Published On: Wed, Jul 23rd, 2014

Authors reunite for book launch of the story of British American Insurance Company

Peter Phillips, Roger Sayers, Carroll Davidson, David Watson (editor) and David Thurlow at the launch partyA book signing of The Story of British American Insurance Company (BA) was held recently in Nassau, Bahamas by the authors Peter Phillips, Carroll Davidson and David Thurlow. This was followed by a launch party at The Nassau Yacht Club for over 50 BA alumni, friends and followers, many of whom had not seen each other for decades. Prominent alumni who attended the celebrations included Roger Sayers, who was a contributor to the book. The launch costs were sponsored by the kind generosity of The Fidelity Group and the previous Chairman of BA, Peyton Woodson 111.

BA was incorporated in Nassau in 1920 by five Bahamians and sold life insurance with the premiums collected weekly. It eventually became majority-owned by a family trust (McMillen). It was a major business in The Bahamas and became a multinational. It also played a prominent role in its civic and social life in The Bahamas, as it also did in the 33 countries in which it operated. Managed from its headquarters at 51 Frederick Street, Nassau, BA’s worldwide operations included life insurance, banking, broking, reinsurance plus, in The Bahamas in the 1970’s, hotels, a motor dealership, hotels and other businesses.

In 1931, BA’s first non-Bahamian sales office was opened by Don Hart in Kingston, Jamaica where, in conjunction with the Nassau office, it sold weekly premium life and sickness and accident insurance. In 1952, there was an ambitious expansion program and new offices were opened, first in Haiti, then Bermuda and, later, in the majority of English and Dutch-speaking countries of the Caribbean.

BA opened its doors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in 1958. The Manager was a Bermudian, David Gamble. BA founded its reputation in SVG by offering small home policies, specifically in the areas of health and accident. It introduced unique Home Service to clients. It later widened that offer to cater for the Vincentian home owners by developing policies with that growing population and business in mind, along with annuities and the Universal Life Portfolio. Notable staff included Creighton Bacchus and N.W. Crosby.

1967 saw Central American expansion into Nicaragua, followed by Hong Kong, Malaysia and Fiji. Africa was next, with offices in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Mauritius. BA had over one million policies in force and 100 district offices. Later, European expansion followed with the purchase of Ordinary Life insurance companies in the UK and Luxemburg.

This book chronicles the history of the Trust’s control of BA, the geographic expansion of its insurance activities and the impact that the changing world of the 1970’s had on its operations. It contains photos of BA people worldwide and also vivid reminiscences of the pioneers who ventured into far places to fly its flag.

The authors worked together in the Caribbean home office in Jamaica during the 1960’s. They lived in various countries during their careers with BA and their service exceeded 90 years. They comprised the senior management team at the Nassau head office in the 1980’s.

BA’s final chapter is briefly covered. BA unraveled after the Trust divested itself of its interest and this once-proud company was disposed of, one operation at a time.

The book is for sale at Amazon.com. The website contains the launch party video and photos and is at https://sites.google.com/site/thestoryofbritishamerican.

Shown in the photo from left to right are: Peter Phillips, Roger Sayers, Carroll Davidson, David Watson (editor) and David Thurlow at the launch party.   Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

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