1859: NZI- Insurance by Compulsion?
December 18, 2018
The New Zealand Insurance Company, NZI, 1859-1981 (merged) is still trading under the name NZI today. This crest from a 1959 shareholder publication has the moto ‘adverso fortior’, “stronger than adversity”. The tui, kiwi, and dead sheep seem typical indigenous decoration. But is that a fern or speargrass bit of vegetation?
That ship up top of the crest stand for the marine insurance the company started out with when Thomas Russell and Thomas Henderson started the company up in Auckland. Russell was basically The Napoleon of early New Zealand. Henderson is best remembered by the West Auckland town named for him where his forests once stood.
Ripping People Off?
Now, I was hoping to be able to show the early NZI were a bunch of crooks but I cannot. My natural anarchistic suspicion of Russell and his mercantilist cronies suggests it. Certainly Canterbury’s Government attempted a forced insurance scheme in 1857 but the locals don’t appear to have fallen for it. NZI was something different.
NZI’s old Guardian Building still stands today, clock and all. Now as residential apartments.
They’ve covered their tracks well if indeed merchants and shipowners were compelled to be insured. I suspect Russell’s Bank of New Zealand leaned on its many customers, especially if they wanted a loan for their business, to insure themselves which almost exclusively (especially in early history) meant being a client of Russell’s NZI as well. The two were sister companies, apart from being in Russell’s pocket.
Sorry, no smoking gun.
Image ref. Winkelmann, 1914; Sir George Grey Special Collections