Since it was announced in April that Axa Isle of Man was being sold to specialist M&A firm Life Company Consolidation Group (LCCG), the international life industry has looked on with interest, waiting for the newest player in the market to make its debut.
Clad in black and burnished gold with a hint of purple, Utmost Wealth Solutions finally stepped into the limelight in mid-October. Speaking exclusively to International Adviser, head of proposition Simon Willoughby talks about what the future holds for the new international life company.
How did you come up with the name Utmost Wealth Solutions and what was the process like?
Everybody within the organisation just thought I’d go into a darkened room with a damp tea towel on my head and come up with a name, and that would be it. But I knew that to do it properly, it was going to take a little bit of time.
We have had to reinvent a company that’s nearly 25-years-old. Being part of the Axa family has been enormously beneficial for the business but because we can no longer rely on those same brand values, it has been about figuring out who we are and how we describe ourselves.
That has been quite cathartic and it really has forced us to challenge what it is we think we are as a business. As part of Axa, to a certain extent it meant we didn’t really think about who we were as a business because we had a corporate brand position to work within.
As soon as we knew we were being sold we started unbranding from Axa in the office. We had lots of Axa images and slogans, whole walls covered in Axa branding, and everything was changed, right down to the mouse mats.
The name was still on the outside of the building but inside you wouldn’t know which company it was. We didn’t want to go from being Axa on the Friday night to Utmost Wealth Solutions on the Monday morning. We felt we needed a period of time when we were effectively unbranded.
Having gone through a similar, albeit ultimately abandoned process in 1999 when I worked at Scottish Provident International, 17 years later I was much better prepared.
Most people assume the name comes at the start of the process but it’s actually a key deliverable from describing who we are as a business and getting comfortable with that. The name then emerges naturally. Next comes the corporate identity.
When we thought about the name I was trying to manage expectations. At one extreme we could be a stately home, Blenheim International, for example. At the other, we could be a root vegetable such as Beetroot.
From the very first workshop it was clear Blenheim or Chatsworth wasn’t going to work and if we were going to differentiate ourselves we had to do something a bit different. But Beetroot was a bit too racy for 58-year-olds with £0.5m to invest with us.
Our design agency came up with 23 different names, from which we shortlisted five. We then tested the names and basic brand DNA with eight key distributers. Thankfully, the one I had always liked, Utmost, came out on top. It hasn’t got the words international or offshore in it. It’s new, fresh and different.
How was it working with the design agency and what did they bring to the table?
It was crucial that the firm helping with this had some experience in the financial sector and that they were familiar with some of the nuances, in particular the regulatory side of things in terms of what we can and can’t say.
We also needed a firm that was hungry and aligned with our relative size as a niche provider. One of the directors of our rebranding firm, Chaos, has been at every meeting. They’ve got skin in the game and that’s made a huge difference.
We went through a series of workshops facilitated by Chaos. They said, ‘Tell us about your business, your clients, your staff. What makes you different? What is it that you do differently? What do you think people say about you?’
We’d never had to ask ourselves these questions before because it had always been a given. We were asked to justify what this business has been about for nearly 25 years.