12 November 1696
Aviva can trace its heritage back to the late 17th century, when the Hand-in-Hand was founded at a meeting in Tom's Coffee House, St Martin's Lane, London.
Established as a mutual society on 12 November 1696, the Hand-in-Hand was once the world's oldest existing fire insurance office and was a forerunner of the modern co-operative system.
Amicable Society Founded
25 July 1706
London bookseller John Hartley established the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office in July 1706.
Founded under a charter of Queen Anne, the Amicable claimed to be the world's first mutual life assurance society.
Primarily intended to ensure that the widows and children of members were provided for in the event of a member's death, the society was also eligible to provide members with annuities.
The Amicable was acquired by Norwich Union Life in 1866.
Union Assurance established
Union Assurance was founded at a meeting at the Amsterdam Coffee House in Threadneedle Street, London in February 1714.
In 1851, the company insured the pictures and drawings at the home of the artist J M W Turner.
It became part of Commercial Union in 1907.
Insurance of Whitbread's first brewery
In 1750 Hand in Hand insured Samuel Whitbread’s brewery at Chiswell Street, London.
The company also provided insurance for auctioneer Mr Sotheby and his competitor Mr Christie as well as insuring a house belonging to Samuel Johnson, the poet and essayist famous for his Dictionary of the English Language which was published in 1755.
01 January 1771
Aviva's business in the Netherlands can trace its origins back to the establishment of Assurantie Compagnie te Amsterdam in 1771. This company was acquired in 1958 by De Koepel, which in turn was bought by Delta Lloyd.
Another company that later became part of Delta Lloyd, Hollandsche Societeit van Levensverzekeringen (Hollandsche Societeit), was founded in Amsterdam in 1807.
First roots in Ireland
04 May 1780
Aviva's connections with Ireland date back to 4 May 1780, when the Liberal Annuity Company of Dublin, later part of General Accident, was established.
Early days - Norwich General
01 November 1792
The Norwich General Assurance Company was established by Thomas Bignold in November 1792 to insure against loss by fire.
In 1797, the company moved from Gentleman's Walk in Norwich to new premises at St Giles.
Bignold remained at the Gentleman's Walk office and established a new company, the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society, which absorbed the Norwich General in 1821.
Norwich Union Fire is founded
01 March 1797
Norwich Union, one of the principal companies that eventually merged to create Aviva, was founded as the Norwich Union Society for Insuring of Buildings, Goods, Merchandizes & Effects from Loss by Fire.
Its founder, Thomas Bignold, was a 36-year-old wine merchant and banker who saw a business opportunity for someone willing to provide financial protection for people and their property. He was also aware that, in a city built largely of wood, the threat of fire was at the forefront of people's minds. Norwich Union was a mutual enterprise, this arrangement meant it was owned by the policyholders, who not only pooled their premiums to pay out in the event of a claim, but also received a share of the profits.
Norwich Union expands
A particularly severe winter involving widespread suffering and loss of life prompted Thomas Bignold to establish the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society.
Bignold had founded the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Office 11 years earlier. Both companies were based on the mutual principle, a forerunner of the modern co-operative system.
In 1925, the two Norwich Union companies came together when the Life Society bought the entire share capital of the Fire Society.
North British & Mercantile is established
The North British & Mercantile Insurance Company was established as the North British Insurance Company.
The first major fire in the company's history broke out in a Glasgow warehouse in 1810 during celebrations for King George III's birthday. The cost of the damage was far greater than it should have been because the firemen were too drunk to put out the blaze.
It became a subsidiary of Commercial Union in 1959.
Sun Life Assurance Society formed
Sun Life Assurance Society was formed in 1810. It was an off-shoot of the Sun Fire Office, an insurance company which had been established 100 years earlier and began operating out of St Paul’s church yard.
In the 1980s Sun Life merged with AXA and in 2010 became part of Friends Life.
First US office
Aviva can trace its roots in the United States to 1810, when American of Philadelphia was established.
The company collapsed with huge losses following the San Francisco disaster of 1906 and was acquired by Commercial Union.
