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Fraser's Scottish Annual
Scotchmen and Life Assurance


THE art and science of life assurance has no higher or better exponents than have been given to the world by Scotland.

The practice of this most benevolent of man's institutions has been raised by Scotsmen to the level of the liberal arts and refined to an exact science.

Two of the greatest life assurance institutions in the world to-day are the Scottish Widows' Fund of Edinburgh and the Standard Life also of that city which the sons of Scotia so love to hear called "The, Modern Athens."

There is something in the Scotsman's genius for finance that, coupled with his characteristic carefulness about everything he does, especially in money matters, which peculiarly fits him for excellence in the conduct and management of life assurance companies.

Scotsmen carry this characteristic with them to every country they make their own, and there's no denying they are the financial masters of more communities, if not countries, than any other race of men, as witness Canada and other parts of the British Empire, as Australasia; and also the United States, where the most successful men in business and finance to-day are Scotsmen.

How very clear this is, when Canada is the country under consideration, may be seen when one surveys the financial field and marks the men who are the executive heads of the leading life assurance companies.

Of British life assurance companies whose Canadian branches are managed by Scotsmen, the Standard Life is an example in the person of Mr. W. M. Ramsay, Montreal.

Canadian companies whose managers are Scotsmen may be instanced by the Confederation Life in Mr. J. K. Macdonald, the Sun Life in Mr. R. Macaulay, and especially the Canada Life in Mr. A. G. Ramsay.

What is it about the Scotsman that has enabled him to beat all competitors in the field of finance?

What is the essence or spirit of his genius for making a success of whatever he turns his hand to when money is concerned?

Thrift is the national trait of the Scot.

He is long-headed.

Putting by his savings against a rainy day is typical of the man who proudly claims as his native land that heather-blown country north of the Tweed.

Life assurance is simply co-operative saving. The life assurance company is an aggregate of personal units, each of whom gains by the added strength of the savings of all the others. Hence the business of managing a life assurance company fits in with the natural bent of the Scotsman.

For the purpose of enquiring into the reason of this remarkable success of the Scotsman, in the special branch of finance constituted by life assurance, perhaps the last named of the three Canadian companies instanced, viz.: the Canada Life, is the best illustration.

No other company so well illustrates the working out to a success of international extent of Scotch ideas under American conditions as this oldest and largest of our Canadian life companies.

Situated as the Dominion is, alongside the great new-world republic, it necessarily followed that large influence came from the south to temper the old country spirit of severely conservative methods in life assurance.

The endowment form of policy is the most conspicuous evidence of this American influence upon British practice, for it was the United States companies that popularised this kind of life assurance combined with safe investment.

Looking at the splendid success Mr. Ramsay in forty years' continuous management, of the Canada Life has attained by adhering to principles of honor and lofty ideals ingrained by his early training in a famous Scottish life assurance institution, there is beyond a doubt entering into the estimate of the various forces at work the element of evolution evidenced in the adoption by the Company of safe, progressive steps all along the line of its advancement to its present pre-eminent position.

In no other way is this shown more convincingly than in the modernizing of the Canada Life by moving the head office to Toronto and in the attracting to the service of the Company men who are skilled, each in his own department, in the intricacies of life assurance finance.

It is interesting also to enquire how the Scotsman's ideas of thrift have worked out in the case of the Canada Life, which has been chosen for the purpose of illustrating the success of the Scotsman in life assurance?

The actual figures running over a series of years are accessible in the Government reports. These show a striking result. Taking the last available twenty years— from 1878 to 1897 inclusive,—they show that the Canada Life received from policy-holders $25,680,000. In return policy-holders have been paid $15,130,000; and ledger assets accumulated during the twenty years, to pay prospective claims of policy-holders, amount to $15,220,000. These two sums taken together,—$30,350,000 —represent the total paid or credited to policy-holders in that period. That is for every $100 received in premiums during the last twenty years, the Canada Life has paid or credited to policy-holders the sum of $118. This is one of the most remarkable records in the history of life assurance.

If it be asked how the Canada Life accomplished this, the answer is that by carefully investing its funds on hand it was enabled to pay every dollar of its expenses of management and stock dividends out of interest alone, and besides leave between $4,000,000 and $5,000,000 of interest receipts for the benefit of policy-holders.

Cobden's words about thrift are a propos. The building of all the houses, the mills, the bridges, and the ships, and the accomplishment of all other good works which have rendered man civilized and happy, has been done by the savers; and those who have wasted their resources have been their slaves."

Can there he a more apt example of thrift as a national trait than the Scotsman's showing as a life assurance financier?

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