Royal Exchange Assurance was founded in London in 1720 and was one of the first two insurance companies in Britain to receive legal status via Royal Charter. The company was originally established to provide marine insurance but expanded within a year to include fire and life insurance, thereby becoming Britain’s first composite insurer.
Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation took its name from the location of its offices at the Royal Exchange, London. The Royal Exchange was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham to act as a centre of commerce for London. It was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its Royal title on 23rd January 1571.
Gresham’s original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A second exchange was built on the site in 1669, and was also destroyed by fire in 1838. The third Royal Exchange building, which still stands today, was designed by Sir William Tite and adheres to the original layout, consisting of a four-sided structure surrounding a central courtyard where merchants and tradesmen could do business.
The Royal Exchange ceased to act as a centre of commerce in 1939.
It is now a luxurious shopping centre. Royal Exchange Assurance survived as an independent company for over two centuries until it merged with Guardian Assurance in 1968 to create Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance. In November 2011 the company was acquired by a leading European buyout firm called Cinven.