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Norwich Union is an insurance company in the UK. It is the biggest life-insurer in the UK, and has a strong position in motor insurance. It is part of the Aviva group, itself created by a merger of Norwich Union and CGU plc in 2000. Aviva continues to operate in the UK under the Norwich Union name. Norwich Union is currently the biggest sponsor of UK athletics.
Norwich Union was founded in 1797 in Norwich, when 36-year-old merchant and banker Thomas Bignold formed the "Norwich Union Society for the Insurance of Houses, Stock and Merchandise from Fire", a mutual society owned by the policyholders who received a share of the profits. This in turn became known as the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Office.
In 1808 Thomas Bignold established a second mutual, the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society. The Fire Society demutualised in 1823 when it absorbed the Norwich General Assurance Company. In common with many insurance companies against fire loss, they operated their own fire brigades to protect (only) the society's policyholders whose buildings were identified by "fire marks". It was not until 1929 that the Fire Society gave up its last private brigade, in Worcester, to the municipal authorities.
By the start of the 20th century, the various Norwich Union societies were operating worldwide, although the last two decades of the century saw a retrenchment and withdrawal from a number of markets seen as unstable, especially in Africa.
In 1997, its bicentenary year, Norwich Union demutualised and floated as a public limited company on the London Stock Exchange. Although it sold general insurance, motoring, healthcare and life policies - its wide range of products leading indirectly to its slogan no-one protects more - it was listed on the markets as a life company, and in recent years has been under some pressure from analysts to shed its general insurance arm.
In 2000, Norwich Union merged with CGU, which itself was formed from the merger of General Accident and Commercial Union in October 1998. The Norwich Union had tried to take over General Accident over 100 years earlier. CGU also offered a broad range of life and general insurance products, with a stronger global presence than the heavily UK-based Norwich Union. Upon merging they formed the group CGNU which went on to become the Aviva group. As of 2005, there are two companies operating in the UK under the Aviva umbrella that use the Norwich Union brand: Norwich Union Insurance (NUI) and Norwich Union Life (NUL). Outside the UK, the Aviva brand is dominant.
Recently, Norwich Union has introduced a novel type of auto insurance called "Pay as You Drive (PAYD)". A GPS and a cell phone are placed in a car and different risk factors (e.g. speed, distance, etc.) are directly monitored. The information is transmitted directly back to the insurance company. Drivers with low risk factors get a discount on their motor insurance premiums. There are several business method patents covering this invention.