The Aviva Group includes the oldest mutual life insurer, one of the oldest fire insurers, the first company to issue a burglary policy, and the first and only insurance company to hold a royal warrant. We can trace our presence back to 1696 and through over 750 constituents have covered almost every area of insurance all over the world. Discover more about our innovative inheritance below.
Peace of mind in the workplace
Employers Liability advertising postcard, c1910
Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation Ltd was the first insurer to cover employers against losses due to claims from employees injured at work.
Established in response to the Employers’ Liability Act, the company's aim was set out in its first prospectus, which stated that "the establishment of this company will enable employers to dispense with the necessity of endeavouring to arrange with their workmen to contract themselves out of the act and, by offering insurance facilities to both masters and men, will solve a question which has already caused a certain amount of ill-feeling between them".
The corporation's first policy was issued to Frederick Parke of the Withnell Fire Clay Works near Chorley, Lancashire, on 12 May 1881.
Stealing the lead
Scottish Accident burglary proposal cover, c1910
The Mercantile Accident & Guarantee Company Ltd. of Glasgow was the first company to offer burglary insurance. F W Rutherford ran the burglary department which started writing risks in June 1889 making £1,400 in premiums in the first year.
Some companies, like General Accident and Employers’ Liability Assurance Association Ltd soon followed suit but the long-established fire insurance offices saw this type of business as "venturesome speculation".
Advances in life assurance
Provident Mutual prospectus, 1906
In 1846 the first UK group life assurance scheme was established by the Provident Clerks’ Mutual Benefit Association.
The scheme allowed companies to pay the premiums for providing life assurance to their employees as a benefit of employment. This made it possible for those outside the landed, professional and commercial classes to take advantage of life assurance and make provision for their families.
Personal Accident pioneers
Railway Passengers company logo, 1964
Established in response to the almost daily accidents on the railways of the 1840s the Universal Railway Casualty Compensation Company, later called Railway Passengers Assurance, was the first accident insurer in the UK and, according to its later advertising, the world.
The company's policies only provided cover for accidents on the railways but a year later another Aviva company, Accidental Death Insurance Company, became the first to offer insurance against accidents of all kinds.
Read more about the kind of claims made against our accident companies.
Leading the way on the road
General Accident motor insurance showcard, 1949
Motor insurance was introduced into the UK in around 1896 and General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corporation was one of two companies which laid claim to being first in the field.
The early policies produced by General Accident and its competitors were based on those used for horse drawn vehicles and the credit for introducing the motor policy as we know it today goes to another Aviva company, Red Cross Indemnity Assurance Company. In 1906 this company introduced the first motor insurance based on variable premiums depending on the horse power, age and type of vehicle.
Guarantee Society prospectus header, 1840
The Guarantee Society offered the very first fidelity insurance. Taking the place of a wealthy friend or relative, the society guaranteed employers against loss should an individual member of staff embezzle or defraud them. This opened up the job market by allowing those without wealthy patrons to be accepted for roles in positions of trust such as in the post office or in banking.
Firsts in China
Aviva-Cofco logo, 2009
In 2005 Aviva-Cofco became the first foreign-invested life insurance company involved in sports-related insurance in China. The company achieved three other "firsts" this year: first foreign-invested life insurance company allowed to operate group insurance; first nationwide foreign-invested life insurance company to acquire a business license for group insurance, and first foreign-invested life insurance company to sign a group insurance policy in China.
General Accident's Bristol branch showing Royal Warrant over the door, c1932
General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corporation Ltd insured so many members of the Royal family that it was granted a Royal warrant in 1911, the first insurance company to be honoured in this way. To our knowledge the company is the only insurance company to have held this honour as, when it was removed, it was decided that Royal warrants could only be held by trades people and not by professions.
Light to Newcastle
Newcastle Fire advertisement for gas lights, 1817
In 1817, the Newcastle upon Tyne Fire Office introduced the system of lighting by gas to Newcastle. The company ran the service until 1830, when it was sold to the Newcastle upon Tyne Subscription Gas Light Company. A copy exists in the archive of the original notice advertising the service. The notice says that on Saturday nights lights may continue burning until 12pm, if required, and that the company will keep an assortment of ornamental lamps with suitable burners and will supply them at original cost.