Newcastle by gas light
The Newcastle upon Tyne Fire Office, established in 1783, introduced a system of gas lighting to the city of Newcastle in the north-east of England.
The company, which later became part of Commercial Union, ran the service until 1830, when it was sold to the Newcastle upon Tyne Subscription Gas Light Company.
Sir Walter Scott
Novelist Sir Walter Scott, one of the original shareholders in the Edinburgh Life Assurance Company (established in 1823), was elected as an extraordinary director of the company in December 1824. He also took out a life assurance policy with the company for £2,000, which is still held in the Aviva group archive.
Scott insured his house, Abbotsford, with another of Aviva’s constituent companies, Scottish Union, of which he was also governor.
The group's first agency in mainland Europe was established when the Norwich Union Fire Society appointed Messrs Abel Dagge & Co as its representative in Lisbon, Portugal.
Aviva was first represented in France when the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society opened an agency in Bordeaux in September 1825. In May 1826 the company approved its first policy in France, for 200,000 francs cover on a wine warehouse.
The operations that we recognise today as Aviva France have their earliest roots in L'Abeille Bourguignonne Société d'assurances contre la grêle, which was founded by farmers in Dijon in 1856 to provide insurance against hailstorms destroying their crops.
Friends Provident established
Friends Provident was formed in Yorkshire in 1832. It was created by a religious community known as The Society of Friends, or Quakers. After a master at Ackworth School near Pontefract died without making financial provision for his family it was decided that a life assurance association should be created.
In 2011, together with the life assurance businesses acquired from Bupa and AXA UK, Friends Provident formed Friends Life which became part of Aviva in 2015.
Indian story begins
The Universal Life Assurance Society, later part of North British & Mercantile, was established to carry out life assurance in the UK and India.
Universal was one of several Aviva group companies to conduct business in India until the insurance business was nationalised following independence in 1947.
Aviva re-entered the Indian market in 2002 in a joint venture with Dabur, one of the country’s oldest and largest groups. In the same year, Aviva India became the first company to use the group's new brand name.
Northern Assurance Company founded
Aviva's first connections with many countries around the world were often through the agents of Northern Assurance.
The company was founded in 1836 in Aberdeen, Scotland, as the North of Scotland Fire and Life Assurance Company. It became the Northern Assurance Company in 1848, and began overseas operations in 1851.
The great fire of Yokohama, Japan, in 1866 cost the company £50,000 in claims, wiping out all but £5,000 of the previous 30 years' profit.
Commercial Union acquired Northern Assurance in 1968.
Provident Mutual founded
Specialist life and pensions company Provident Mutual, later an important acquisition for General Accident, was established as The Provident Clerks' Mutual Life Assurance Association.
First fidelity insurance
Fidelity insurance was the earliest form of non-fire, life or marine insurance successfully offered by corporate bodies in the UK. It was introduced to the UK by the Guarantee Society, later part of General Accident. which was established to protect employers from fraud or embezzlement by their staff.
United Kingdom Provident Institution founded
The United Kingdom Provident Institution was established as United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution in 1840. In 1986 this company merged with Friends Provident, later part of Friends Life.
First group life assurance
The first UK group life assurance scheme was established by Provident Mutual, later part of General Accident.
Group schemes enabled employers to pay the premiums to provide life assurance for their staff as a benefit of employment.
Provident Mutual managed staff life assurance schemes for – among others - the post office and leading railway companies.
First accident insurance
The Railway Passengers Assurance Company was created to insure people travelling by train against the frequent railway accidents of the time.
This was the first form of accident insurance, and could be purchased when passengers bought their ticket. In its later product literature the company claimed to be the "Oldest Accident Office in the World"
In 1849, the Accidental Death Insurance Company followed this pioneering lead by becoming the first insurer to offer cover against death and injury caused by accidents of all kinds, not just those related to railway travel.
Both companies were later acquired by Commercial Union.
