Old Mutual Group – values and culture underpinning strategy

Published: 25 September 2023

2 minute read

Old Mutual Group is an international investment, savings, insurance and banking group made up of four financial services businesses - Old Mutual Emerging Markets predominantly in South Africa and Africa, Nedbank in South Africa, Old Mutual Wealth in the UK and Old Mutual Asset Management in the US.


Following the financial crisis in 2007/08, Old Mutual had to change at a fundamental level in order to achieve sustainable growth. The business knew that values and culture would be crucial to this and in 2010 it decided to put the customer back at the heart of the business. The business set out its vision, strategy and five priorities and then looked at how it could deliver these. The ‘how’ is made up of a customer promise, four values and six behaviours that help employees to interpret the values and understand what is expected of them.


Sponsored by the board, the group’s HR function led a review of the values (integrity, respect, accountability, and pushing beyond boundaries) to see if they were aligned to the new customer centric vision. Employees felt the values were still relevant, but they were generic and help was needed to understand what they meant in practice.

Through interviews with the top 100 leaders, a survey of employees at all levels of the group and workshops with the executive committee, Old Mutual identified six guiding behaviours that described the values in practice in the context of the new customer-centric vision and strategy:

  • Aim high and take your team with you
  • Customer first – they’re the reason we’re here
  • Treat the business like it’s our own
  • Need to listen carefully and talk honestly
  • Own our decisions, decide and deliver
  • Win together and help others succeed

Employees were regularly assessed against these behaviours. Performance management included compulsory 360 degree feedback for all leaders solely around the behaviours, and this feedback influenced individual performance scores which were linked to rewards.

Once the new behaviours had been introduced, Old Mutual looked to how it was going to measure progress with the required overall shift and chose to use the Barrett Values survey across the group. Barrett differs from employee engagement surveys, as it starts with an individual’s personal values, the values they perceive exist in the current organisation and the values they believe are needed to take the business forward. By identifying misalignment, the data is used to generate conversations and then actions.


The first survey in 2011 identified a number of areas of dysfunction and only two matches (of ten possible) between existing and desired culture as described by the company’s leadership group. Old Mutual addressed these areas through significant work to focus on the customer, changing the operating model to reduce bureaucracy, changing its product offering, training for having difficult conversations to address lack of challenge, and future scenario planning to reduce short-term focus. The result was that by 2015 the leadership group reported seven matches between existing and desired culture and a ‘healthy’ culture score based on the system. Each of the group’s businesses also focused on the development of culture in its own local context. The Barrett culture tools have more recently been used to assess and monitor risk culture. How culture is measured has become central to how Old Mutual assesses and manages cultural risk.


On 11 March 2016, Old Mutual announced its plans to separate the group into four stand-alone businesses through a managed separation. Consequently, the group culture and behaviours will change again to reflect the four individual businesses and the new role for the plc. This is an historical case study reflecting the position up until the change in strategy.