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Charles Morley Vanstone

Charles Morley Vanstone, a medical doctor, became managing director in 1922. His precise mind and restrained manner would be sorely needed in the face of the harsh economic climate that gripped Canada through the early 1920's. Hard times underlined the need for the company to diversify further, and to build up its financial reserves.

A good place to start was by cutting company costs. Whether it was by turning off lights in the head office or by cutting back on postage, Vanstone encouraged conservation at every opportunity.

By 1925, economic conditions had improved and so had the company's fortunes. In 1926, Wawanesa took a major step forward by offering, for the first time, coverage on private buildings in towns and cities. Two years later, diversification continued with insurance being offered on automobiles.

These years of bold expansion culminated, in 1929, with the granting to Wawanesa of a Dominion of Canada charter.

The charter meant the company could now offer coverage in every province. The year 1930 saw the opening of Wawanesa branch offices in Vancouver, and in Toronto. Within five years, branches were opened in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Moncton - giving Wawanesa coast-to-coast coverage in Canada.

Our Vancouver office as it appeared circa 1935

The Great Depression of the 1930's had little effect on the financial health of Wawanesa. It was a difficult time, but the lessons of previous slumps had been well-learned. The company now offered broad coverage and had access to its own cash reserves. While other businesses shrank or collapsed, Wawanesa actually expanded during this period.

Internally, measures were taken to reduce staff costs. For example, the company instituted two successive 10 per cent salary reductions for all staff during the Dirty Thirties. When four of the directors went on a tour of branch offices, they stayed in the cheapest hotels they could find, and they slept two to a bed!

The Depression had taught Wawanesa that it was possible for a well-managed company to prosper in the most difficult of times. Most important, the gains were made without ever compromising policyholders. Upon his retirement in 1943, Dr. Vanstone took great satisfaction in knowing that Wawanesa's Canada-wide reputation was that of a "straightforward organization, free from chicanery and all forms of trickery."

Throughout the Second World War, Wawanesa was a strong backer of Victory Bonds, encouraging all Canadians to support the war effort. During both World Wars, Wawanesa's employees were committed to country and community. While many workers enlisted, female employees were excused from work to make gas masks.

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