Norwich Union murder
Isaac Jermy, president of the Norwich Union Life Office in Norwich, was murdered by one of his tenants, James Rush, who also killed Jermy's son and wounded a servant. Norwich Union staff were given time off in April the following year to watch Rush's hanging outside Norwich Castle.
First Australian office
Aviva's first link with Australia stemmed from the establishment of the New South Wales Marine Assurance Company in October 1851 (which became part of Commercial Union in 1881).
Aviva group companies were at the heart of the Australian insurance industry for the next 150 years.
The group sold its Australian general insurance business in 2002 and its life and pensions business in 2009, but is still represented in the Australian market through Portfolio Partners, now part of global asset management operation Aviva Investors.
Clear first in plate glass insurance
The UK's first plate glass insurer, the Plate Glass Universal Insurance Company, was established. It later became part of Commercial Union.
The insurance provided was mainly to protect shopkeepers from the expense of repairing large shop front windows, but extended to domestic windows and mirrors.
First entry into China
Northern Assurance Company, later part of Commercial Union, appointed Turner and Co as its agents for Shanghai on 3 May 1855.
Several other Aviva constituent companies subsequently had businesses in China. All were closed by 1951.
The group's current Chinese life insurance joint venture, Aviva-Cofco, opened for business in January 2003.
Hong Kong and Singapore
The Northern Assurance Company, later part of Commercial Union, appointed Turner & Co as agent for Hong Kong on 3 May 1855.
Two weeks later, Northern Assurance appointed Spottiswode & Co as agent for Singapore.
More than 150 years later, Aviva continues to be a leading financial services provider in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Northern Assurance Company, later part of Commercial Union, appointed William Miller & Co as agent for St Petersburg, then capital of the Russian empire.
Various Aviva constituent companies continued business in Russia until the Revolution of 1917 led to the nationalisation of all banks and insurance companies.
In 2005 Aviva re-established a representative office in Moscow and in March 2006 was granted a licence to sell long-term savings and protection products.
First New Zealand insurer
The first underwriting company in the colony of New Zealand was the New Zealand Insurance Company.
It was established in Auckland in 1859 by a local lawyer, Thomas Russell, to transact fire and marine business.
NZI, as the company later became known, was acquired by General Accident in 1989 and sold by Aviva in 2002.
Commercial Union formed
One of the main companies that eventually merged to create Aviva was established after a fire raged in a London hemp warehouse for nearly two days in June 1861.
The size of the disaster created panic among insurance companies, who announced premium increases for waterside warehouses.
Merchants called a public protest meeting and formed a committee to consider how to make their opposition most effective. The committee decided to form a new company, and the Commercial Union Assurance Company started business. The first policy was issued on 1 October 1861 to Thomas Francis Hicks.
World record sum insured
The International Exhibition, or Great London Exposition, of 1862, was housed in a building insured by Norwich Union Fire Society for what was at the time a world record sum of £450,000.
A further risk of £2,500 was later added to cover goods in the building, and Norwich Union was closely involved in giving advice to the building contractors on fire safety.
Norwich Union Life Society acquired the Amicable Society, which was established in 1706 and claimed to be the world's oldest mutual life office.
Establishment of London and Manchester Assurance
London and Manchester Assurance Company was established as the London and Manchester Industrial Assurance Company Ltd.
The Exeter based company was acquired by Friends Provident in 1998, later forming part of Friends Life.
Tragedy aboard the Cospatrick
17 November 1874
In November 1874 a fire on the emigrant ship Cospatrick, bound from Gravesend in England to Auckland, New Zealand, led to the death of all but three of her 476 passengers and crew.
The New Zealand Insurance Company and South British Fire and Marine Insurance Company of New Zealand were both involved in this tragic marine loss off the Cape of Good Hope.
Both companies, subsequently part of the Aviva group, paid claims on what was described as the worst sea disaster in the history of sail, and New Zealand's worst civil disaster.
Great fire of Saint John, Canada
20 June 1877
Fire destroyed a large part of the city of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in June 1877.
Commercial Union paid nearly £72,000 in claims, the prompt settlement of which secured the company an excellent reputation for service and ensured good business in the future.
