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Mike Fuller

As a man whose dream has just come true, it is not surprising that Mike

Fuller exudes enthusiasm and confidence for his latest project.

Fuller is the brains behind one of the UK&#39s newest life offices, Evergreen

Retirement Assurance. It has given him the opportunity he has long craved –

being chief executive of a life company which concentrates solely on the

retirement market.

Fuller has been able to achieve his dream thanks to a £25m cash

injection from Britannic Assurance, which owns a 96 per cent share in the

company. The other 4 per cent is owned by what Fuller describes as his

dream team of handpicked directors.

This week, Evergreen is rolling out its first product to the whole IFA

market, an “enhanced life annuity”. For those unfamiliar with the

terminology, an enhanced annuity is an impaired life annuity by another


But if the company name seems familiar, it is because Evergreen has

already put the product through trials with retirement specialists,

including the Annuity Bureau and Wentworth Rose, prior to launching to the

market at large.

According to Fuller, this is just the beginning, with many more specialist

retirement products in the pipeline, inc-luding equity release plans and

long-term care plans for immediate needs.

Fuller believes pensioners and those nearing retirement are the forgotten

army when financial services companies go into battle for business.

He says: “I am convinced there is a huge market for providing services to

people in retirement. At the moment, most life offices adopt a

one-cap-fits-all approach to people nearing retirement

despitedifferentiating between them all the way up to retirement.”

But Fuller is the first to admit that he does not want to compete with the

Prudentials and Standard Lifes of this world. His aspirations for Evergreen

go as far as becominga niche player in the retire-ment marketplace.

These aspirations may seem somewhat tame for a man whose career has

involved him in a number of ambitious launches.

An investment analyst at Phillips & Drew, Fuller went on to be a founding

partner of Vanbrugh Life, the Prudential&#39s upmarket salesforce which later

became Prudential Holborn. He was then instrumental in Barclay Life&#39s

launch into the pension market.

Fuller became administrative director of Target Life in 1981 and was one

of the key players involved in its sale to TSB for £210m in 1986.

Not content to stay in one place for too long, he then moved to little

known Stalwart Life, becoming managing director. His innovation shone

through once again when he launched the UK&#39s first smoker annuity followed

by other impaired life annuities.

He transformed the business from a small also-ran into a niche provider of

equity release plans and impaired annuities, boosting sales to £260m

from just £5m during his tenure. It must have impressed someone

because US giant GE Capital snapped up the company for £43m in 1997.

Fuller believed that, with GE&#39s substantial backing, he would be able to

take Stalwart further down the route of becoming the complete retirement

specialist. “I had huge ambitions with GE but, unfortunately, we had

different styles and ideas of where we wanted to take the business.”

It was these differences that finally persuaded him to part company with

Stalwart and embark on a venture with his core group of colleagues and

associates. He claims it was not very long before they had three interested

international companies willing to provide the backing for his latest


But he claims it was Britannic that impressed him most with its drive and

enthusiasm although its bank balance probably helped, too.

Fuller is a man who responds to a challenge, whether in the business

environment or in his personal life. It was as a consequence of a challenge

from his daughter 12 years ago that he discovered his other passion,


He says it was while watching someone water-skiing that his daughter, then

aged nine, exclaimed: “Daddy, I want to have a go at that.” Despite not

being a strong swimmer, Fuller decided to give it a go and he has notlooked

back since.

He claims another of his triumphs over adversity occurred some years ago

when he volunteered to coach his then young son&#39s football team.

He says: “For the first training session, I had just five boys and we went

on to lose every match during the first season, conceding 200 goals.”

Despite this, he was impressed by the team&#39s enthusiasm. “Even in defeat, they came off the pitch excited just to have played.”

In true Fulleresque style, he soon turned them into a top team, winning

the league two years later. This was under the close scrutiny of two of the

boys&#39 fathers, none other than England stalwart Ray “Butch” Wilkins and

Irish international Frank Stapleton, who were both regulars on the


Now Fuller once again believes he has a dream team with a wealth of

experience, including four directors who have been managing directors in

their previous careers. Itis this team he believes will carve out a niche

in a market which is running short on ideas and innovation.


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