Our history

Timeline

Trace the fascinating and complex history of Aviva over three centuries.

Our ancestors include the oldest mutual life insurer,  the first company to issue a burglary policy, and the first and only insurance company to hold a royal warrant. Uncover a wealth of history with our Timeline.

1696

Hand in Hand founded

Hand in Hand Fire Office policy header, 1779
Hand in Hand Fire Office policy header, 1779

Aviva can trace its heritage back to the late 17th century. Our earliest constituent, the Hand in Hand, was founded at Tom's Coffee House in St Martin’s Lane, London, on 12 November 1696. Established as a mutual society, the company was once the world's oldest existing fire insurance office. It was a forerunner of the modern co-operative system. The Hand in Hand was acquired by Commercial Union in 1905.

1699

Early fire brigades

The Hand in Hand began to employ firemen to help their policyholders in the event of a fire. Initially, six men were employed and given blue uniforms lined with red. The company's brigade fought fires in London until 1833, when it merged with nine others to form the London Fire Engine Establishment.

1706

Amicable Society founded

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Our life insurance business began when John Hartley, a London bookseller, established the Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office. Founded under a charter of Queen Anne, the Amicable claimed to be the world's first mutual life assurance society. Its primary purpose was to ensure that the widows and children of members were provided for in the event of their death. The Norwich Union Life Insurance Society acquired the Amicable in 1866.

1714

Union Assurance established

The Union Assurance Society was founded at the Amsterdam Coffee House in Threadneedle Street, London. The company provided insurance against fire for the contents of properties. It was later acquired by Commercial Union in 1907. The company's fire brigade rewarded volunteers, who assisted with buckets of water, with tokens that could be exchanged for beer.

1758

Insurance of London Landmarks

The Hand in Hand insured the temporary London Bridge in May 1758. Its predecessor had been destroyed by fire. The company insured many London landmarks over the years including the British Museum, Guy’s Hospital, and Lambeth Palace.

1780

First roots in Ireland

Aviva's connections with Ireland date back to the establishment of the Liberal Annuity Company of Dublin. It was acquired by the National Assurance Company of Ireland in 1876, which amalgamated with the Yorkshire Insurance Company in 1906. The Yorkshire was acquired by General Accident in 1967.

1792

Norwich General established

The Norwich General Assurance Company was established by Thomas Bignold 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 Gentleman's Walk and established a new company, the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society, which absorbed Norwich General in 1821.

1797

Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society founded

The Norwich Union Society for Insuring of Buildings, Goods, Merchandises & Effects from Loss by Fire was founded by Thomas Bignold in 1797. The company was a mutual enterprise, owned by its policyholders, who not only pooled their premiums to pay out in the event of a claim, but also received a share of the company’s profits. Norwich Union was one of the principal companies that merged to create Aviva.

1808

Norwich Union Life Insurance Society founded

Norwich Union postcard, 1923
Norwich Union postcard, 1923

A particularly severe winter resulting in loss of life prompted Thomas Bignold to establish the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society in 1808. Bignold had founded the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Office 11 years earlier. The two companies came together in 1925, when the Life Society bought the entire share capital of the Fire Society.

1809

North British and Mercantile established

The company was established as the North British Insurance Company following a meeting on 17 April 1809 at the Royal Exchange Coffee House, Edinburgh. The first major fire in the company’s history occurred a year later, during celebrations for King George III’s birthday. A stray firework ignited goods in a warehouse causing extensive damage. The cost to the company could have been far less had the firemen not been drunk, owing to the festivities. North British became a subsidiary of Commercial Union in 1959.

1810

First US office

Aviva can trace its roots in the United States to 1810, when the American of Philadelphia was established. The company collapsed with huge losses following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It was subsequently acquired by Commercial Union in the same year.

1810

Dawn of the Sun

The Sun Life Assurance Society was established in 1810. It was an off-shoot of the Sun Fire Office, an insurance company that had been founded 100 years earlier. Sun Life was acquired by the AXA Group in 1997. AXA's UK life business subsequently became part of the Friends Life Group in 2011, which was acquired by Aviva in 2015.

1817

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 1817. 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.

1824

Expansion into Europe

The Group's first agency in mainland Europe was created when the Norwich Union Fire Society appointed Messrs Abel Dagge & Co as their representatives in Lisbon, Portugal.