Another of Aviva's constituent companies, Northern Assurance, was also a prominent insurer of those involved in the conflagration.
Norwich Cathedral first appeared as a company trade mark for Norwich Union.
The cathedral was used in various forms over the years, and the cathedral spire was an inspiration for part of the new corporate mark following the merger with CGU in 2000. It was retained in Aviva's logo from 2002.
First employers' liability insurance
The first company to insure employers against losses caused by claims from employees injured at work was the Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation (later part of Commercial Union).
It was established in 1880 in response to the Employers' Liability Act, which extended the protection provided to workers involved in accidents caused by the negligence of business owners, managers and foremen.
The company said that "by offering insurance facilities to both masters and men, (it) will solve a question which has already caused a certain amount of ill-feeling between them."
One of Aviva's companies claimed to be the first in the UK to provide subsidised lunches for its employees.
From February 1885, Employers' Liability - later part of Commercial Union - provided lunch for its staff in the board luncheon room for five days a week, subsidised by the company at a cost of 5d per head.
General Accident formed
16 December 1885
General Accident, one of the main companies that subsequently merged to form Aviva, was established as the General Accident and Employers' Liability Assurance Association on 16 December 1885.
It was founded by a group of businessmen and landowners from Perthshire, Scotland, who decided to form an insurance company to protect their holdings and the interests of their employees.
The association soon expanded its business from accident and employers' liability to include sickness insurance.
During 1887, General Accident started writing fidelity guarantee, live stock and marine passengers' insurance and undertook the insurance of many tram companies across the country.
First burglary policy
The UK's first burglary insurance policy was issued by Mercantile & Guarantee of Glasgow, later part of Commercial Union.
The following year, General Accident became the second British company to offer this type of insurance cover.
First edition of staff magazine
The first edition of the Norwich Union Magazine was published for employees in 1891, earlier versions of staff publications having appeared since 1888.
The magazine continued to flourish in various formats, latterly as a quarterly publication for retired staff, until it merged with its CGU equivalent in 2002.
The Norwich Union Magazine was believed to be the oldest company publication of its type anywhere in the world.
General Accident's head office in Perth, Scotland, acquired its first typewriter in 1892. The first telephone was installed in 1894. The first electronic typewriter and telex machines were installed in 1958.
Commercial Union put in a telephone line at its own head office in 1880 at a cost of £6. By 1894 it had building plans for a new head office on Cornhill, London, which specified that internal communication would be via speaking tubes.
First women employees
The first woman to be employed by one of the group's companies appears to have been M Louisa Shelton, a clerk, who was paid £26 per year by Scottish General Fire Assurance Corporation.
Meanwhile, at General Accident's head office in Perth, Scotland, a clerk called Mary Bain was taken on in the new business department at £40 per year.
First motor insurance
General Accident issued its first motor insurance prospectus. The company claimed it was the first of its kind in the UK.
Winston Churchill policyholder
Winston Churchill, then a young officer in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, took out a personal accident policy with the Accident Insurance Company.
In 1958 the directors of Commercial Union, which had acquired the Accident Insurance Company in 1906, wrote to Sir Winston informing him that this was the oldest personal accident policy on the company's books, and would be free from further premium payments.
19 April 1904
A spectacular blaze in Toronto, Canada, started in a necktie factory and raged through the night of 19-20 April.
With no water for the fire engines, the city was engulfed and a small arms factory caught fire and blew up.
Fortunately, there was no loss of life. But the blaze destroyed three-and-a-half blocks and 120 buildings, causing damage estimated at $10 million.
Commercial Union paid out $40,000 as a result.
Flagship headquarters opened
Norwich Union Life Society's new purpose-built head office, Surrey House, designed by George Skipper, opened in Norwich.
The main hall was decked out in marble that had originally been intended for Westminster Cathedral.
Surrey House remained a working office for the next century. Today it houses the Aviva group archive and forms an impressive main entrance for visitors.
Commercial Union acquired Hand-in-Hand
Commercial Union acquired the Hand-in-Hand Fire and Life Insurance Society (established 1696).
