Chairman’s Statement

  • Gareth Howlett

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

I am pleased to present my statement for the year ended 31 March 2022 for The Golden Charter Trust.

At the end of the financial year we said farewell to Geraldine Gammell and Ian Barnett as Trustees. Ian gave the Trust thirty years of unstinting service, initially as the Trust’s banker before taking up the position of Trust Manager and then of Trustee. Geraldine was a most effective Chair of the Audit Committee and an unfailing source of general good counsel. Both Geraldine and Ian will be much missed.

As part of the continuing programme of Board renewal, we have recruited Myriam Madden as a Trustee. Myriam has significant experience of audit, risk and governance and her appointment commenced on 1 April 2022.

How the Trust performed in the year to 31 March 2022:

The Trust’s investment portfolio is held in The Golden Charter Trust Limited, a company 100% owned by the Trust. The audited accounts of this company for the year ended 31 March 2022 are available here.

The audited net assets of the Trust at the year-end totalled £1.282 billion (2021 audited – £1.223 billion). The charts below show how the value of the Trust and the average value of an outstanding funeral plan have grown from 31 March 2018 to 31 March 2022.

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.

Regulation:

Over the past year we have been working with Golden Charter Limited to adapt our close working relationship to the new regulatory regime effective from 29 July 2022. On that date Golden Charter Limited falls under the direct supervision of the FCA, and although the Trust itself will not be regulated, there is an indirect impact upon us in so far as the FCA requires regulated Providers, such as Golden Charter Limited, to observe a new set of rules in respect of funeral plans backed by independent trusts. These rules are reflected in a new Trust Deed which has now been agreed between the Trust and Golden Charter Limited.

As the largest funeral plan trust open to independent funeral directors, the Trust has always aimed to set market-leading standards of transparency, good governance and the safeguarding of planholders’ interests, and we are confident that this approach will stand us in good stead in the new environment.

The power of the Trust to make payments from the Trust to Golden Charter Limited has always been exercised with great care by the Trustees, and that power is now subject to further conditions set by the FCA. In summary, such payments can only be made if an independent actuary certifies that the ratio of assets to liabilities is over 110%, and if the Trustees believe that the likelihood of planholders getting the funeral they have paid for will not be materially weakened.

Governance:

As I mentioned in last year’s statement, we engaged a specialist consultancy practice to carry out an external review of the Board of the Trust. The findings of the review were positive and useful, and the Board decided to repeat the exercise in somewhat greater depth this year. An effective and independent Board is crucial in protecting planholder’s interests.

Outlook:

While the business outlook for funeral plan providers has continued to be affected by the pandemic over the past year, the progressive easing of restrictions and the reduction in mortality to more normal levels has resulted in an improvement to cash flows. However, the funeral planning sector as a whole has attracted some adverse media commentary in the countdown to regulation which highlighted poor management and financial weakness among some fringe operators. This has caused very real distress and worry to thousands of families who thought they were doing the right thing by buying a funeral plan, and explains why the Board of the Trust believe the protection of planholders’ interests is our most important duty.

Lastly, it is again both a duty and a pleasure to thank my fellow Trustees and our employees for their hard work and dedication over the past year.

Gareth Howlett
Chairman
30 June 2022