New FMG Expands Its Rural Offering
New Zealand’s leading rural financial services provider, FMG (previously Farmers’ Mutual Group) today launched its new brand and service offering. The new brand reflects the changes FMG has made to ensure its services match the changing needs of rural communities.
“In recent years change in rural communities has been significant,” said FMG Chief Executive Gordon Smith.
Figures from Statistics New Zealand show that the number of people working in the agricultural sector has been decreasing over time (by 26,000 from 1982 to 1997).
Meanwhile, census figures for the last 10 years show that there has actually been an increase in the number of people living in rural communities. However, compared to cities, the proportion of the population in rural communities has continued to decline, until it is now only 14.3%. There are now more people in Auckland alone than there were in the whole country when FMG was founded in 1905.
“Big city markets have become the focus for many businesses,” Mr Smith said, “but that is creating opportunities for FMG, which is committed to staying in rural communities and focussing its business on rural people.
“The work rural people do has changed too. Farms and agricultural processing plants are getting bigger and more sophisticated, and require different services to support them. For example, IT is an integral part of today’s agribusiness. But at the same time, there are now some 100,000 lifestyle blocks throughout New Zealand.
“Our clients had told us that their lives are getting much busier and they needed our staff to be more available to them whenever needed.
“In response, we have more Client Business Managers to visit clients on their farms, at their businesses and in their homes. We have restructured our head office and reconfigured our branch structure to ensure that our people are better able to provide our clients with appropriate and timely service. Now we are expanding our toll-free customer service centre to be able to better respond to calls and are introducing new technology to speed up claims handling.
“We have also introduced new services in response to our clients’ changing needs and have successfully expanded into Australia.”
FMG uses the term “rural communities” quite deliberately. Its clients are not solely farmers, but also include individuals, organisations and businesses that operate in the rural sector.
“When FMG started ‘Farmers’ Mutual’ was the right name because that is what we were then, a farmers’ mutual insurance company,” Mr Smith said. “Today our client base and the range of services we offer are much wider. We are a leading provider of financial services to rural communities.
“It is important that our name does not imply that we cannot help people other than farmers. We can. We have excellent services tailored to the needs of farms, rural businesses and rural families.”
FMG’s competitive advantage is that it is the only specialist rural financial services provider in New Zealand. It knows the sector better than anyone else and competes by offering services better suited to rural communities, by responding faster to change in those communities and by being committed to those communities.
NEW SERVICES AND EXPANSION
FMG was the first insurer to develop cover for the increased costs farmers would face if foot and mouth disease broke out in New Zealand. What is not fully appreciated is that while the Biosecurity Act would compensate farmers for stock losses, it would not meet any of the other costs that they would incur.
FMG’s foot and mouth cover can provide between $50,000 and $250,000 assistance to farmers in the unfortunate event of an outbreak of the disease.
‘Lifestyle Cover’ is also an FMG first – specialised rural insurance to meet the particular needs of people living on lifestyle blocks. Many of those who choose to move from urban areas onto lifestyle blocks in the country are not aware of the additional risks that come with their new lifestyle.
‘Lifestyle Cover’ has proved to be the leading product of its type. Following the introduction of this product, FMG has gained a significant number of new clients, which is itself a reflection upon the dynamic nature of rural New Zealand.
Another of FMG’s success stories has been its profitable expansion into Australia. It saw companies pulling out of regional communities there to concentrate on their urban business, and it decided this was an opportunity for FMG, a company focused solely on the rural sector.
COMMITMENT TO RURAL COMMUNITIES
“FMG’s changes and innovations are a reflection of our focus on rural communities,” Mr Smith said.
“Many organisations have rediscovered rural New Zealand now that times are good in the rural economy. However, they cut back their services or weren’t there at all when times were hard – when rural support was most needed. Will they still be there come another rural downturn?
“The real test of a financial services company is how well it serves its customers when times are bad.
“FMG has been an active part of rural communities since 1905, through the good times, and down-turns. And we will be there tomorrow, next week and in the years to come. That is our commitment to our customers.”