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Cirencester Friendly CEO to retire after 26 years

Cirencester Friendly CEO to retire after 26 years

Cirencester Friendly Society’s chief executive Paul Hudson is retiring after more than two decades at the helm of the income protection provider.

Hudson intends to retire in April 2023, which will bring his leadership tenure to 26 years when he leaves.

The insurer has already begun its hunt for a new CEO with the help of executive searcher Fletcher Jones. In the interim, chairman John Quinn will assume his post until June 2023. 

Under Hudson’s leadership, the insurer has grown its membership by around 30,000 since 1997, from 13,000 to 43,000. 

The society also houses almost £160m in funds, compared to the £23m it sat on when Hudson joined. Premium incomes have also risen nine-fold, from £2m to £21m.

“It has been an incredible journey growing the business significantly [since 1997],” said Hudson.

“Cirencester Friendly is now a very different business to the one I joined all those years ago, but it continues to embrace the customer centric mutual ideals on which it was founded back in 1890.

“The time comes for everyone to hand over and that time has now arrived for me to pass the baton to new leadership”.

The Gloucestershire-based society has grown steadily over the years. In 2015, assets had grown more than threefold under his leadership to £74.5m, as had membership to 35,000, and premium income had increased seven times to more than £15m.

The company’s growth is somewhat down to its prudent approach, according to Hudson, who told FTAdviser back in 2015: “We are not going to speculate with our members’ money because they own the business. If an opportunity comes along I put myself into the members’ shoes and ask myself how they would feel about it.”

But this steady growth hasn’t come without its challenges. Perhaps one of the defining moments of Hudson’s tenure happened in 2015, when the High Court ruled against two Financial Ombudsman Service final decisions which had upheld fraudulent complaints against Cirencester Friendly - marking the end of a series of false claims made by a customer as far back as 2007.

The final ruling saw the insurer win back £19,000 in claims it had already paid the customer, Christopher Parkin. He had answered no to several medical questions in an income protection application, which if he had answered yes, would not have been approved.

“I lived the case for eight years and that is an awful long time to have this type of situation,” Hudson told FTAdviser when it was all over.

Quinn, Cirencester Friendly’s board chairman, said Hudson has “led a transformation of the business” since he joined.

“New products have been developed and successfully launched and membership has grown remarkably,” he said.

“Our business growth has always been sustainable, leading to a significant expansion of our balance sheet. On his watch, Cirencester Friendly has become a leader in the field of income protection.

"He will be a very hard act to follow, but the strong foundations he has laid mean that we view the society’s future with great confidence.”