The island of Singapore has long been a gateway for companies looking to expand into new, eastern territories. It is little wonder, then, that Aviva Group companies have had a strong presence in the country for many years.
On May 17, the Northern Assurance Company, later part of the Commercial Union Assurance Company, appoints Spottiswode & Co as agent for Singapore.
By this date, the London & Provincial Marine Insurance Company, later part of the General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corporation, has appointed Guthrie & Co as agent for Singapore.
On February 23, the North British & Mercantile Insurance Company, later part of Commercial Union, establishes an agency in Singapore. Commercial Union appoints Smith, Bell & Co as agent.
On May 15, the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society appoints the Borneo Company as agent for Singapore.
On December 31, Commercial Union appoints Gilfillan, Wood & Co as fire agent.
Commercial Union takes £568 worth of premiums in Singapore. This is equivalent to just over £35,000 in 2008.
In September, the South British Insurance Company, later part of General Accident, appoints McKerrow & Co as agent for Singapore, reporting to the Indian branch.
A Norwich Union Fire clerk in the company’s Singapore agency is caught forging policies in order to make false claims.
The National Marine Insurance Association, later part of Commercial Union, has appointed an agent for Singapore.
The Straits Insurance Company of Singapore, later part of Commercial Union, is established.
On August 6, Commercial Union appoints Straits Insurance as marine agent. On October 15, the company begins to transact life business in Singapore under its Indian branch.
The Union Assurance Society, later part of Commercial Union, establishes an agency in Singapore.
In November, South British considers withdrawing from the market but changes its mind.
On June 23, Commercial Union enters into an agreement with the Straits Fire Insurance Company of Singapore for the first share of its reinsurances on risks in the Straits Settlements.
On July 16, Commercial Union acquires the business of the Straits Fire Insurance Company for £12,872. On August 7, the board approves the establishment of a branch in Singapore. It will be known as the Eastern Branch. The purchase of Straits Fire gives Commercial Union £10,000 of new premiums and, according to a contemporary report, “the company has on its books the nucleus of a business in the Far East which could not have been obtained by any other means”. A report by fire manager George Morant claims that Straits Insurance board member, Mr D W Lovel, is using information to help his agency, McKerrow & Co which represents South British, to take away policies as they mature by cutting rates. Mr Morant also lists the staff in the newly acquired Straits Fire. They include Mr E J Robertson (37), chief clerk; Mr J Wallace; Kong Seng, “an excellent writer and intelligent man”; Swee Gim and Hong Pye, compradore and cashier. Mr Morant also arranges for offices to be taken on the ground floor of Finlayson Green, and appoints Mr Clark as manager. Mr Morant ends his report stating, “altogether I was favourably impressed with Singapore as a field for the company’s operations; and having the advantages of a Branch office (which is preferred by the majority of insurers to a merchant’s agency) and a staff knowing all the ins and outs of local business, the company should at once step into and retain a position far above that of any other Office represented”.
The Palatine Insurance Company, later part of Commercial Union, appoints an agent for Singapore.
From January 1, Commercial Union agent Gilfillan Wood & Co, under partners Mr J Miller & Mr F E Earle, had to transact all business through the company’s Singapore branch.
South British has opened a branch in Singapore, under the management of Percy Upton, who is only 24 years old.
On September 19, Commercial Union appoints Union Insurance of Canton as marine agent. On November 14, the company appoints McAlister & Co as fire agent. South British purchases the Straits Marine Insurance Company, the company formed from the marine business of the Straits Insurance Company. The sale price is £9,000 and includes the Singapore head office and goodwill.
On February 26, Commercial Union appoints Adamson, Gilfillan & Co as marine agents. The agency already represents the company for fire business. South British sells the former offices of Straits Marine for £18,000.
On July 4, Commercial Union appoints Mr W A Sims as manager of its Singapore branch.
On June 26, Commercial Union appoints Harrison Baker & Co as marine agent for Singapore.
South British is now established as one of the largest insurance companies in the region.
The Yorkshire Insurance Company, later part of General Accident, changes its Singapore agent from A Baker & Co to J Travers & Sons Ltd.
On September 25, Norwich Union Fire appoints Vincent John Coleman as agent for Singapore.
On October 10, the Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corporation, later part of Commercial Union, appoints Meyers Brothers agent for Singapore.
The Eastern United Assurance Corporation, later part of General Accident, is incorporated for fire, accident and marine business in Singapore, Malaya and Borneo under the management of Mr H J Fougere.
On January 7, Norwich Union Fire appoints Sime, Derby & Co as agent.
The Yorkshire is now represented in Singapore by J Travers & Sons; Sandilands, Buttery & Co; and International Credit en Handels Vereeniging “Rotterdam”.
On June 5, Norwich Union Fire appoints John Dunniston of the Borneo Company as agent. The South British Singapore branch is now under the management of James Henry. The branch controls Malaya, Penang, Siam (Thailand) and the Dutch East Indies.
On August 11, the Scottish Union and National Insurance Company, later part of Norwich Union, appoints Grace Brothers (India) Ltd as agent for Singapore. General Accident appoints Caldbeck, MacGregor & Co. as agent.
South British acquires the Eastern United Assurance Company of Singapore.
The National Guarantee and Suretyship Association, later part of Commercial Union, opens an agency in Singapore.
