Thomas Bignold

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Thomas Bignold (1761–1835) was the founder of Norwich Union, now known as Aviva plc, one of the United Kingdom's largest insurance businesses.

Career[edit]

Born in Westerham, Kent, Thomas Bignold worked as an exciseman before moving to Norwich in the early 1780s.[1] He became a wine and spirit merchant in 1785.[2] In 1792 he was appointed secretary of the Norwich General Assurance Company.[1]

He left Norwich General Assurance in 1797 to found the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society with support from local shopkeepers.[1] He appointed 500 local agents who helped him to expand the geographic coverage of the business; growth was also driven by his practice of offering profit sharing to fire insurance policy holders.[1] He went on to found the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society in 1808.[1]

After 1815 the post war recession started to bite[3] and claims against the Society increased and he initially resisted many of those claims – some legitimately but some not so.[1] Eventually his sons collaborated with the other directors to force him to retire.[1]

In retirement he became increasing eccentric forming a business to make shoes with revolving heels: this venture pushed him into bankruptcy[4] and he eventually into prison.[1]

He was a churchwarden and freeman grocer. He died in 1835.[1]

Family[edit]

By 1785 he had married Sarah Long and together they went on to have three sons and three daughters.[1] His youngest son Samuel was his successor and later a Member of Parliament.[5]

References[edit]