3 Interesting Facts About Aviva plc

I’m sure dedicated shareholders of Aviva (LSE: AV) (NYSE: AV.US) will know all about its financials, prospects and valuation.

But large, established companies such as this often come with many interesting stories from years gone by. I’ve discovered three facts you probably never knew about the FTSE 100 insurer:

Paying out on Shergar and the Titanic

Shergar, the winner of the 1981 Derby, was famously stolen in 1983, never to be seen again. General Accident, one of Aviva’s predecessors, ended up paying out £140,000 to cover the theft.

Aviva’s website also details its part in insuring the Titanic:

“The loss of the Titanic in 1912 was described as the “most stupendous disaster in the maritime history of the world”. The fully fitted ship was valued at an estimated $12,000 and contemporary estimates put the total wealth represented by her first class passengers alone at over half a billion dollars.

Perhaps the most poignant claim was that made in the name of Henry P Hodges, an instrument vendor who was a second class passenger, and who left a wife and eight children. According to the board minutes, Hodges held an accident policy with the company which was limited to “Europe only”, and as such his policy did not cover his voyage to New York on the Titanic but the claim for £300 was considered and paid without a quibble.”

Famous employees and customers

Among its former staff, Aviva can count the likes of Leonard Rossiter and Jayne Torvill. In an interview with its staff magazine in 1980, Torvill talked about working a full day in the office, and then skating until two in the morning. Later that year she left the company, and went on to win gold at the Winter Olympics in 1984.

Aviva’s roll call of famous customers is even more impressive. It can trace its history to 1696, and early customers included Britain ‘s first prime minister, Robert Walpole, and Sir Isaac Newton. In the twentieth century, it served the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and John F Kennedy.

I took out a home contents insurance policy with Aviva about a decade ago, just in case anyone is interested.

Inventing the quiz

According to Aviva’s website, the word ‘quiz’ was invented in a Dublin building used by one of its companies.

It was an era of ingenious and amusing wagers and it is believed the word ‘quiz’ originated in this room. A member successfully wagered that he could concoct a word which overnight would pass into the English language. He left the club in the early hours of Sunday morning and chalked QUIZ in large letters on all doorways leading to the principal City churches. Next morning, Dublin awoke to find the vocabulary enriched with everyone burning with curiosity to know what the word meant.

However, the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary states: “Of obscure origin; possibly a fanciful coinage, but it is doubtful whether any reliance can be placed on the anecdote of its invention by Daly, a Dublin theatre-manager.”


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> Stuart does not own any share mentioned in this article.