Understanding our history
RSA’s history in insurance dates back well over three hundred years and, while there is much of this legacy we are proud of, there are parts of our past that do not reflect the values we hold today. Through research in our archives, we’ve begun to better understand our business’s connections with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
By the late 18th Century, Britain was the leading slaver nation, carrying about 40% of Africans transported between 1761 and 1807. By the 1790s it is estimated that the slave and West India trades combined accounted for 41% of British marine insurance.
There were only two insurers in the 18th Century allowed by Parliament to write marine insurance – Royal Exchange Assurance and London Assurance – in addition to individuals via Lloyd’s of London.
London Assurance was acquired by Sun Alliance in 1965 to become part of the RSA Insurance Group in 1996. Their history became part of the wider history of RSA.
Like with many large insurance companies whose origins can be traced that far back, some of the growth of our business came from the acquisition of other companies. We’re aware of several chairpersons and directors of companies that later came to be acquired by RSA, who either had outside interests/business activities relating to the Slave Economy and/or received government compensation for the loss of free labour following the abolition of slavery. The actions of these individuals were undertaken in their own personal capacity and were not the actions of any of the RSA companies.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is an abhorrent part of our shared history. It was made possible by those who clearly held values different from those we hold today. In order to move forward and grow as a business we want to make clear our apology, ensuring current and future generations do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
We are profoundly sorry for the association of parts of our historical business with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. That chapter in history was clearly abhorrent and completely in contrast with the values we hold today and the inclusive organisation we aim to be.
Who we are today
Celebrating diversity in all its forms is something that helps define who we are at RSA, and we’re committed to tackling racism and other injustices wherever we encounter them through our actions.
We’ve made a priority of furthering this agenda in recent years through various initiatives and activities, including, among others:
- Committing to improving equality of opportunity in the workplace as signatories of the Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter (2020).
- Participating in the 10,000 Black Interns programme, in order to help provide more career opportunities for young Black people.
- Creating an employee resource group, RSA REACH, in 2020 – with executive sponsorship – which drives awareness of and champions multicultural inclusion and development.
- Launching our ‘Enable Me’ sponsorship programme in 2023, which supports Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority colleagues to develop their careers and helps us gain a greater insight into the potential barriers faced by minorities in the workplace.
- Stepping up efforts to improve the data we collect around colleague ethnicity, so that it can help to inform our initiatives to better understand representation and remove barriers to progression for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority colleagues.
- Supporting grassroots organisations led by – and working for – people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds through regular colleague volunteering / match-funded donations.
Through our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy we have set an ambition to be leading in our sector by 2026. We’re engaged in ongoing dialogue with colleagues and, in particular, our REACH employee resource group, to support current – and to seek out future – initiatives that strengthen support for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority colleagues and communities and improve diversity, equity and inclusion in our communities.