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The Independent Schools’ Mutual: an opportunity for change and innovation – David Russell, Chairman

The Independent Schools’ Mutual: an opportunity for change and innovation.

David Russell, Chairman

David Russell ‘Working collaboratively as a sector we can create long lasting change by enabling schools to better control their risks.”

David Russell retired from the position of CEO of the Harpur Trust in 2019. Since then he has taken on two non-Executive roles including Chair of the Independent Schools’ Mutual. David shares with us why he is excited about the Mutual.

David joined the Royal Navy in 1970 and commanded three submarines and one surface warship during a career in which he reached the rank of Commodore. He was the first Commanding Officer of HMS Vanguard, the United Kingdom’s first Trident missile submarine. He left the Navy in 2002 and took the role as CEO of the Harpur Trust. ‘I wanted to do something that I was interested in and passionate about. I liked that the Harpur Trust was very community focused, and the role itself was interesting and challenging.’

David left the Harpur Trust in 2019 and is now engaged with various projects including the establishment of the Independent Schools’ Mutual. He has been instrumental in the design of products and services to ensure they fit the membership. ‘Although I’m not an insurance expert, I have a good idea what schools want. At the start of the process I knew little about providing insurance but was prepared to learn and have enjoyed the challenge and the process. If you are not the ‘expert’ you can bring the energy and new perspective for developing the product. After all the Mutual is about the Membership, it is run by people from the sector and that gives it a great focus’.

David continues, ‘insurance is like going to the dentist. You have you go every year; you dread going and it always costs you money. But once you’ve been you forget obout it’. It was this reluctance and grudge purchase mentality that motivated David to become engaged in developing an alternative way for schools to manage risk. ‘It was when I reviewed our claims that I realised our loss ratio was falling as low as 20%, meaning we were paying significant premiums whilst making very few claims. And the years where we made no claims, we never saw any of our money returned, it simply slipped away to the insurers. I see the Mutual as an opportunity for the sector to work together to control these costs.’

The Mutual principle was not a new concept to David, he had seen it working successfully in the university sector and with City of London Livery Companies. ‘It seemed to me this was an opportunity to do something working together as a sector about one of the core costs that come up every year and can be controlled.’
Working with the Mutual Manager, Jon Taylor, and a committed Board of Directors the Mutual has been designed to match the requirements of:

  • Pricing – the cost of joining the Mutual must be competitive
  • Cover and service – these must be of high quality, at least as good as schools currently receive. The Mutual will listen to what schools need and what they really want, for example, legal expenses, the Mutual lets schools to use their own lawyers to pursue activity that is best for them rather than an appointed adviser from the insurer
  • Sharing in success – all trading surplus belongs to the Members and must be used for the benefit of Members or as the Members may agree.
  • Transparency and openness – Members will see how their contributions are used
    Influence – it is the Members who control a Mutual, they are able to influence how it is run and the strategy it sets
  • Collaborative working – the collegiate nature of mutuals mean there is a common interest amongst Members to improve risk management through the sharing of knowledge

David also recognises that the process must be smooth. ‘‘The Mutual will be a one stop shop, it will support schools with account management and dedicated claims handlers. Risk will predominately be placed within the Mutual but where traditional insurance is required the Mutual, through its managers, will arrange this. The Mutual will make it easier for schools.’’

David concludes, “This year been such a challenging one for schools. The Mutual was due to go live last year but, due to industry challenges and the impact of COVID-19, the launch was delayed. However, we are now ready to go and I’m excited to see how working collaboratively as a sector we can create long lasting change by enabling schools to better control their risks. The pandemic has created so many challenges but has also opened minds to innovative and better ways of working; I believe the Mutual can be one of those successful innovations.”