At the time, the Hand-in-Hand was the oldest existing insurance company in the UK.
First steam fire engine
The Norwich Union fire brigade at Worcester took delivery of their new "Fire King" - the first make of self-propelled fire engine in England.
Unfortunately, on the way to its first fire, sparks poured from the two-cylinder steam engine, destroying the blouse of a lady cyclist and a good portion of hedge.
The brigade turned around before they did any further damage and returned the engine to Merryweather, the manufacturers, who attributed the cause to "clutch trouble".
San Francisco disaster
18 April 1906
On 18 April 1906, the inhabitants of San Francisco were woken by an earthquake estimated to have registered 8.25 on the Richter scale.
The quake itself lasted only a minute but a combination of ruptured gas mains and sparks from newly installed electrical equipment led to fires which ravaged the city for three days.
Many insurers paid claims in full, including the Aviva constituent companies Scottish Union & National and North British & Mercantile. The latter paid out £666,000 and was included in what the local press entitled the "roll of honour", a list of companies that had met their obligations at once and honourably.
British painter LS Lowry joined General Accident in the Manchester claims office in 1907, where he worked as a clerk until 1910.
It was not until the 1930s that Lowry achieved any kind of commercial success. He became one of the most popular British artists of the 20th century, best known for his atmospheric paintings of bleak industrial towns populated by matchstick figures.
No claims bonus
General Accident was the first UK insurer to introduce a no-claims bonus for homeowners by granting a free policy renewal every sixth year.
The Hibernian Fire & General Insurance Company was established in May 1908.
Commercial Union acquired a majority shareholding in Hibernian in 1964 and CGU completed the acquisition in 1999.
Hibernian continued through a merger with Norwich Union Life and Friends First general insurance business in 2000 and remained the group’s brand name in Ireland until 2010.
By appointment to royalty
General Accident insured so many members of the British royal family, and cars of the royal household, that it was granted a royal warrant by King George V in 1911.
To the best of our knowledge, General Accident is the first and only insurance company to have held this honour.
The royal family subsequently decided to limit royal warrants to tradesmen. The professions - such as insurers, bankers, accountants, solicitors - and some other types of business no longer qualify.
Sinking of the Titanic
15 April 1912
Commercial Union was one of the companies that insured the White Star liner Titanic, which sank on 15 April 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage.
The owners had so much confidence in her design, which included new watertight bulkheads, that they had not insured her for her full value, an estimated £1,750,000.
Even so, a loss of some £1,000,000 was involved which, according to The Times of 1912, was "the heaviest individual loss that has ever befallen underwriters".
Commercial Union's share of the claim amounted to £145,723, of which £60,723 was for losses to registered mail posted from London, Hamburg and Paris.
Motor manufacturer insurance
An innovative agreement between General Accident and Morris Motors meant that every Morris car that came off the production line was sold with a free General Accident comprehensive car insurance policy. The reduced premium of about £7 was paid by the manufacturer. The scheme lasted for two years, during which about 90,000 vehicles were covered.
Although this was expensive in the short term, because it led to a higher volume of claims, it provided invaluable publicity for General Accident.
It gave the company access to a nationwide network of agents in garages selling Morris cars and reinforced its status as the country’s leading motor insurer.
Ceremonial Chinese parasol
30 June 1927
Among the items retained in the Aviva group archive is a stunning Chinese ceremonial parasol.
Employees in the Shanghai branch gave it to the managing director of General Accident to celebrate his 40th anniversary with the Corporation in 1927.
The banners down either side of the parasol are literally translated as “The Shanghai Far Eastern Branch Manager Brian Mitchell and all his staff, respectful congratulations. [To] He who is imbued with sweet harmony, venerable first-born, Chief Executive of the Guarantee All Danger Company forty years of splendid and honourable Chieftainship”
The parasol is considered by experts to be the oldest example of its type anywhere in the world.
Elephant for tea
General Accident was asked to write the public liability risk for parading an elephant through Sydney, Australia, as part of a publicity campaign for tea.