1824

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott was elected as an extraordinary director of the Edinburgh Life Assurance Company in December 1824, a year after its establishment. Scott took out a life assurance policy with the company for £2,000, which is still held by the Group Archive. His residence, Abbotsford, was insured with another of Aviva’s constituents, Scottish Union, where he was also governor.

1825

French connection

Aviva was first represented in France by the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society. It opened a Bordeaux agency in September 1825. In May 1826, the company approved its first French policy for 200,000 francs on a wine warehouse. Aviva France can trace its origins to the establishment of L'Abeille Bourguignonne Société d'Assurances contre la grêle in 1856. This company was founded by farmers in Dijon to provide insurance against hailstorms destroying their crops.

1832

Friends’ Provident established

Friends’ Provident was formed in Yorkshire by members of a religious group known as the Society of Friends (Quakers). This followed the death of one of their brethren, a master at Ackworth School, near Pontefract. He had died without making financial provision for his family and it was decided that a life assurance association should be created to serve the community. The company became part of the Friends Life Group in 2011, which was acquired by Aviva in 2015.

1834

Our story in India begins

The Universal Life Assurance Society, later part of North British and Mercantile, was established to carry out life assurance in the UK and India. The Universal was one of several Aviva Group companies to conduct business in India until nationalisation in 1956. 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.

1836

Northern Assurance founded

Aviva's first connections with many countries around the world were through the agents of Northern Assurance. Established in Aberdeen in 1836, it began overseas operations in 1851. In 1866, a devastating fire in Yokohama, Japan, cost the company £50,000 in claims. This wiped out all but £5,000 of the previous 30 years’ profit. Commercial Union acquired Northern Assurance in 1968.

1838

What the Dickens?

Sun Life turned down a request for life assurance from the author Charles Dickens in 1838. He noted the event in his diary: “went to Sun Office to insure my life, where the Board seemed disposed to think I work too much”.

1840

Provident Mutual founded

Established in 1840 as The Provident Clerks’ Mutual Life Assurance Association. The company’s motto was "Tuti qui providi" (save and be safe), illustrated by a beehive. This specialist life and pensions company was an important acquisition for General Accident in 1995.

1840

First fidelity insurance

Fidelity insurance was the earliest form of non- fire, life, or marine insurance successfully offered in the UK. It was introduced by the Guarantee Society, later part of General Accident, which was established in 1840 to protect employers from fraud or embezzlement by their staff.

1840

United Kingdom Provident Institution founded

The United Kingdom Provident Institution was established in 1840 as the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution. In 1986 it merged with Friends’ Provident, later part of Friends Life.

1846

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 provide life assurance for their staff as a benefit of employment. Provident Mutual managed staff life assurance schemes for the Post Office and leading railway companies, as well as many others.

1848

First accident insurance

The Railway Passengers Assurance Company was established to insure travellers against the frequent railway accidents of the time. This was the first form of accident insurance, which could be purchased when buying a ticket, and the company claimed to be the "oldest accident office in the world". In 1849, the Accidental Death Insurance Company followed this pioneering lead and became the first insurer to offer cover against death and injury caused by accidents of all kinds. Both companies were later acquired by Commercial Union.

1848

Norwich Union murder

Isaac Jermy, who was president of the Norwich Union Life Office, was murdered by one of his tenants, James Rush. Jermy's son was also killed in the incident and a servant wounded. Norwich Union staff were given time off the following year to watch Rush’s hanging outside Norwich Castle.

1851

First Australian office

Our first links with Australia stem from the establishment of the New South Wales Marine Assurance Company. It was acquired by Commercial Union in 1881. For the next 150 years, Aviva Group companies were at the heart of the Australian insurance industry. The Group sold its Australian general insurance business in 2002 and its life and pensions business in 2009.

1852

Plate glass pioneer

The Plate Glass Universal Insurance Company, the first of its kind in the UK, was established in 1852. The company was acquired by Commercial Union in 1910. The insurance provided was mainly to protect shopkeepers from the expense of repairing large shop front windows, but extended to domestic windows and mirrors.

1855

First entry into China

Turner & Co were appointed as Northern Assurance’s agents in Shanghai on 3 May 1855. Several other of our constituent companies operated in China in the subsequent years. All were closed by 1951. The Group's current joint venture, Aviva-COFCO Life Insurance, opened for business in January 2003.

1856

Russian steps

William Miller & Co were appointed as Northern Assurance’s agents in St Petersburg in 1856. This was our first, but not only venture in the country. Business ceased following the 1917 Revolution and subsequent nationalisation. An office was re-established in Moscow in 2005 and, in March 2006, Aviva Russia was granted a licence to sell long-term savings and protection products. The business was disposed of in 2013.

