Wesleyan celebrates its 175th Anniversary in 2016
It has gone through some big changes over the years, but one thing has remained constant - its dedication to its members and customers, providing them with the best financial advice and services to suit their needs both now and into the future.You can see a timeline of Wesleyan's history here
On Friday, 23 April 1841, members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Birmingham gathered in a small room next to the chapel on Cherry Street and founded the Wesleyan Provident Assurance Society.
It was the height of the Industrial Revolution and the Society's aim was to help factory workers in Birmingham save for sickness and funeral expenses. The first premium was collected on 27 August 1841. They collected a few pennies every week to help with sickness and funeral expenses, offering life assurance and annuities even back then.
The Society began offering life assurance on a nationwide scale.
In recognition of the Society's move from being a localised 'provident' to a nationwide organisation with a larger scale of operation, an Act of Parliament was obtained changing the Society's name to The Wesleyan & General Assurance Society (W&G).
The Act also meant the Society became exempt from the restrictions of the earlier Friendly Societies Act, allowing it to grant assurances for unlimited amounts. During this year the Society began to transact industrial life assurance of 'Home Service' as it became known, services tailored to the needs of the new manufacturing classes.
Part of this was the creation of a weekly door-to-door collection service. The 'Insurance Man' would become a familiar staple of British life for more than 150 years and was the forerunner to Wesleyan's modern day Financial Consultants who still meet customers in their homes and places of work today.
As the Society continued to grow, Birmingham too was becoming increasingly important as a manufacturing, commercial and communications centre. However, Wesleyan was a victim of this success when the London and North West Railway Company required both of the Society's Moor Street premises for the proposed widening of the rail lines into New Street Station.
Wesleyan moves into its new state-of-the-art Chief Office on Steelhouse Lane. It would remain in the building for almost 90 years before it was demolished to build the new Head Office.
As 'The Great War' began, Wesleyan was a generous subscriber to the Government and allies' War Loan funds. In February of this year, a single cheque for £250,000 was drawn for this purpose, the equivalent of more than £26 million today. At the height of the First World War, Wesleyan showed its commitment to looking after customers by ensuring all claims resulting from war injuries were paid - even though they didn't have to.
To celebrate the end of the war, the Government issued Victory Bond policies and the Wesleyan & General bought Bonds amounting to £3/4 million.
As a direct result of a visit by the General Manager Arthur Hunt to the United States to examine how life offices operated there, a scheme was introduced offering Ordinary Branch policyholders the chance of free periodical medical examinations plus the foundation of the unique Wesleyan & General Health Service Bureau. This innovative approach earned the Society a reputation as a pioneer among British insurers.
The Wall Street Crash leads to the Great Depression, but Wesleyan continues to grow with Annual Premium Income hitting £1 million for the first time.
A year of celebrations takes place to mark the Hunt family's 100 years of combined service to Wesleyan.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War in the previous year, the Chief Office basement and other buildings owned by the Society were converted into air raid shelters.
First aid HQ was established in the basement toilets. Despite the damage, the company survives and continues to operate throughout the war years.
The Society single-handedly challenged the taxation of Life Annuities, a situation regarded by many, including several respected insurance bodies, as being unfair. This effort increased awareness of the injustice resulting in the Finance Bill of 1956 changing the law regarding tax on Life Annuities.
Continuing its enlightened attitude to staff welfare, the Society introduced the Widows and Orphans Fund.Under this scheme if an employee died while in the service of the W&G, provision was made for his or her spouse and dependants to receive an allowance from the Society.
Wesleyan's Assets Under Management hit £100 million for the first time.
In the Society's 150th anniversary year it moved into its new Head Office building at Colmore Circus, built on the same site its previous offices had been of for almost a century. In the same year, Wesleyan's Assets Under Management hit £1bn for the first time.
The following year, the new building was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Kent KG and the occasion was marked by a VIP gala evening culminating in a special birthday concert by Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO at Birmingham's Symphony Hall.
