Benefact Group and Ansvar: a unique role to play in the sector

Third Sector Promotion Ansvar

Specialist insurer Ansvar is part of Benefact Group, an international financial services business owned by a charity that donates all available profits to good causes, giving it deep roots in and expert knowledge of the charity and not-for-profit sector. Charlotte Goddard talks to Benefact Group chief executive Mark Hews

Mark Hews (photo by Clint Randall
Mark Hews (photo by Clint Randall

In 1887 members of the clergy came together to establish an insurance company with a difference – any available profits went directly to good causes. Fast forward 135 years, and the organisation established to protect churches from the risk of fire has grown into a modern, international family of specialist financial businesses, which include insurance, investments, broking and advisory.

What hasn’t changed is the fact that Benefact Group continues to give all available profits to good causes: more than £150m since 2014. The company, which is owned by the charity Benefact Trust, recently rebranded from Ecclesiastical Insurance Group. The new name aims to “clarify, in clear and ringing tones, who we are and what we stand for”, says Benefact Group chief executive Mark Hews.

“Benefact is a clear, inspiring name standing for acts of kindness, and that is what links all the companies in our portfolio,” he explains. “We are a unique group in the world of financial services, with this one inspiring purpose.”

Benefact Group is the fourth-largest corporate donor in the UK, but it wants to be the biggest, with plans to donate £250m by 2025. Driven by a belief that business should be a force for good in the world, it has given away more money to good causes in the past five years than in the previous 125.

“We find that there is increasing demand from charities for more support,” says Hews. “When you see the good work that is done and the lives that are transformed, it lights a fire in you and makes you want to do more to help.”

Brands under Benefact Group’s umbrella include not-for-profit and charity insurer Ansvar, and ethical investment company EdenTree. Ansvar has been a specialist in the charity and faith markets for over 60 years. Being owned by a charity gives it a deep knowledge of the sector.

“Most charities want to do business with other charities,” Hews comments. “Ansvar is an outstanding business with a track record of providing fantastic service – the customer satisfaction scores are amazing.”

A caring culture

Charity ownership also fosters a caring culture within Ansvar, with many team members giving up their time to volunteer – and even setting up the Eastbourne arm of the Hygiene Bank, for which they’ve won awards.

“The big difference between businesses within our group and others is that they truly care. It isnt all about the bottom line, it is about being there and providing that outstanding service,” reflects Hews.

As well as leading Benefact Group, Hews is also a trustee of the Windsor Leadership Trust, a charity that brings together leaders from a range of sectors, including charity chief executives, to inspire them to make a positive and transformative difference in the world. “This is a wonderful charity and I very much enjoy my role there,” he says.

Benefact Group has supported thousands of charities in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada, with £1m recently allocated to support Ukrainian refugees.

“Every year each member of staff gets a small pot of money to give to charities of their choice, and we will match any fundraising staff carry out – sometimes we will triple it,” says Hews. “On top of that, any customer or supporter can go on to our Movement for Good website and nominate a charity, and we will take that into account when we distribute funding.”

Supporters can also enter their postcode into a map on the website and discover which causes are being supported in their region.

One cause to benefit is drug and alcohol education charity the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, set up by Tim and Fiona Spargo-Mabbs when their son Daniel died after taking ecstasy.

“Sixteen-year-old Daniel was a lovely lad who had everything going for him, and then he went to a party and didn’t come home,” says Hews. “The charity set up in his name tours schools with a play which tells the story and encourages other children not to make the same mistakes.

“A three-year partnership with Ansvar will allow the play to reach more young people, and from September 2022 it will become part of the GCSE drama curriculum.

“That’s just one example of how lives can be changed. It’s stories like that that make us think we can't just sit on our hands, we need to do more,” he says.

Having worked for other banks and insurance companies, Hews is clear that Benefact Group and Ansvar have a unique role to play in the sector. “Benefact is keen for Ansvar to grow, because by doing so it provides more support to charities as customers, and also because if it does make a profit we can give it back to good causes – that is what drives us.”

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