1859

First New Zealand insurer

The New Zealand Insurance Company was established in Auckland in 1859 by a local lawyer, Thomas Russell. NZI, as it came to be known, was set up to transact fire and marine business. It was acquired by General Accident in 1989 and sold by Aviva in 2002.

1861

Commercial Union founded

In June 1861, a fire raged for two days in a London hemp warehouse. The scale of the disaster created panic among insurance companies and premiums were increased. Merchants affected by the price rise called for a public protest meeting and duly formed a committee. It was decided to create a new company, the Commercial Union Assurance Company, which was established in September that year. Commercial Union was one of the principal companies that merged to create Aviva.

1862

World record sum insured

The International Exhibition, or Great London Exposition, of 1862 was housed in a building insured by the Norwich Union Fire Society. The sum of £450,000 was a world record at the time. A further risk of £2,500 was later added to cover goods. Norwich Union was also closely involved in giving advice to the building contractors on fire safety.

1866

Amicable acquisition

The Norwich Union Life Society acquired the Amicable Society in 1866. The Amicable had been established in 1706 and laid claim to being the world’s oldest mutual life office.

1869

Foundation of London and Manchester

The company was established as the London and Manchester Industrial Assurance Company Ltd on 27 October 1869. It was acquired by Friends’ Provident in 1998, which later became part of the Friends Life Group.

1874

Tragedy aboard the Cospatrick

The Cospatrick was an emigrant ship bound from England to Auckland in New Zealand. On 17 November 1874, a fire on board led to the death of all but three of its 473 passengers and crew. The New Zealand Insurance Company and the South British Fire and Marine Insurance Company of New Zealand paid claims on what has been described as New Zealand’s worst civil disaster. Both companies were historical constituents of Aviva.

1877

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral was first used as a Norwich Union trademark in the late nineteenth century. It has appeared in various forms over the years. The Cathedral’s spire can still be seen in Aviva’s logo today.

1877

Great Fire of Saint John, Canada

Fire destroyed a large part of the city of Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada. Commercial Union paid out nearly £72,000 in claims. Prompt settlement secured the company an excellent reputation in the country. Another of Aviva’s constituents, Northern Assurance, was also a prominent insurer of those affected by the disaster.

1880

First employers’ liability insurance

Employers' Liability postcard, c. 1910
Employers' Liability postcard, c. 1910

The Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation was the first to insure employers against claims by employees injured at work. It was established in 1880 in response to the Employers’ Liability Act. The company’s first chairman firmly believed that it was more than a money-making concern. He insisted that they made employers work to prevent accidents by refusing to insure those who did not take proper precautions. Employers' Liability was acquired by Northern Assurance in 1960.

1885

Staff lunches

Employers’ Liability claimed to be the first company in the UK to provide subsidised lunches for its staff. It provided lunch in the board luncheon room five days a week at a cost of 5d per head.

1885

General Accident formed

The General Accident and Employers' Liability Assurance Association was established on 16 December 1885. It was founded by a group of businessmen and landowners from Perthshire, Scotland. The business soon expanded to include sickness insurance and, in 1887, the company started writing fidelity guarantee, livestock, and marine passengers' insurance. It also undertook the insurance of many tram companies across the country. General Accident was one of the principal companies that merged to create Aviva.

1889

First burglary policy

The UK's first burglary insurance policy was issued by the Mercantile Accident & Guarantee Company of Glasgow in 1889. The following year, General Accident became the second British company to offer this type of insurance cover.

1891

First edition of Norwich Union’s staff magazine

The first edition of the Norwich Union Magazine was published in 1891. The magazine continued for over a hundred years. Its run ended in 2002, following the company’s merger with CGU in 2000. It was believed to be the oldest company publication of its type anywhere in the world.

1895

First woman employee

Mary Louisa Shelton was the first woman known to have been employed by one of our companies. She started work in July 1895 as a clerk for the Scottish General Fire Assurance Corporation. Her annual salary was £26.

1896

First motor insurance

General Accident issued its first motor insurance prospectus. The company claimed it was the first of its kind in the UK.