According to a letter from the Far East Manager of General Accident on May 18, the company is “very pleased to say that our sub branch office in Singapore, which has only been opened a few weeks, is already on a self-supporting basis with excellent prospects for the future”.
The new sub branch had been set up by Mr Belton, with Mr H C Chen as the accountant on a monthly salary of $240.
General Accident purchases a Dodge car for its Singapore branch. Over the years this will be traded in for a Ford V8, then an Austin and, in 1951, a Chevrolet.
Scottish Union and National appoints Imperial Chemical Industries (Exports) Ltd as agent for Singapore.
On October 5, the Board of General Accident decides to transfer its Far Eastern branch from Shanghai to Singapore as a reaction to increasing unrest.
General Accident establishes a new Far East branch in Singapore. On June 17, the company appoints William Herbert Droogleever as manager of its offices at Hong Kong Bank Chambers. Mr W Dove becomes South British manager for Singapore.
On May 1, General Accident moves to new offices in Ocean Building, Collyer Quay. The company pays a monthly rent of $250. Road Transport and General, a subsidiary of General Accident, begins to transact business in Singapore.
Mr W E Osbourne of South British writes, “what a wonderful statement the Singapore branch put forward this year. The loss ratio, taken through all sections, could hardly be beaten by any other branch”.
On February 15, Singapore is captured by the Japanese. A Commercial Union staff member who witnessed the event writes, “the sky was blood red with the reflection of fires, and the tropical atmosphere heavily charged with dust from shattered buildings.” Commercial Union manager Arthur C Potts is evacuated by sea just before Singapore falls. He makes his way back to the UK but his wife, along with the wives of two other staff members, are on another ship which is lost. Six of the remaining seven British staff join the defence force and become prisoners of war. The seventh, Mr C W Warren, stays to man the office and is sent to Changi Civilian Internment Camp.
Mr Given-Wilson of General Accident also becomes a prisoner of war while William Droogleever is sent first to Changi and then to the Sime Road Internment Camp. The South British manager, Mr Dove, is also interned in Changi.
William Droogleever writes to Stanley Norie-Miller from Sime Road on September 7, the day Singapore is liberated.
1946Advertisement for General Accident Singapore branch, 1946
Mr J H Purrier of the Royal Exchange is authorised to act for General Accident until William Droogleever returns to his post. In January he establishes temporary offices for the company at 32 Chartered Bank Chambers. The company’s Ocean Buildings offices have been used by the Japanese as naval headquarters and are not yet available. Mr Purrier acquires furniture and contacts former members of staff in an attempt to rebuild the branch. In April, his efforts are rewarded as the company is able to return to Ocean Buildings.
Cheong Chong Yew of Commercial Union is awarded the British Empire Medal for courage and devotion to duty as group warden during air attacks on Singapore between 1941 and 1942. Scottish Union and National appoints Matterson & Chanter as agent.
Norwich Union Fire appoints a manager for the Far East in Singapore responsible for Malaya, Sarawak, Borneo, Thailand (Siam), Dutch East Indies, Philippines, Hong Kong, China and Japan. William Droogleever of General Accident is appointed aide de camp to the Governor of Singapore.
Stanley Norie-Miller, General Manager of General Accident, visits Singapore from December 7 to 13. He writes, “a small branch growing steadily on sound lines. Restarted from zero in 1946 with premium income now approx. £60,000 pa. Consistent small profit in very difficult territory. Branch operates in Malaya, Hong Kong, Indo China, Siam (Thailand) and Java (Indonesia). A detailed examination of the business has satisfied me that it is being efficiently and conservatively managed.”
A visitor to the General Accident office describes it as “large and airy on 4th floor of Ocean Building. Rent £35 a month excellent office with plenty of space. Indoor staff controlled by Mr M C Chen accountant and Mr Koh Siak Chuan chief clerk, local agents looked after by Tan Eng Swee.”
The North British & Mercantile Singapore staff includes Mr G M Cove, manager; Mr K A Holcombe; Lilan Seah, secretary; Tan Chew Meng, chief casualty clerk and Tang Yew Wong chief fire clerk.
General Accident contributes $1,000 to the building fund of the Singapore Club.
The manager of the General Accident Singapore branch at Ocean Buildings is now Patrick Francis Given-Wilson. The branch covers China, Hong Kong, Indochina, Siam (Thailand), the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States and the British and Dutch East Indies.
Scottish Union and National transfers control for Singapore to its Malayan agents. By this date North British & Mercantile's Singapore branch is at 12/16 Meyer Chambers, Raffles Place.
On August 12, the Insurance Corporation of Singapore, later part of General Accident, is established.
The manager of General Accident in Singapore, Mr G J Hill, resigns and is replaced by Mr H D Smith.
In April, work on Ocean Buildings is due to be completed. The new building will house the offices of General Accident.
The manager of General Accident in Singapore is now Mr D G R Roberts.
Norwich Union Fire establishes Norwich Winterthur Insurance Far East (pvt) Ltd., a subsidiary company operating in Singapore.
General Accident has 10,000 policyholders in Singapore.
Norwich Union Fire withdraws from Singapore while its subsidiary company is purchased by Winterthur Swiss.
On September 30, the Insurance Corporation of Singapore Ltd. changes its name to Aviva Ltd.