Allan Bridgewater, who died on 5 August aged 74, was a true giant of the insurance industry.
He held most of the top positions in the market. Though one of the very few people to serve as president of the Chartered Insurance Institute (1989-90) and as chairman of the Association of British Insurers (1993-95), it was his long service with Norwich Union that left the greatest legacy.
He started with Scottish Union as an office boy at 16 on leaving Wyggeston Grammar School in Leicester and, apart from National Service in the Royal Air Force, served the company for almost fifty years, rising to general manager in 1984 and chief executive in 1989.
His key achievement (and his most controversial) was to lead the company to demutualisation in 1997, a move that ultimately paved the way to the creation of the modern day Aviva.
There were many critics of the plan but he dealt with them all with extraordinary patience and courtesy, winning most of them over with his willingness to explain, in great detail if necessary, why this was the only real option if the company was to retain any control over its destiny. He was proved right.
He was a constant reformer, never appearing willing to take on anything unless he could make a difference.
His tenure of the ABI chairmanship was marked by a significant improvement in its influence over the formation of government policy.
His presidency of the CII was less successful, however, as he tried to push through a merger with the Building Societies Institute only to run into stiff opposition from the membership, the merger proposal eventually being defeated in a full ballot.
He had a vision of a broader professional body for the financial services sector that was ahead of its time and needed more than the one year of his presidency to carry through.
On his retirement from Norwich Union at the end of 1997 he became chairman of Swiss Re UK (retiring in 2008), a period that saw the commissioning and building of the landmark ‘Gherkin' building in the City, and also chair of the Church of England Pensions Board, a position he held with distinction for ten years. His strong Christian faith was important to him.
He made a major contribution to insurance and risk management education through Norwich Union's funding of a chair at Nottingham University and was a generous in his commitment to many organisations and charitable causes too numerous to mention in a short obituary.
He received many honours during his long career, becoming a CBE in 1998 and a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 2008. He won the Achievement Award at the British Insurance Awards in 1998.
His funeral takes place at Norwich Cathedral on Monday 16 August at 12 noon.
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