Aviva Group companies have long had a foothold within the insurance industry in this vast and endlessly fascinating country.
On 3 May, the Northern Assurance Company, later part of the Commercial Union Assurance Company, appoints Turner and Co as agent for Shanghai.
The Foreign Committee of the Mercantile Fire Insurance Company, later part of the North British & Mercantile Insurance Company, meets for the first time. By October, the company has opened agencies in Shanghai, Foochow (Fuzhou) and Hong Kong.
The board minutes of 11 February record that Commercial Union has appointed Blair, Tate & Co as fire agent for Shanghai and Hong Kong. By May, the company has appointed Gibb, Livingstone & Co as marine agent. The Northern appoints agents at Tientsin (Tianjin)
The Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society appoints an agent in Shanghai.
Norwich Union Fire appoints the Borneo Co Ltd as agent for Canton (Guangzhou).
The South British Insurance Company, later part of the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Company, appoints Primrose & Co as agent for Shanghai.
South British opens a branch in Hong Kong and in Foochow (Fuzhou). By the end of the decade, the company will also have agencies in Amoy (Xiamen) and Swatow (Shantou). Commercial Union appoints Russell & Co as a new agent.
The maximum fire risk taken by the Yorkshire Insurance Company, later part of General Accident, is £6,000 in Shanghai and £5,000 in Chefoo (Yantai).
The Union Fire Office appoints an agent in Hong Kong and Palatine Insurance Company, later part of Commercial Union, establishes an agency in China.
Commercial Union acquires Straits Fire Insurance Company of Singapore, established 1886. Straits Fire already has an agent in Shanghai, Mr Dudgeon.
Mr Dudgeon is appointed agent for Commercial Union.
The Yorkshire appoints Reiss & Co as agent for Shanghai.
Norwich Union Fire appoints Mr F E Pratt as Inspector for the Far East, based in Canton (Guangzhou).
The Union now has agencies in Canton (Guangzhou), Chefoo (Yantai), Hankow (Wuhan), Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tientsin (Tianjin).
In May, General Accident establishes a branch in Shanghai under Mr L E Seaman. Mr Seaman is paid an annual salary of £450 and the area controlled from his branch includes China, Hong Kong, Indochina, Siam (Thailand), the Straits Settlements (Singapore), Federated Malay States (Malaysia) and the British and Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), as well as India, Myanmar (Burma) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
The Commercial Union board minutes for 8 September record that a branch is to be established in Shanghai from 1 January 1909 to control all the agencies in China and Korea. Mr W H Trenchard Davis is appointed manager on a salary of £1,100 per annum and offices are rented at 22 Kiangse Road, Shanghai. The offices later move to Union Building, 17 Canton Road.
The Scottish Union and National Insurance Company appoints Carlowitz & Co as agent for Canton. In July, the General Accident board announces that the Shanghai Branch, at 21 Nanking Road, will take official charge of all Far East activities. In August, the company commences motor business in China. By October, the company is also writing fire business.
South British assistant manager for the Far East, Mr G F Ross, embarks on a tour of China. In his report, he concludes that the company must be very liberal with regard to loss settlements. He writes: “It is the custom and if we are not prepared to be liberal, we cannot expect to do business”.
On July 29, the Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corporation Ltd, later part of Commercial Union, appoints Reuter Brockelmann & Company agent for Shanghai and Tientsin.
Scottish Union and National appoints A C Taylor & Co as agent for Chefoo (Yantai). General Accident's Shanghai branch moves to 4B Peking Road.
In September, the Union appoints the China Realty Co as a sub agent for Shanghai. On 8 November, North British & Mercantile opens a branch in Shanghai to supervise the company’s affairs in China, Japan and the Philippines, as well as those of its subsidiary, the Ocean Marine Company. Mr E E Parsons, formerly of the New Zealand Insurance Co, is appointed manager on a salary of £900 per annum.
The Employers’ Liability Assurance Corporation opens an agency in China with Messrs Arnhold & Co. General Accident's Shanghai branch moves again, to 4A Peking Road.
South British establishes a branch in Shanghai. By 1916, the branch will be under the control of Mr W Wakeford-Cox and will have two sub agencies at Chefoo (Yantai) and Wei-hai-wei (Weihai).
The Yorkshire now has agencies in Shanghai, Chefoo (Yantai), Canton (Guangzhou), Foochow (Fuzhou), Harbin, Hong Kong and Newchang (Yingkou).
Scottish Union and National opens an office in Shanghai. By now General Accident has a new manager in China, E S Hine.
The General Accident Shanghai manager, Mr Mitchell, visits head office to discuss the opening of an agency in the city for its subsidiary, the English Insurance Company Ltd. The General Accident office has now moved to 30 Peking Road, Shanghai. Around 50 British companies are now operating in China, many of which will become part of the Aviva Group.
The Yorkshire celebrates its centenary, with staff at the company’s office at 41, Szachuen Street receiving a bonus. The branch manager for Shanghai, Mr Allison, visits York for the celebrations. In his absence, the business is managed by Mr Marsden and Mr Arnold of Commercial Union. The company pays Commercial Union 2,320 Tls towards their salary costs. The Commercial Union manager at Shanghai, Mr Trenchard, is on a salary of 1,250 Tls a month.
