April 3rd, 2014

by Carole Truman

On a sunny Saturday in March, I went to Southport to attend the AGM of SAIF on behalf of the BHA.  SAIF is the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, and the BHA is an associate member  SAIF has been in existence for 25 years and is the trade organisation for the Independent FDs (mostly family firms) which represent 60% of the market (most of the remaining 40% is Dignity and the Co-op).  SAIF members also own Golden Charter – the funeral pre-payment organisation.  Following the SAIF AGM, there was the annual meeting of shareholders of Golden Charter which I was allowed to attend as an observer.

Finally, there was an awards ceremony for ‘Funeral Planner of the year’.  The whole experience provided me with a valuable insight into the ‘business’ side of funerals, as well as an opportunity to talk to various Funeral Directors without feeling that  I had a sub-agenda of touting for business.   I’d recommend that you browse through the SAIF web-pages, as it will give you a flavour of the range of concerns and interests which pre-occupy independent FDs.  I will focus on some of the aspects which are of more direct interest to celebrants.

SAIF FDs are being urged to take part in or organise Awareness Events as part of Dying Matters Week.  Given the dates for Dying Matters Week is 12th – 18th May, it could be good timing to contact your local SAIF member to see if you can work together on an event.

SAIF also host Regional Meetings which take the form of a dinner event which provides an ideal opportunity for networking.  Dates of the meeting nearest to you can be found here:   Not all of the Regional Meetings are listed on the website, so it might be worth ringing Angela Camp on 0845 230 6777 for details and booking arrangements.

The Golden Charter Shareholders’ meeting highlighted how Funeral Pre-Planning is a seriously big business.   SAIF members have owned Golden Charter (GC) since 2006.   GC is currently worth around £0.5bn (yes, you read it correctly – half a billion pounds!).  This illustrates how the financial aspects of GC are central its raison d’etre.  Consequently, GC are actively seeking collaborations with the big insurers such as AXA, Aviva, Liverpool Victoria etc.  GC policies are win-win for FDs since they earn a commission on each policy sold, and of course, when the policy ‘matures’ (i.e. the policy holder dies),  it can be redeemed with the funeral director.

There are different levels of cover within different GC policies, but even in the best cases, the policy will only provide an allowance towards ‘3rd Party Costs’ i.e. Crematoria Fees, Doctor’s Certificates and Minister Fees.  Shareholders expressed concerns that these 3rd Party Fees are increasing and so the value of policies which are currently maturing can leave families considerably short in meeting the total costs of a funeral.  It’s worth knowing a bit about the Funeral Plans business, since the prospect of pre-planning could be of interest to celebrants.

However, the time-lapse between when a policy is taken out and when it matures  cannot be predicted and could be 15-20 years.  This means that it wouldn’t be appropriate for celebrants to try to become part of the funeral pre-planning industry at the point of purchase since the purchaser may have another 20 years of meaningful life before they are in need of a funeral ceremony.