Paths to Prosperity

During the 1940's and 1950's, Wawanesa became known as an innovative company, quick to respond to the needs of the insuring public. For example, Wawanesa offered reduced premiums to young British Columbians who completed either a high-school driving program, or a Canadian Automobile Association approved driver-training course. This was a wise decision. Wawanesa's auto coverage in British Columbia was so substantial that in a single four-car accident, in that period, all of the vehicles involved were covered by Wawanesa policies.

climbersAs one veteran Wawanesa employee, Manitoban Charlie Brook, approached retirement, it became clear he was just short of 50 years with the company. Management asked Charlie to stay on and achieve the full half-century.

One thing led to another, and Brook ended up staying longer than expected. Finally, it was gently suggested that it was time for him to start enjoying retirement. Thereafter Brook, with tongue in cheek, told anyone who would listen that he was "fired" after 52 years of loyal service.

Another instance of innovative thinking occurred in Montréal in 1952. The branch manager there received a response to a company job advertisement from John Rae - who was 81 years old. Impressed with Rae's spirit, the manager not only hired him, but went on to recruit a number of retired executives to work in the Montréal office. This highly effective force became known as "The Kid Line."

Wawanesa's famous 'Kid Line'

Wawanesa's famous "Kid Line" in action.

In the late 1950's, Wawanesa applied to the federal government requesting the authority to sell life insurance. At one stage, the issue was referred to the Parliamentary Banking Committee.

Responding to a question by the Committee, the federal superintendent of insurance said: "In the Department, we maintain three files on every company. One contains the annual reports of the company as submitted by the company; the second contains the results of the annual examination of the company by the departmental examiners. The third file, which is never closed, contains all the complaints that have ever been received by the Department. I am happy to say that Wawanesa's complaint file is empty."

The new life insurance business required recruitment of senior staff qualified in this specialty. In addition, increased technological advances throughout the company's operations made the need to engage technical experts a priority.

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company in mid-60's, Wawanesa, Manitoba

The Home of the Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, in mid-60's Wawanesa, Manitoba.

As a result, it was decided to move the executive office to Winnipeg. The head office remained in Wawanesa Village.

In the spring of 1961, The Wawanesa Mutual Life Insurance Company sold its first policy. The next few years saw the steady growth both of the fledgling life insurance company, and the older general insurance company. In the late 1960's, however, Wawanesa was confronted with a challenge that ultimately would spur the company to heights not yet attained by any other Canadian general insurance company.


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