Mr T E Mitchell replaces Mr Hine as General Accident's Far East manager.
In July, General Accident begins to transact guarantee and lift and plate glass insurance.
Commercial Union opens a sub branch to Shanghai at Harbin. General Accident's Far East branch moves to Algar Building, 5 Hong Kong Road, Shanghai.
To celebrate his 40-year association with the company, the staff of the General Accident Far East branch presents the General Manager, Mr Norie-Miller, with a ceremonial Chinese parasol. The company still has the parasol today.
The Shanghai branch of Commercial Union presents a cup to its staff sports club. Known as the China Cup, it is presented for swimming.
The Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation is now operating a branch in Shanghai, under the management of Mr G D Nicholl. In July,
General Accident sets up a local board of directors in Shanghai to deal with managing its business in the Far East.
In February, General Accident opens a sub branch to Shanghai at Hong Kong Bank Chambers, Singapore. In June, the company begins to write pony insurance.
On 17 August, the Commercial Union manager at Harbin, Mr I H C Godfrey, is captured by bandits while on a tour of inspection at Kiamusze (Jiamusi) 300 miles northeast of the city. A ransom of $150,000 is paid to secure his freedom and he is released on 5 September.
In October, General Accident opens a sub branch at No 7 Pekarnaya Street, Harbin, under Mr W Snell. The branch is closed a year later due to a lack of business and competition in the region.
The General Accident subsidiary, the Road Transport and General Insurance Company, commences business in Shanghai.
Both Norwich Union Fire and Scottish Union and National have now established branches in Shanghai.
A report describes the manager of the South British Shanghai office as follows: “There must be few fields in the insurance world today that call for the qualities of optimism and resource to the extent that is necessary in Shanghai if business is to be conserved and extended. Few men would be equal to the sustained strain of insurance management in Shanghai under present conditions. Mr Dove has the ideal temperament for this work.”
Of the 74 British companies now operating in China, 22 are companies that now form part of the Aviva Group. They include:
- Commercial Union, under the management of Mr E L Arnold;
- Employers' Liability Assurance Company, with agent Arnhold & Co Ltd and under Mr F R Barry;
- Fine Art and General Ltd, represented by American Asiatic Underwriters;
- General Accident, under Mr C D Belton and agents of the China Realty Co;
- Merchants' Marine Insurance Company, also under Mr F R Barry;
- North British & Mercantile and its subsidiary Ocean Marine, under Mr A M Bourne, the Northern, represented by Calder Marshall & Co;
- Railway Passengers Assurance Company, under Mr E E Parsons;
- Scottish Union and National, under Mr F P C Ashe;
- South British, under Mr W G Dove and the Yorkshire, under Mr H E Wright.
On 5 October, due to increasing Sino-Japanese hostility, the General Accident board decides to move its Far East head office from Shanghai to Singapore. Shanghai becomes a sub branch based at 18 The Bund.
Commercial Union Shanghai branch manager, Mr E L Arnold, is interned by the Japanese. He is briefly released to wind up the firm's business but is interned again until the end of the war.
General Accident opens a new branch office in Hong Kong. The company closes its Shanghai branch in October. Commercial Union reopens its branch office in Shanghai.
Commercial Union’s Shanghai branch is now being run under its Hong Kong branch, with sub agents at Chefoo (Yantai), Chemulpo (Inch ‘ion, South Korea) and Harbin.
Scottish Union and National brings its business in Shanghai to an end.
Commercial Union closes down its operations in China.
In May, General Accident ceases writing business in China.
On 30 October, General Accident is granted a provisional license to operate a representative office in Beijing.
In June, General Accident opens a second representative office, based in Shanghai.
Commercial Union launches the China Index Fund. This represents an important step in the development of Sino-British relations.
On 1 January, the Aviva-Cofco Life Insurance Company Ltd officially opens in Guangzhou. In November, Aviva-Cofco, submits an application to establish branches in Beijing and Chengdu.
On 16 September, Aviva-Cofco opens its Beijing branch and officially becomes a nationwide life insurance company. A day later, the Sichuan branch of Aviva Cofco opens, making Aviva Cofco the first foreign-invested life insurance company in Sichuan. The Aviva-Cofco customer service hotline is officially opened.
Aviva-Cofco becomes the first foreign-invested life insurance company involved in sports-related insurance in China. The company achieves 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.
On 10 January, the Fujian branch of Aviva-Cofco opens, making Aviva-Cofco the first foreign-invested life insurance company in the province. On May 16, Aviva-Cofco becomes the first foreign-invested life insurance company in Shandong. On 25 September, Aviva-Cofco and the Bank of China sign a trust and comprehensive business cooperation agreement. On 26 October, Aviva-Cofco opens direct marketing and telemarketing business departments. On 22 November, the Aviva-Cofco opens a branch in Hunan.
On 4 July, Aviva-Cofco establishes a branch in Hebei Province, becoming the first foreign-invested insurance company in the region.