1896

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill took out a personal accident policy with the Accident Insurance Company in 1896. At that time, he was a young officer in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. The policy covered him for steeplechasing and other forms of racing, plus travel and temporary residence outside Europe. In 1958 Commercial Union, who had acquired the Accident Insurance Company in 1906, wrote to Sir Winston to inform him that his was the oldest such policy on their books and would therefore be free from any further premium payments.

1901

First motor fire engine

The Norwich Union fire brigade at Worcester took delivery of a new appliance in 1901. At the time it was said to be the only motor fire engine in service in England. It had been converted from a horse-drawn vehicle into a self-propelled steamer by Charles T Crowden of Leamington. Early trials were somewhat disastrous, however, as sparks from the motor caused a series of incidents, including setting fire to the blouse of a lady cyclist and a passing waggon load of straw.

1904

Toronto fire

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. 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.

1905

Skipper’s masterpiece

Norwich Union postcard featuring Surrey House, c. 1915
Norwich Union postcard featuring Surrey House, c. 1915

The Norwich Union Life Society’s purpose-built head office, Surrey House, first opened to the public on 1 January 1905. The architect was George Skipper. The interior is richly decorated in marble, some of which was originally intended for Westminster Cathedral. Today, the building houses the Aviva Group Archive and forms an impressive main entrance for visitors. Surrey House received Grade I listed status in 1972.

1905

Hand in Hand acquired

Commercial Union acquired the Hand in Hand Fire and Life Insurance Society in 1905. At the time, the Hand in Hand, which was established in 1696, was the oldest existing insurance company in the UK.

1906

San Francisco disaster

San Francisco was woken by a powerful earthquake on the morning of 18 April 1906. A ruptured gas mains and sparks from newly installed electrical equipment led to fires that ravaged the city for three days. Many insurers paid claims in full. This included our legacy companies, Scottish Union & National, and North British & Mercantile. The latter paid out £666,000 and was included on a "roll of honor" listing companies that had met their obligations at once and honourably.

1907

Matchstick artist

British painter L S Lowry joined General Accident in 1907. He worked as a clerk in the Manchester claims office until 1910. Lowry was to become one of the most popular British artists of the twentieth century, best known for his atmospheric paintings of bleak industrial towns populated by matchstick figures.

1908

Hibernian established

The Hibernian Fire & General Insurance Company was established in Dublin on 28 May 1908. The company mainly provided fire insurance, concentrating on public authority business from the Dublin Corporation. In 1964, Commercial Union acquired a controlling stake in the company. Its remaining shares were acquired by CGU plc in January 2000. Hibernian remained the Group’s brand name in Ireland until 2010.

1908

No claims bonus

General Accident was the first UK insurer to introduce a no-claims bonus for homeowners. The company granted a free policy renewal every sixth year for its customers.

1911

By appointment to royalty

General Accident insured so many members of the British royal family, as well as their cars, that it was granted a Royal Warrant in 1911. To the best of our knowledge, General Accident was the first and only insurance company to have held this honour. It was subsequently decided to limit royal warrants to tradesmen.

1912

Sinking of the Titanic

The Titanic sank on 15 April 1912 after striking an iceberg. More than 1,500 lives were lost. Commercial Union was just one of the companies that insured the White Star Line vessel. The owners had so much confidence in her design that they had not insured the ship for its full value. This was estimated at £1,750,000. The incident was the “heaviest individual loss that has ever befallen underwriters”, as reported by The Times newspaper in 1912. Commercial Union's share of the claim came to £145,723, of which £60,723 was for losses to registered mail from London, Hamburg, and Paris.

1914

First World War

Less than a month after the outbreak of the First World War, Joseph Marius Chazalette was killed in action. Chazalette had previously worked for L'Abeille Compagnie d'Assurances, an Aviva constituent company. His death was the first of many former employees who lost their lives in the conflict.

1924

Motor manufacturer insurance

An innovative agreement between General Accident and Morris Motors meant that every car that came off their 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 expensive in the short term, it was invaluable publicity for General Accident. It gave the company access to a nationwide network of agents in garages and reinforced its status as the UK’s leading motor insurer.

1927

Chinese parasol

Among the items in our Group Archive is a stunning Chinese ceremonial parasol. It was presented to the managing director of General Accident in 1927 by employees of the Shanghai branch. This was to honour his 40th anniversary with the corporation. An inscription on the parasol reads: “The Shanghai Far Eastern Branch Manager Brian Mitchell and all his staff, respectful congratulations. 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”. It is considered by experts to be the oldest example of its type anywhere in the world.

