I’ve heard people dismiss this approach, saying that it is just a governance issue and that the rules or articles of association are the “manual” but even the best governance framework or member handbook may not unlock the base level skills needed to interact with other people to achieve mutual benefit and put the “manual” into practice.
Some technology – such as a smartphone – is iterative and application can be learned by experience or through use. Like using a smartphone, co-operative skills can be learned through trial and error – and co-operating is a natural human behaviour with psychological and emotional benefits. The problem we face is that a certain amount of “relearning” may be required. People are taught at school to compete, have hierarchical approaches to work and management imposed on them, and in the schoolyard or workplace they have been taught to use power play to achieve individual success at all costs over mutual benefit.
Common skill shortages I have noticed include:
• Communication skills – understanding communication as a two-way process, listening skills, assertiveness. A building block for all co-operative skills. Vital for good meetings and to negotiate with other members. Communication skills also provide a boost to the day-to-day running of your co-operative in areas such as customer care and marketing.
• Meeting and decision making skills – different ways to reach decisions, how to chair a meeting and how to participate. Speaking as chair of a co-operative, even the best chairing techniques require all participants to share responsibility for helping the meeting run smoothly.
• How to deal with conflict – not just conflict resolution but techniques such as principled negotiation which encourage and value disagreement as a means to producing the best outcome for your co-op.
• Team working – recognising individual roles, behaviours and skills; techniques for galvanising your team around common goals.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some well established co-operatives whose members developed these skills over time through trial and error or with the assistance of other co-operatives and co-operative development bodies. However, each time a new member joins the co-operative the newbie also needs these skills – not only to thrive as an individual member but also for the whole co-operative to continue to function effectively. I’ve noticed that in startup co-operatives, those with good co-operative skills have progressed more quickly and been better equipped to deal with the hardships that face any startup business.
I believe that for co-ops at all stages of development, investing in the co-operative skills of their members pays dividends: time is spent running the business effectively and generating profits, not dealing with internecine strife; the business is managed more effectively; mutual needs of all members can be met, and members who add to the co-op’s diversity are retained by enabling them to participate.
Many co-operatives – including my own, Co-operantics – host ideas, tools and tips on their websites to encourage co-ops to carry out a bit of DIY before calling in the experts. I’d like to see a time when every co-operative has co-operative skills as a standard item in their training or human resources development plan.
Nathan Brown is an experienced co-operative development worker and member of Co-operantics, a co-operative development body.
The League of Intrapreneurs awards highlighted growing impact of entrepreneurs creating change from within organisations
A social entrepreneur, setting up his or her own enterprise from scratch, certainly faces daunting challenges, from financing to marketing. However, the degree of freedom afforded to social entrepreneurs is second to none. They don’t have to operate within complex, established networks, win over colleagues or take risks that – even if successful – might not generate extra revenue for the business.
Conversely, to operate as a social entrepreneur within an established profit-making organisation often requires getting management to treat you, and your definition of success, differently. Not only that but the job descriptions for the roles many of these people want simply don’t exist: you have to create your own job. Again, it’s not easy and it takes a degree of chutzpah bordering on the disruptive. Not for nothing are such people sometimes better referred to as troublemakers. But I prefer to call them “changemakers” – these are social intrapreneurs.
In my own case, I run an organisation called Accenture Development Partnerships, which I set up 10 years ago to bring Accenture’s services within the reach of NGOs and partners in developing countries. Staff take a salary reduction, we’re not-for-profit but we’re not-for-loss. But this is not CSR. Not a big deal you might think? Hardly revolutionary?
But you’d be missing the point. I believe that small changes can set off chain reactions, especially when large organisations with a lot of influence are concerned. Last week, at the inaugural League of Intrapreneurs Awards hosted by Ashoka Changemakers to mark the announcement of the winners, we heard that these small changes are heralding a quiet revolution.
Take Graham Simpson, from GSK, as an example of last week’s winners. Simpson has a PhD in chemistry and is an extremely busy research scientist. But while on a six-month placement in Kenya he was struck by how many people there die from easily treatable diseases mainly through the lack of effective diagnosis. So he got in touch with the head of research and development at GSK and pitched the idea of developing cheap, yet commercial, diagnostics kits that could be used by often untrained health workers in rural villages, sometimes miles from hospitals. GSK is now working with John Hopkins University to develop the kits.
