Funeralcare provider’s husband-and-wife team eye £400m windfall

A husband-and-wife team who founded one of Britain’s fastest-growing funeralcare providers is exploring a sale or public listing that could value it at more than £400m.

Sky News has learnt that Bryan and Catherine Powell, who launched Pure Cremation in 2015, have appointed City advisers to help them weigh up plans to bring in new investors.

The Powells’ new holding company, Cognicent, has established itself as a significant disruptor in the UK’s late-life planning sector, recently becoming the UK’s largest seller of funeral plans.

Last year, it sold 65,000 such policies, generating revenue of £50m – three times the level of a year earlier.

The company’s growth has come at a time when the pandemic has changed many consumers’ attitudes towards funerals, with long periods of restrictions during COVID-19 lockdowns curtailing the number of mourners permitted to attend them.


Pure Cremation, Cognicent’s main operating brand, offers simple, lower-cost direct cremations which it says on its website is a “modern alternative to a traditional cremation funeral”.

It also offers a range of financial services products in a traditionally highly sensitive area of consumer finance under the brand PureLife, which seeks to utilise the company’s direct-to-consumer model and marketing expertise.

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Direct cremations typically take place without any mourners present, with celebrity figures such as David Bowie and Karl Lagerfeld reportedly having chosen this form of funeral service.

Many deceased people’s loved-ones then choose to hold separate celebrations of their life, often in the form of a remembrance event at a beauty spot or local pub.

An analyst suggested on Friday that the growth of companies such as Cognicent reflected British society’s increasingly secular nature, as well as shifting generational tastes.

FinnCap, the investment bank, is working with Cognicent and its founders on the review of options for the business, with a public listing a strong possibility.

“This is a financial services group which has disrupted previously traditional sectors extremely successfully,” said one person familiar with Cognicent’s plans.

“Their aim is to make it easier and more affordable for people to plan for the future.”

Image: Bryan and Catherine Powell co-founded Cognicent

A £400m valuation would give Cognicent a larger market capitalisation – if it chooses to float – than that of Dignity, the listed funeralcare provider.

A sale either to private equity firms or a trade buyer will also be considered.

It was unclear on Friday whether talks with interested parties had already got under way.

Mr and Mrs Powell own the vast majority of Cognicent, with other senior managers holding a small proportion of the equity.

A sale or flotation would probably catapult the couple into the ranks of Britain’s super-rich.

Cognicent’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are understood to have hit £20m last year, making a valuation of more than £400m realistic, according to analysts.

The company could not be reached for comment.