The Philadelphia office of General Accident in the US installed the company's first computer, an Invec 650, for handling general accounts.
In 1960 General Accident ordered the first computer for its UK business, an IBM 1401, which used punch cards for input and magnetic storage tapes.
Norwich Union buys Scottish Union
The Scottish Union & National Insurance Company (established 1824) was bought by Norwich Union.
Included in the acquisition was the marine insurer Maritime Insurance Company, which was sold to American financial corporation CNA in 1998.
Merger with North British & Mercantile
The North British & Mercantile Insurance Company (established 1809), which had been applauded for paying up promptly following the San Francisco disaster of 1906, became a subsidiary of Commercial Union.
Don Thompson - "Mighty Mouse"
Don Thompson, who worked for Commercial Union and was described as "a frail, bespectacled insurance clerk", won Olympic gold in the marathon walk at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.
He reportedly prepared for his Olympic exploits in the heat of the Italian summer by walking up and down in his steaming bathroom.
He was nicknamed "El Topolino" or "Mighty Mouse" by the Italian spectators.
US President John F Kennedy took out motor insurance through General Accident.
The company continued to insure members of the Kennedy family until 1972.
President Kennedy's predecessor, President Dwight D Eisenhower, was also insured through General Accident in 1960.
Commercial Union Cutie
Commercial Union’s first computer centre was set up in Exeter in 1962. It housed a KDP 10 computer nicknamed "Cutie" – Commercial Union Totally Integrated Electronics - built by the English Electric Company at a cost of over £250,000. According to a contemporary report, two domestic staff mistook a piece of modern sculpture in the foyer for the machine itself.
The Exeter computer centre also held the world's first Xeronic printers to be used for commercial purposes, and the first "Swift" high-speed data transmission system to be installed in Britain.
Great Train Robbery
Commercial Union paid out over £1 million following the Great Train Robbery, which saw the theft of over £2.5 million in used notes from the Glasgow to London mail train when it was hijacked in Buckinghamshire on 8 August.
Rewards totalling a record £260,000 were offered by insurers, banks and the Post Office for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves and return of the money.
After a massive police operation the gang's abandoned hideout was found at Leatherslade Farm in Bedfordshire.
Just over six months later 12 of the gang of 15 thieves were sentenced to jail terms totalling more than 300 years.
Computer delivery for Norwich
Norwich Union's first computer, an Orion 1, arrived at head office from Ferranti in Manchester in 1964. Another computer, five times faster than the original Orion, was installed in 1966.
The first personal computers (PCs) were installed in Norwich Union offices in 1980, prompting the creation of a computer advice centre to help train and support staff.
General Accident entered a takeover battle with the Phoenix that led to the acquisition of the Yorkshire Insurance Company (established 1824).
The deal provided the group with its links to the city of York, which became home to the headquarters of Aviva's life insurance business in the UK.
Northern Assurance acquired
Commercial Union acquired Northern Assurance (established 1836).
Aviva's first connections with many countries around the world were established through the agents of Northern Assurance.
New London headquarters
Commercial Union's new company headquarters opened at St Helen's in the City of London.
It included a new automatic telephone system which, for the first time, allowed staff to dial internally or externally without the assistance of a switchboard operator.
The building, which was damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992, remains Aviva's group head office.
Norwich Union mail coach
The Norwich Union-sponsored mail coach recreated the Norwich to London run for the first time since 1877.
Two years later the mail coach ran from Norwich to Belgium to mark the opening of the new Norwich Union general insurance branch in Antwerp and to celebrate the millennium of the founding of the ancient city of Brussels.
In 1996, coachman John Parker and his team of Hungarian grey horses marked the 150th anniversary of the last London to Norwich run of 1846 by covering a record-breaking 139 miles in just 21.5 hours.
Friends Provident and United Kingdom Provident merge
In 1986 Friends Provident merged with United Kingdom Provident Institution to become one of the top ten Mutual Life Offices in the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom Provident had been established in 1840 as United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution
General Accident completed its acquisition of NZI in Australia and New Zealand.