1945

Second World War

By the end of the Second World War over 7,800 members of staff had served in the armed forces. Of this number 698 are known to have died. On the home front, those who remained took on the work of their absent colleagues, along with additional civil duties, while living under the threat of air raids and coping with wartime shortages.

1956

First computer

General Accident’s Philadelphia office installed the company’s first computer in 1956. This was an IBM 650, used for payroll and auto rating. In 1961, the company ordered its first computer for the UK business, an IBM 1401. The basis of this system was the punched card. Information was fed into the machine and stored on magnetic tape.

1959

Merger with North British and Mercantile

The North British & Mercantile Insurance Company was established in 1809. It had been applauded for paying up promptly following the San Francisco disaster of 1906. The company became a subsidiary of Commercial Union in 1959.

1959

Norwich Union acquires Scottish Union

The Scottish Union & National Insurance Company was established in 1824. Norwich Union acquired the company in 1959. This included the marine insurer, the Maritime Insurance Company, which was later sold to CNA Financial Corporation, in 1998.

1960

Don Thompson – the “Mighty Mouse”

Don Thompson, who worked for Commercial Union and was described as a "frail, bespectacled insurance clerk", won gold in the 50km walk at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He prepared for the exploit, held in the heat of the Italian summer, by walking up and down in his steam-filled bathroom. He was nicknamed "Il Topolino" or "Mighty Mouse" by the Italian spectators.

1962

Commercial Union CUTIE

Commercial Union’s first computer centre, located in Exeter, was opened in 1962. It housed a KDP 10 computer nicknamed CUTIE. This was an abbreviation of “Commercial Union Totally Integrated Electronics”. It was built by the English Electric Company at a cost of over £250,000.

1963

Presidential choice

US President John F Kennedy took out motor insurance with General Accident in 1963. The company continued to insure members of the Kennedy family until 1972. Kennedy's predecessor, President Dwight D Eisenhower, was also insured by General Accident.

1963

Great Train Robbery

The Glasgow-London Royal Mail train was hijacked on 8 August 1963 and £2.6 million stolen. Commercial Union paid out over £1 million following the incident, which came to be known as the Great Train Robbery. 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. Ultimately, 12 of a gang of 15 were sentenced to jail terms totalling 307 years.

1964

The Norwich Orion

Norwich Union's first computer, a Ferranti Orion, was installed in 1964. Its successor, the Orion II, arrived in 1966. It was five times faster than the original. Personal computers were first installed in Norwich Union offices in 1980. This prompted the creation of a computer advice centre to help train and support staff.

1965

John Lennon

Sun Life’s Trafalgar Square branch in London accepted a proposal for insurance on the life of John Lennon, of Beatles fame, in 1965.

1967

Yorkshire connection

General Accident entered a takeover battle with the Phoenix that led to the acquisition of the Yorkshire Insurance Company in 1967. The deal provided the group with its links to York. The city became home to Aviva's life insurance business in the UK.

1968

Northern Assurance acquired

Commercial Union acquired Northern Assurance in 1968. Aviva's first connections with many countries around the world came through the agents of Northern Assurance. The company itself was established in 1836.

1969

New London headquarters

Commercial Union's new headquarters opened at St Helen's in the City of London in 1969. It included an automatic telephone system that, for the first time, allowed staff to dial internally or externally without the assistance of a switchboard operator. Today, the building serves as Aviva’s group head office.

1972

Flexible first

London and Manchester introduced flexible working hours for its staff in 1972. In doing so, it claimed to be a pioneer of flexible working patterns in the City of London.

1973

Commercial success

Norwich Union launched its first television advertising campaign in 1973. Its first commercial featured “Big Geordie”, a gigantic excavator believed to be Europe’s biggest at that time. The company laid claim to being the first insurer to advertise on UK television.

1986

Friendly merger

Friends’ Provident merged with the United Kingdom Provident Institution (UKP) in 1986 to become one of the UK’s top ten mutual life offices. UKP was established in 1840 as the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution.

1989

NZI acquired

NZI was acquired by the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation in 1989. NZI was established in 1859 as the New Zealand Insurance Company. It was sold in 2002.

1992

Bomb damages St Helen’s

Commercial Union's head office in London, St Helen's, was extensively damaged when an IRA car bomb exploded outside the Baltic Exchange on 10 April 1992. The blast killed three people and injured many others.