Wesleyan Savings Bank is established. It was originally created to provide a safe home for the proceeds of maturing investment policies, but now provides a range of banking services, including personal and commercial loans.
Wesleyan Assurance Society merged with Medical Sickness Society, who had been providing financial guidance to doctors and dentists since 1884. This enabled Wesleyan to build a market-leading brand and begin its transition to become the specialist financial services provider to select professions it is today.
A partnership agreement was signed with the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) to provide specialist financial services for its membership of over 200,000 teachers throughout the UK.
The sales force became multi-tied, offering value and choice to customers through both Wesleyan Assurance Society products and products provided by other suppliers.
Wesleyan launched into the legal market with 'Wesleyan for Lawyers', providing specialist financial planning and services to those in the legal profession. Wesleyan Savings Bank becomes Wesleyan Bank in recognition of how it has evolved to offer more than just savings and play a more central role in the Society's plans for the future.
Wesleyan Assurance Society was named Life Insurer of the Year at the British Insurance Awards 2008, beating off strong competition from bigger rivals including Legal and General and Scottish Widows.
Wesleyan received a 10-out-of-10 for overall financial strength in Cazalet Consulting's With Profits ratings for the fifth consecutive year, setting a new precedent in Cazalet rankings. It also won Business of the Year at the regional finals of the National Business Awards as well as the Best Use of IT in Insurance award for its recently introduced point-of-sale system.
Wesleyan Assurance Society was once again named Life Insurer of the Year at the British Insurance Awards 2010, for the second time in three years. In October, Wesleyan partnered with the National Skills Academy for Financial Services (NSAFS) and Birmingham Metropolitan College to establish a groundbreaking apprenticeship scheme. It was one of the first financial services providers in the country to offer such an opportunity to young people looking to start a career in industry.
Chief Executive Craig Errington was named overall Institute of Directors (IoD) Director of the Year, after being named IoD National Director of the Year for Large Businesses.
The awards success continued as Wesleyan scooped the Birmingham Post Business Award for Professional Services, Customer Service Team of the Year at the British Excellence in Sales & Marketing Awards and Insurer of the Year at the General Practice Awards.
Wesleyan acquired Practice Plan Group, the leading provider of practice-branded dental membership plans, and Medenta, one of the leading providers of patient finance to UK dental practices. It was a move that would strengthen Wesleyan's position in the dental market.
Building on the success of its apprenticeship scheme, Wesleyan joined forces with Birmingham Metropolitan College to become corporate partners of the Greater Birmingham Professional Services Academy. Its aim is to develop a pool of skilled young people to work in the region's professional services sector. Wesleyan Bank celebrates its 20th Anniversary.
Wesleyan receives a 'ten out of ten' rating from Cazalet Consulting for financial strength in its survey of With Profits providers. It meant Wesleyan is the first and only life office to receive the top rating for ten consecutive years.
The fundraising partnership with Birmingham Children's Hospital was extended for another two years. More than £250,000 had been raised for the hospital's Cancer Unit appeal, with the new challenge being to raise £750,000 towards the construction of Magnolia House, a dedicated area within the hospital that will provide a calm and peaceful environment for families.
Wesleyan acquired Syscap, strengthening Wesleyan's position in the short term loans market and extending its range of commercial services to include the provision of IT leasing and asset finance. Later in the year it also acquired DPAS, a major provider of practice-branded dental plans. Following on from the Practice Plan deal in 2013, it further enhances Wesleyan Group's position in the dental market.
Wesleyan's fundraising activity for Birmingham Children's Hospital continued with the publication of a specially commissioned children's book, 'The Unstoppable Maggie McGee' More than 5,000 copies were sold in its first three months on sale, helping Wesleyan move towards its target of raising £750,000 for the hospital's Magnolia House appeal.
Wesleyan celebrates its 175th Anniversary with a gala dinner for staff. 'The Unstoppable Maggie McGee' goes on sale in Selfridges, marking the first time a children's book had been put on sale in Birmingham's iconic department store.