As the UK’s largest friendly society, LV= have more than five million members and customers and exist to grow the value of their business for the benefit of their members. When asked about why their company has grown from strength to strength, Rowney simply says: “We do this by putting our customers at the centre of everything we do and by living our mutual and ethical values. We offer our products and services direct to customers, as well as through advisers and brokers, and through strategic partnerships.”
Formerly known as Liverpool Victoria, the company rebranded as LV= in 2007. Since then, the LV= brand is now recognised for being modern and vibrant and well placed for an even more successful future. A testament to their success is that they have over 5.7 million customers, of which 1.1 million are members. Furthermore, within life and pensions, they are the top provider of individual income protection in the advised market and a leading provider of enhanced annuities.
Although the company is very forward-thinking, to say that the company has been around for quite a while is an understatement. LV= was founded in Liverpool in March 1843, with the aim to help people on low incomes maintain a standard of living for their families and save for their funerals so they didn’t burden their families with this expense after they had passed away.
173 years on, the LV= Group employs over 6000 people. The Life and Pensions area that Rowney controls has over 1,000 employees based across main centres in Bournemouth, Exeter and Hitchin plus a network of regional offices.
As you can imagine, managing such an enormous team can be quite a daunting task. However, Rowney believes that the degree of specialisation is what allows them to perform so well. “We help our customers protect their health, wealth, family and wellbeing,” says Rowney. “To do this we specialise in a number of areas. Firstly, our Retirement Solutions business covers our retirement and investment businesses, from pensions and annuities to equity release and bonds.
Secondly, our Protection business includes a range of award winning products and services including a market leading position in income protection. Lastly, our Protection and Retirement Financial Advice Services include our automated online advice offering via our Retirement Wizard. All of these services combine to create the success behind our Life and Pensions team.”
Prior to LV=, Rowney accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise that has added to his current role. “In the early 1990s, I joined Barclays, which gave me my first insight into the financial services industry,” explains Rowney. “During this time I held a number of different positions, including business risk director, chief operating officer of premier banking and integration director for Woolwich and Barclay’s retail bank.”
It was in 2007 when Rowney joined what was then known as Liverpool Victoria, where he was instrumental in their rebranding as LV=.
“I started as a group chief operating officer in February and was appointed to the board in August 2007,” says Rowney. “As group COO, I was responsible for the transformation programme that saw LV= successfully re-brand and develop functions to support the trading businesses that have delivered significant growth over recent years. In 2010, I was appointed managing director of LV= Life and Pensions – leading a strategy to become the UK’s leading retirement and protection specialist.”
LV= ‘s position as leaders in their industry is something Rowney takes great pride in, and as such he is constantly ensuring that the company is always embracing any new technology or trends that come along the way.
“Our continual challenge is to utilise digital technology,” says Rowney. “We’ve made great strides into embracing digital, but technology progresses quickly, so it’s important for us to continue to move at pace to be at the digital forefront – replacing our legacy systems enabling us to become more efficient and easy to do business with.” Alongside the continuing developments in technology, there are also challenges facing Rowney in the retirement industry too.
“At the moment, we are nearing the end of a period of transition in the retirement industry,” says Rowney. “Driven by the pension freedoms changes in 2015 and now the FAMR review impacting people heading into retirement. With retirement being viewed as a series of smaller stages, which require multiple decisions, it’s important for customers to understand the decisions they are making. We’ve been proactively looking at ways to help people reaching retirement, making advice affordable to everyone through utilising automated online advice, but there is more to be done to get people thinking about their retirement sooner.”
“Looking towards the long term, these challenges include how we engage with our current generation to talk about saving for retirement, and we really need to challenge the ‘buy for today over saving for tomorrow’ culture. Auto-enrolment has attempted to improve one part of this but I still believe we need to do more as an industry to engage people to think about their retirement, at both ends of peoples working lives, to save enough for retirement and to make the right decision at retirement.”
“Furthermore, there appears to be no let-up in the pace of regulatory change, with the launch of the secondary annuity market and forecast tax changes are areas that will keep the life industry busy over the coming years.”
Despite these challenges, Rowney remains optimistic that they are more than capable of meeting the demands of their industry. A motivating factor for him is receiving recognition from Wealth & Finance magazine, which he believes is further evidence of their success.
“I was very surprised to be receiving this award,” says Rowney. “Nonetheless, our Life and Pensions business has gone from strength to strength in recent years, so this is testament to our hard work paying off to be officially recognised.”
Name: Richard Rowney