NZI, established in 1859 as the New Zealand Insurance Company, was sold in 2002.
Bomb damages St Helen's
Commercial Union's head office at St Helen's in London was extensively damaged when an IRA car bomb exploded outside the Baltic Exchange on 10 April 1992, killing three people and injuring many others.
Major acquisition in France
Commercial Union acquired the general insurance operations of Groupe Victoire, including its subsidiaries L’Abeille Assurances, L’Abeille Vie, L’Abeille Reassurances, ACEP, AMIS, Assurop and La Paix.
The acquisition was regarded as the most important investment concluded in France by a British group to date.
The French business had its origins in the 1957 merger of L’Abeille and La Paix to create La Compagnie d’Assurance Abeille et Paix (CAAP). In 1972 CAAP changed its name to Assurances-Abeille-Paix (AAP), which became better known as Groupe Victoire.
Bupa Health Assurance established
Bupa Health Assurance Ltd was set up to offer individual and group protection insurance to complement Bupa’s core private medical insurance offering in the UK.
Bupa Health's business later merged with Friends Provident and Axa's UK Life business to form Friends Life in 2011.
Specialist pensions provider acquired
Provident Mutual (established 1840) was acquired by General Accident, a significant milestone in the development of its life and pensions business.
Norwich Union floatation
In the year of its bicentenary, Norwich Union demutualised and floated as a public limited company.
The move, which took place on 16 June, transformed Norwich Union into a FTSE 100 company quoted on the London Stock Exchange.
The £2.4 billion raised in the share offer was the largest sum ever raised in a British private sector flotation.
Friends Provident acquire London and Manchester
Friends Provident acquired Exeter based London and Manchester Assurance Company which had been established in 1869.
Purchase of London & Edinburgh
Norwich Union acquired London & Edinburgh Insurance Group from The Hartford International Financial Services Group of Connecticut, USA, in November 1998.
The combined business became the UK's third-largest general insurer based on premium income.
Merger of Commercial Union and General Accident creates CGU
CGU plc was created on 2 June 1998 by the merger of Commercial Union and General Accident. The merger had been announced in February of that year.
In total, CGU had operations in more than 60 countries. It employed about 20,000 people in the UK and a further 32,000 overseas.
Merger of CGU and Norwich Union
30 May 2000
The merger of CGU and Norwich Union, announced in February, became effective on 30 May 2000. The new company took the name CGNU plc.
CGNU was the UK's largest insurance group, a top-five European life insurer, and had over £200 billion of assets under management.
As part of the merger announcement, CGNU said it would dispose of its property and casualty business in the US. The sale to White Mountains Insurance Group completed in 2001.
Exit from London market business
CGNU (as Aviva was then known) announced its exit from the London market - a combination of Lloyd's and other global risks - in November 2000.
The group agreed to sell Marlborough Underwriting Agency, its wholly-owned Lloyd's managing agency, and reinsure all existing London market business with the Berkshire Hathaway Group.
Aviva launched as new brand identity
01 July 2002
The group changed its name from CGNU plc to Aviva plc with effect from 1 July 2002.
It was announced at the time that most of the group's trading businesses would be rebranded as Aviva in due course, but strong local brands and some specialist names were retained for the time being.
The names that were kept included Norwich Union in the UK, Delta Lloyd in the Netherlands, Hibernian in Ireland, Commercial Union in Poland, NZI in New Zealand, and Morley Fund Management.
These operations would carry the endorsement "an Aviva company" where appropriate.
A new start in China
A new life insurance joint venture called Aviva-Cofco opened for business in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province (formerly Canton), in southern China.
Aviva companies were first present in China from 1855, but all had closed their doors by 1951. Representative offices were reopened by General Accident in Beijing in 1994 and Shanghai in 1995, and Aviva-Cofco started trading in January 2003.
A joint venture with the state-owned China National Cereals, Oils & Foodstuffs Import & Export Corporation, it has claimed a number of "firsts", including being the first foreign-invested life insurance company to become involved in sports-related insurance in China.
