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Anderson a leader in insurance space

One of the guys I have been most interested in getting to know in our world is Sovereign chief executive Charles Anderson.  

Friday, January 25th 2013, 9:47AM 1 Comment

by Philip Macalister

Anderson has been at the helm of Sovereign for around five years, but is leaving later this year and heading for retirement.

It’s always a little interesting to reflect back on how the company has gone over this period of time.

Sovereign is primarily a life insurance company. In this space the company must score well as it has managed to maintain its stranglehold on the number one position in the market.

When you are at the top it is hard to defend your position as everyone wants to have a go at you.

The biggest challenger in this market has been the emergence of Partners Life and it would be fair to say that Partners has impacted on other firms and left Sovereign relatively unscathed.

Sovereign is also an active player in the home loan space with brokers. It is hard to judge performance here as the banks are poor at disclosing their business levels and Sovereign’s book is included into ASB’s numbers.

Sovereign continues to be a big supporter of the broker market and continues to pay commissions when other lenders stopped.

Distribution is also a tough one to measure. Sovereign made a lot of song and dance about its QFE when it launched. Indeed this was one of the few times that Anderson fronted the press.

Looking back on our stories at the time lots of promises were made.

When ASSET Magazine put its feature on QFEs together last year Sovereign would not talk about its QFE. Readers can take from that what they like.

One other memorable time Anderson spoke in public was as a keynote speaker at the annual Responsible Investment briefing late last year in Auckland. The first part of his session was a recorded, one-on-one interview which he did with former US vice-president Al Gore.

I have to say when I watched it I thought he could get a role as a television presenter!

The second part of this presentation was where he talked about some of the changes he had made at Sovereign with regards to what you could all being a good corporate citizen.

It ranged from the standard things around energy saving, rubbish and the likes through to the staff having an understanding of the stocks its funds invested in.

Part of the proposition was that as a life insurance company it behoved the business to invest in good things.

It also included gems such as putting in a car park in its new building where electric cars could charge up (not sure it’s been used yet), to creating a special font which uses less ink (not sure that you can see any of the letters and numbers though).

The changes made under Anderson’s watch were impressive and it’s been a wonder why the company hasn’t been more public here.

While the changes were impressive, one of the most memorable parts of the presentation was Anderson’s response to a question about whether the board embraced these changes.

Anderson, candidly, disclosed that the board didn’t jump at embracing these changes, but let him do them.

Anderson was clearly a leader in this area.

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Comments from our readers

On 25 January 2013 at 11:57 am Amused said:
"Sovereign continues to be a big supporter of the broker market and continues to pay commissions when other lenders stopped."

I think you meant to say Sovereign continues to pay "trail" commissions Phil. AMP also pay trail on home loans to mortgage brokers but no one is using AMP much for anymore for obvious reasons.

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