Chairman’s Statement

  • Gareth Howlett

  • Chairman
  • “The Golden Charter Trust is the leading funeral plan trust in the UK available to independent funeral directors”

In the year, we welcomed two new Trustees, Clare Brady and Christine Johnson. Clare and Christine bring with them exceptional and complementary skills, and have already begun to make their mark. In March 2021, we said farewell to Ian Blackford, my predecessor as Chairman, who served the Trust and Trust Limited with great skill and dedication for many years.

How the Trust has performed in the year to 31 March 2021:

As explained in the ‘About Us’ section of the website, the Trust’s investment portfolio is held in the The Golden Charter Trust Limited, a company 100% owned by the Trust. The audited accounts of this company for the year ended 31 March 2021 are available here. A consolidated statement of net assets of the Trust is available here and shows that the Trust’s assets totalled £1.223 billion as at 31 March 2021.

The charts below show how the value of the Trust and the average value of an outstanding funeral plan have grown over the five years to 31 March 2021.

We anticipate that the Trust’s value, and the average plan value, will continue to grow in line with Golden Charter Limited’s forecasts for plan sales and from prudent management of our investments.

Investment portfolio:

The investment objective of the Trust is to invest the funds received with a view to ensuring that at all times, there are sufficient funds to meet the anticipated invoice costs of all outstanding and matured funeral plans.

Details of the performance of the investment portfolio are given by Christine Johnson, Chair of the Investment Strategy Group, in her Investment Report.

Actuarial valuation:

A full actuarial valuation is undertaken each year to determine if the assets in the Trust are sufficient to meet the anticipated invoice costs payable to funeral directors for all plans in force at the valuation date. Additional updates are also provided to the Trust by the Actuary as requested by the Board.

The most recent full valuation at 31 March 2021 showed that the Trust’s assets were 100% of the funds required to meet the anticipated invoice costs of all outstanding and matured plans, allowing for the affordable level of increases in the anticipated invoice costs as advised by the Actuary.

Regulatory compliance:

In June 2019, the government announced that it proposed to bring all funeral plan providers within the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). After extensive consultations in which the Trust and Golden Charter Limited participated, the FCA produced its proposed rules in February 2021, and asked interested parties for their responses. As Golden Charter Limited will be the regulated entity, the Trust’s responses to the FCA were confined to those questions with a direct bearing on the Trust’s activities and obligations, and were submitted to the FCA after discussions with Golden Charter Limited.

On 5 July 2021, the FCA published their Policy Statement which sets out the majority of the final rules in relation to the FCA’s regulation of the sale and administration of pre-paid funeral plans from July 2022. The Trust will give careful consideration to the Policy Statement and will liaise with its legal advisers and with Golden Charter Limited on any implications on the operations of the Trust and the obligations and duties of the Trustees.

The Golden Charter Trust is the leading funeral plan trust in the UK available to independent funeral directors. We have always striven to set high standards of openness, financial strength and consumer protection. We welcome, without reservation, the new regulatory regime which will impose the same high standards on the whole market.

Governance:

The Trust’s Audit Committee monitors the integrity of the Trust’s financial statements, reviews internal financial controls including risk management systems, and recommends the appointment of external auditors to the Board of Trustees.

The Trust’s Nominations and Remuneration Committee is responsible for the reappointment of Trustees upon conclusion of their initial term of office, identifying and nominating new Trustees, and making recommendations in respect of membership and chairmanship of Board committees.

In the year, we instructed an external review of the Board of the Trust. We will consider and implement the recommendations to improve the performance of our Trustees.

Uplift to plan values and additional maturity payments:

Over the years, our prudent management of Trust funds has allowed the Trust to continue to uplift plan values and deliver sustainable plan pay-outs to independent funeral directors. Despite the unprecedented challenges faced in 2020/21, the agreed growth rate was applied to all live plans in full and without interruption. Whilst challenges remain, we are pleased that the Trust remains in a strong position to deliver growth on plan values.

The Trustees are also pleased to confirm that additional maturity payments as advised by Golden Charter Limited, will be paid from the Trust to qualifying funeral directors, on each plan maturing between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022.

Communication:

The Trustees remain committed to providing clear information about The Golden Charter Trust and the funds we hold on behalf of customers and funeral directors.

The Trust’s website is regularly updated with information about the Trust and its Trustees. This information includes Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that reflect the key questions current and prospective customers ask about the Trust. FAQs specifically tailored to funeral directors are available on the Golden Charter funeral director portal.

The managed investments of the Trust are held in our subsidiary company, The Golden Charter Trust Limited. The statutory accounts of The Golden Charter Trust Limited are filed on public record at Companies House and are available to view on our website.

The Trust recognises the importance of communicating directly with funeral directors and the Trust is represented at SAIFCharter’s AGM and at SAIFCharter Executive meetings. The Trust also contributes articles on relevant topics to the SAIFInsight magazine from time to time.

Outlook:

While funeral directors in the front line were coping with the extraordinary stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Trustees and the executive team were working hard in the background to defend the Trust’s financial robustness, and to ensure that our ability to pay out promptly and in full on maturing plans was never compromised. As we gradually return to a more normal situation, we are cautiously optimistic about the continuing recovery in plan sales by Golden Charter Limited and the further improvement in our cash flow which that recovery will bring about.

To my fellow Trustees and to our employees, I extend warm thanks for their hard work and professionalism over the past year.

Gareth Howlett
Chairman
20 August 2021