Meanwhile, Sacha Carina van Ginhoven is interested in how satellite technology might solve a problem she came across when talking to a friend who was living in a slum in Kibera, India. Millions of small businesses exist in slums worldwide but few have formal addresses, making it difficult to send and receive goods. So Van Ginhoven and her colleagues from TNT Express collaborated with slum residents to study existing supply chains. Results showed that the main challenges lay in recognising locations and enabling secure payments. But these could be overcome by targeting mobile phones. As a result, TNT Express developed a solution for slum deliveries. Working under the umbrella of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), TNT Express worked with Vodafone to explore how best to merge logistics with telecommunications.
These two examples share some aspects: firstly, many of the people involved had the specialist knowledge to identify the solution to a problem that had been brought home to them personally. The second was that many of them had “air-cover” in the shape of senior management in their respective organisations. This is something that Professor David Grayson, at the Doughty Centre at Canfield University, calls the “godfather” effect.
Ideas do not necessarily have to originate with chief executives but it is important to the success of a programme that senior leadership buys in from an early stage. It was particularly pleasing therefore that both Sir Richard Branson and GSK’s Sir Andrew Witty sent personal messages of support to the finalists before the awards.
The last similarity, though, is perhaps the most obvious: sheer hard work. All the finalists admitted that, especially in the early stages, their intrapreneurship had to be squeezed in after hours or on weekends. There is probably little to be done about this.
Part of the point of intrapreneurship that it’s not divorced from the intrapreneur’s core job. Even so, with expertise, senior support and hard work there is no reason why this quiet revolution can’t change the way we think about development and its catalysts.
Gib Bulloch is founder and executive director at Accenture Development Partnerships. Her Tedx talk “Be the change you want to see in your company” can be viewed here.
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Social enterprise trading arms are a great way for charities to commercialise and become more sustainable in the process
The Co-operative’s latest annual Ethical Consumer Markets report tells us that the UK is close to breaking the £50bn barrier in terms of ethical spending and that half of all consumers avoid products based on a company’s reputation for “responsibility”. Businesses see this as an opportunity to tailor goods to a social market, but could it represent more of an opportunity for charities to tailor sales to a commercial market?
This isn’t simply a matter of whose brand is better placed to sell a responsible or ethical product or service – a high street business or a high street charity. It is more about whether the insight and expertise charities gain in going about their work makes them better positioned to deliver higher quality, socially focused products and services. To be a really effective charity, you will often need a combination of an expert understanding of a problem, unparalleled insight into the populations you are serving and a route to market to those populations and a trusted brand when you get to them.
Is it potentially easier for charities to figure out how to commercialise their expertise than it is for corporations to figure out how to do more good?
Charities have been selling their logos – and at times their principles – to corporations for a long time, but today’s consumers are looking for more than a cause-related-marketing campaign. They want to do business with organisations that do well by doing good. Whether those be fast-moving consumer goods, health or educational products or financial services, charities have assets that are commercially viable and can inform product and service development, they just don’t always know it.
Many charities are already charging for services and building out commercial product and service lines that sit parallel to their core business. Many more also engage in the high street shop-type commerce, which builds off their brands and goodwill. But the potential of the marketplace greatly outweighs the current gains. There is true risk for charities entering into more corporate activities, but there are also real rewards for those who can be successful. Age UK Enterprises, for example, is drawing upon its expertise in understanding the needs of older people to develop quality products for over-50s, such as travel insurance and mobility aids. Such activities led to a trading income of over £20m in 2011/12.
The Social Investment Consultancy’s (TSIC) top tips for making a success of charity enterprise are:
• Talk to your current donors. It may that new capital is available to finance your plans if there is a vision of sustainability at the end of them. Donors want to fund this.
• Be prepared to spend – starting a new business stream need not cost a fortune, but it will cost something. Charities need to be commercial about recruiting the best staff for the job (not just re-assigning current staff who are already paid for) and investing in real quality control, branding and marketing. If you aren’t prepared to spend, think again about starting.
• Most important – play to your strengths – build the business around what you uniquely know and the markets you can uniquely reach. Any business launched by a charity should have a head start on any commercial business in the same field, because of its core work. If it doesn’t, it’s not leveraging your assets.
Jake Hayman is chief executive for the Social Investment Consultancy. TSIC’s research, which analyses the growth of various models of charity revenue generation and includes interviews with 50 senior charity leaders representing more than £500m in annual revenues will be launched this month. It will first be previewed at the Oxford Jam social enterprise (un)conference on 11 April and will be launched formally at Toynbee Hall on the evening of 16 April.
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