Origins of 'The Alliance'
The Alliance Assurance Company, (today part of the RSA Group of insurance companies) can trace its origins back to St Swithin's Lane in the early 1820s. The story goes that the financier Moses Montefiore and Nathan Rothschild – married to sisters, and neighbours in St Swithin’s Lane in the heart of the City of London – fell into conversation one day as the latter was going to collect the dividends on shares he held in an insurance company. The two men agreed that with their many friends and contacts they themselves could supply a useful number of clients for any insurance company, and saw the advantages of setting up a new company themselves.
There were additional attractions for such a venture. Nathan was often forced to pay high premiums to insure his international shipments of bullion and other goods, and would have been particularly keen to break the monopoly held by Lloyd’s on marine insurance; Jews at that time were discriminated against by Lloyds. Nathan and Moses resolved to form an insurance company to rival and circumvent Lloyds, with a larger share capital and a more influential Board of Directors. The plan was quickly put into action. Joining Rothschild and Montefiore as founding presidents were the prominent Quaker, Samuel Gurney, and the financiers John Irving and Francis Baring. 50,000 shares of £100 pounds each were issued and rapidly sold, with only the first £10 of each share actually called up: £5,000,000 was a share capital far in excess of any of its rivals. The Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company Ltd commenced business on 23 March 1824 in temporary offices in Moses Montefiore’s home in St Swithin’s Lane. It was started with a capital of £5 million, enormous for the time.