Asian Tsunami disaster relief
Across the group’s businesses, strong support was shown for the victims of the Asian tsunami that struck on 26 December 2004.
Staff donated blankets, clothing and other essential supplies and contributed more than £200,000 of the £700,000 committed by Aviva to the emergency relief effort.
To help co-ordinate the funds donated by employees in the UK, Aviva teamed up with Oxfam and Concern India to establish suitable sustainable development projects.
In 2006, partly in response to the tsunami disaster, the group established a global partnership with Oxfam, becoming a founder of the Oxfam 365 Alliance to respond to emergencies around the world.
World's first carbon-neutral insurer
In an effort to limit its impact on the environment, in December 2006 Aviva committed to becoming the first insurer to be carbon neutral worldwide.
This ambition would involve becoming more energy efficient and using more zero emissions electricity. In 2001 Aviva Investors was a 2001 founding investor signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)
Outstanding carbon emissions were offset by investing in projects that generated carbon credits, either through carbon mitigation or renewable energy. In 2012 Aviva began measuring the community investment benefits of its carbon offsetting, by the end of 2014 this had reached nearly 500,000 lives improved.
Return to Russia
Aviva sold its first insurance products in the Russian market for nearly 90 years.
Group companies had been present in Russia from 1856, though none of the businesses survived the sweeping nationalisations that followed the Revolution of 1917.
In 2005 Aviva established a representative office in Moscow and in March 2006 was granted a licence to sell long-term savings and protection products. The first policies were written by June that year.
New global asset manager
Aviva combined its asset management businesses to create a single, globally integrated operation called Aviva Investors.
Initially with £235 billion of funds under management, Aviva Investors brought together 1,100 employees in 15 countries across Europe, the UK, North America and Asia under a single brand.
One of the key businesses to become part of Aviva Investors was Morley, which began as Geoffrey Morley and Partners in 1971.
It was acquired by Commercial Union in 1990 and was relaunched as Morley Fund Management, the London-based asset management division of the CGU group, in 1999.
Norwich Union becomes Aviva
01 June 2009
Norwich Union completed its planned name change to Aviva on 1 June 2009.
The rebranding in the UK was a key part of the group's strategy to unite all its businesses behind the fourth most valuable insurance brand in the world.
The group already traded as Aviva in most of its 28 markets across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
Aviva's businesses in Ireland and Poland were expected to complete the name change to Aviva in 2010.
Aviva shares listed in the US
20 October 2009
Aviva was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on 20 October, reflecting the fact that more than 20% of its shareholders were in the US.
The listing was regarded as an important development for the group because the US was the largest savings market in the world.
Street to School programme
Street to School, our global community development initiative to help street children, began in 2009 and in the UK we partnered with the charity Railway Children. By the time the initiative came to an end in December 2014 it had improved the lives of more than 872,000 children in 17 countries and seen the issue of street children's rights move to the centre stage of policy at UN level.
Aviva continues to advocate on behalf of street children through our work with the Consortium for Street Children and the UN.
Axa's UK life business merges with Friends Provident
Axa’s UK life business, dating back to the establishment of Sun Life in 1810, merged with Friends Provident.
Friends Life opens for business
29 March 2011
Friends Life, the UK’s newest life and pensions firm opens for business on 29 March. The company brings together the UK operations of Friends Provident and the life assurance businesses acquired from Bupa and AXA UK.
Joint venture in Indonesia
Astra Aviva Life was established, as a 50-50 joint venture with PT Astra International Tbk (“Astra”) to sell and distribute life insurance products in Indonesia.
The new venture built upon Aviva's existing business in Indonesia which was established in 2010.
The group's first appearance in Indonesia can be dated back to 1855 when Northern Assurance appointed agents there.
Friends Life acquisition
Aviva's acquisition of Friends Life is completed creating a stronger, more diversified business and making Aviva the leading life and pensions provider in the UK*.
*based on IFRS Operating Profit, derived from Aviva and Friends Life company reports as at 31 December 2014.