The need for insurance in Canada became apparent quite early, with many companies developing their Canadian style branches in the mid 1800s. Following is a look at how and when your insurance company came into being.
Canada Life Assurance Company was Canada’s first insurance company, opening its doors in 1846 in Hamilton, Ontario. At that time, there were no Canadian options for life insurance – those with the funds could travel to arrange insurance; however it was a long, expensive, arduous trip that the majority could not afford to make. To accommodate the characteristic of Canada’s population at that time, the company also hired a traveling agent to follow the increasing population which was spread out geographically. An interesting historical note about this company has to do with their crest – they adopted a pelican feeding its young, a medieval symbol of charity and devotion; this continued to be their logo for over 50 years. They also published Canada’s first mortality tables revealing that life expectancies in Canada were similar to the US, UK and Germany and not shorter as was assumed due to the harsh climate.
Sun Life Financial
In 1865, Sun Insurance Company of Montreal (currently Sun Life Financial) was founded by Mathew Hamilton Gault, a leading business man in Montreal who felt that creating an insurance company would contribute to increase of economic growth and prosperity for Canada. Representing a symbol of strength, warmth and light, the sun has been the central imagery of the Sun Life logo from the beginning. This was reintroduced in 2000, with the combination of the sun (power, energy and life-giving growth) and earth (global reach and diverse financial services) to mark the evolution from a life insurance provider to one of the world’s top financial services organizations.
London Life was founded in London, Ontario, in 1874. London was then known as a financial and distribution centre for western Ontario. London Life from the beginning created an image of fairness and just approach to insurance. For anyone who loves history, intrigue, scandal and a having the unjust brought to justice, 1906 was notable for a large investigation of improper business practices of many life insurance companies both south of the border and in Canada. London Life emerged from the inquiry not only unscathed, but upheld as an outstanding example of a properly run company.
The expansion of the Independent Order of Foresters (IOF) into Canada in 1875 is attributed to a prominent doctor and community leader, Oronhyatekha. Currently Foresters is a non-for-profit membership-based fraternal organization, offering a full range of products and services including.
Manulife began in 1887 under Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister who was also Manulife’s first president. Manulife began expanding internationally in 1893 with operations in the Caribbean, quickly followed by entry to Asia in 1897 and the United States in 1903. In 1956, Manulife became the first insurance company in Canada to embrace mainframe computer technology with the installation of the IBM 650.
The Canadian story of Reliable Life Insurance began in 1887 when the Canadian members formed the Canadian Order of Chosen Friends. Canadians were being forced to pay larger premiums to cover the increased number of death claims in the United States. Reliable Life is now the oldest subsidiary of the Old Republic Insurance Group. This Group makes up one of North America’s 50 largest publicly held insurance enterprises and has substantial interests in each segment of the insurance and reinsurance industry: life and health, property and casualty, travel and title and mortgage guarantee.
UL Mutual is a mutual insurance company serving Quebecers since 1889. UL Mutual’s image is one of stability, durability, and avant-gardism. It remains one of the last of Canada’s mutual insurance companies and its members have voting rights at its general meetings as well as the right to elect its board of directors.
For more than 100 years, Great-West Life has been helping clients develop their financial security plans. Great-West Life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc., a member of the Power Financial Corporation group of companies. It was founded in 1891 in Winnipeg. The company’s first shareholders included merchants, doctors, bakers, farmers, brewers and even a harnessmaker and the local sheriff. Of historical interest, two of the policy holders were lost during the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
The Foundation of Alliance Nationale (presently Industrial Alliance) started in Montreal in 1892 with the creation of Alliance and Industrial, two companies that were founded to stop the massive outflow of savings by keeping the funds necessary to foster regional development in local hands.
Wawanesa has a rich history dating back to September 25, 1896, when it was founded in the Village of Wawanesa, Manitoba, following late night the summer before over a prairie campfire and a jar of whiskey. The focus was on protecting the interests of the farmers of the region who were being nickel and dimed because of many mishaps around fire, coal-oil lamps or straw-burning equipment/highly combustible wooden threshing machines. They felt a mutual company, created by and for farmers, would be more efficient, and could consequently charge lower premiums. Kempton soon earned the trust of 20 local farmers, convincing them to invest $20 each to help finance the new company.
On September 25, 1896, The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company was born. Two weeks later, a handwritten Policy No.1 was signed, insuring a thresher for $600 at a premium of $24 for three years. Because farmers didn’t have cash until after harvest, Wawanesa issued its first policies without a premium payment. An assessment note was all that was required. Once the crops were in, policyholders forwarded their money. The directors were obliged to cover shortfalls between collections, and had to guarantee personal notes at the bank for the first few years.
The Desjardins Group (or Mouvement des caisses Desjardins in French) is the largest association of credit unions in North America. It was founded in 1900 in Quebec. True to our founder’s vision, Desjardins’ mission remains, to contribute to the economic and social well-being of individuals and communities across Canada. With more than 42,500 employees across Canada, Desjardins Group relies on its distinct cooperative nature its network of subsidiaries and its financial strength to succeed.
In 1903, la Société l’Assomption (presently Assumption Life) came into business. This company has always been a leader in the fight to promote the rights of Acadians in the Maritimes and beyond. The company’s senior managers have been actively involved in movements seeking to provide Acadians with the tools they need to get ahead. La Société l’Assomption also took part in the construction of the church at Grand-Pré, now part of a national historic site commemorating the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. The company was also a major contributor to the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the Expulsion.
Since 1920, people have been depending on Equitable Life of Canada for financial protection. They started very strong from day one, having $300,000 worth of insurance within the first week and more than $7million of insurance in force after the first year, a record unequalled by any Canadian life insurance company at that time. They committed to supporting their customers even during the great depression by creating an inexpensive family income policy offering security to families during insecure times.
In 1923 The Empire Life Insurance Company is founded by Milton Palmer Langstaff in Toronto, Ontario and is now one of the top 10 insurance companies in Canada. Their vision is to be known for simplicity, be easy to do business with and have a personal touch. They have spent 90 years finding the best ways to work with people from all backgrounds
La Capitale Financial Group
1940 saw the founding of the Mutuelle des Employés civils (presently La Capitale), created by and for its members to promote mutual aid. Members of Quebec’s association of civil service employees joined forces and created a fraternal benefit society to protect their families’ financial health in the event of death. Today, La Capitale has more than 220,000 Mutual members. For over 70 years, La Capitale Financial Group has had a strong presence in Quebec and across Canada.
The Co-operators was built by farmers in 1945 to take care of themselves and their communities when traditional insurers would not meet their needs. The vision of this approach to insurance is best summed up by one of the original founders, Albert Savage. He described the company as “an acorn that will grow into one of the greatest oak trees of the co-operative movement”. He and he fellow founders aspired for great things for their farm families. Another unique quality of this company was the belief that they needed to go to their clients rather than expect their clients to come to them. In 1958, one of the agents named Pat was best known for spending a great deal of time driving up the back roads, knocking on every door, meeting clients in their fields and doing business on the large tractor tires. To create a greater comfort for both himself and his clients, Pat converted an old VW van into a mobile office – this became a landmark of the company for over 4 years and has become part of their folklore. Another marvelous tale is the one about selling life insurance on a bicycle – this was the most reliable mode of transportation the agent could afford.
FaithLife Financial was founded in 1972, as Lutheran Life Insurance Society of Canada. As the name would imply, the focus was on insuring those of the Lutheran faith. In 2004, the society opened up membership to the broader Christian community and changed it same to FaithLife to reflect its growing Christian membership. Their core value inspired by Romans 12:7-8 – “If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”