1994

Major acquisition in France

Commercial Union acquired the general insurance operations of Groupe Victoire in 1994, including its subsidiaries. These were L’Abeille Assurances, L’Abeille Vie, L’Abeille Réassurances, 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), better known as Groupe Victoire.

1994

Bupa Health Assurance established

Bupa Health Assurance Ltd was set up to offer individual and group protection 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.

1996

Provident acquisition

Provident Mutual was established in 1840. The company was acquired by General Accident in 1996. This represented a significant milestone in the development of GA’s life and pensions business.

1997

Norwich Union flotation

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.

1998

Merger 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.

1998

Purchase of London & Edinburgh

Norwich Union acquired London & Edinburgh from the Hartford International Financial Services Group in November 1998. The combined business became the UK's third-largest general insurer (based on premium income).

2000

CGNU is born

CGU and Norwich Union merged on 30 May 2000. The new company took the name of 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, the company said it would dispose of its property and casualty business in the US. This was sold to White Mountains Insurance Group in 2001.

2000

London Market exit

CGNU announced its exit from the London Market, a distinct part of the UK insurance industry, in November 2000. The Group agreed to sell Marlborough Underwriting Agency and to reinsure all existing London Market business with the Berkshire Hathaway Group.

2002

Aviva launched

CGNU plc changed its name to Aviva plc on 1 July 2002. A selection of brands with good local recognition were retained. These included Norwich Union (UK), Delta Lloyd (Netherlands), Hibernian (Ireland), Commercial Union (Poland), NZI (New Zealand), and Morley Fund Management.

2003

New start in China

A new joint venture life business, Aviva-COFCO, was launched in Guangzhou in 2003. Our legacy companies had a presence in China from 1855 to 1951. In the 1990s, representative offices were reopened by General Accident in Beijing and Shanghai. The new partnership with the state-owned China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation claimed a number of firsts, including being the first foreign-invested life insurance company to be involved in sports-related insurance in China.

2004

Indian Ocean tsunami

Across the Group’s businesses, strong support was shown for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck on 26 December 2004. Staff donated blankets, clothing, and other essential supplies. They contributed more than £200,000 of the £700,000 committed by Aviva to the relief effort. Aviva teamed up with Oxfam and Concern India to coordinate these funds and to establish sustainable development projects. The Group entered into a global partnership with Oxfam in 2006, becoming a founding member of the Oxfam 365 Alliance.

2006

Going carbon neutral

Aviva announced its commitment to become the first insurer to go carbon neutral in 2006. This was an important step in the Company’s ongoing programme to limit its environmental impact. Progress had already been made on energy efficiency and in sourcing zero emission electricity. Outstanding emissions were to be offset by investing in projects that generated carbon credits.

2008

New global asset manager

Aviva Investors launched in 2008. The new company combined the Group’s asset management businesses worldwide. This brought together 1,100 employees in 15 countries under one brand. A key constituent was Morley, which began as Geoffrey Morley and Partners in 1971. It was acquired by Commercial Union in 1990 and relaunched as Morley Fund Management in 1999.

2009

Norwich Union becomes Aviva

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.

2009

US listing

Aviva was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on 20 October 2009. This reflected the fact that more than 20% of its shareholders were in the United States.

2009

Street to School

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Aviva Street to School, our global community development initiative, was launched in 2009. The programme’s aims were to improve the lives of thousands of street children and young people around the world by helping them get off the streets and into education and training. When the initiative came to an end in December 2014, it had improved the lives of more than 872,000 children in 17 countries. Aviva continues to advocate on behalf of street children through our work with the Consortium for Street Children, and the UN.

2011

Friends Life opens for business

Friends Life, the UK’s newest life and pensions firm, was launched on 29 March 2011. The company brought together the UK operations of Friends Provident and the life assurance businesses acquired from Bupa and AXA UK.

2014

Joint venture in Indonesia

Astra Aviva Life was established in 2014 as a joint venture with PT Astra International Tbk. The company was formed to sell and distribute life insurance products in Indonesia. This built on Aviva’s existing business in the country since 2010. The Group was first represented in Indonesia in 1855 by Northern Assurance.

We completed the sale of our entire shareholding in our joint venture in Indonesia on 18th November 2020.

2015

Friends Life

Aviva's acquisition of Friends Life was completed in 2015. This created a stronger, more diversified business, and made 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).

2016

Red Cross partnership

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Aviva began a partnership with the British Red Cross in February 2016, with the aim of working together to help communities become safer and stronger in times of uncertainty and crisis.

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