Lloyd’s in the 1800s. In 1841, Henry Willis applied for membership of Lloyd’s, where he started to broker insurance for the cargoes of commodities he sold on commission.
Wall Street in the 1860s. In 1865, New Yorker Peter Fackler founded one of the first actuarial firms in North America.
Manchester Unity was R. Watson & Sons’ first client in 1878. This friendly society (an organization that provides health and burial benefits to its members) continues as a client today.
The arithmeter was a cylindrical slide rule used by actuaries in the late 19th century for life insurance calculations.
In 1889, Peter Fackler helped create the Actuarial Society of America, a predecessor of today’s Society of Actuaries. The society’s first banquet was held in the Astor House at Broadway and Barclay Street in New York.
By 1912, Willis had a huge marine account and was broker for the ill-fated Titanic. The hull claim of $1 million was settled in full within 30 days.
Willis grew in prestige through mergers with other Lloyd’s speciality brokers: first, Faber Brothers and subsequently, Dumas & Wylie to form Willis, Faber & Dumas in 1929.
Our early pension clients included Eastman Kodak Company and Cadbury. Major post-war clients included Imperial Tobacco and Shell Oil.
In 1953, we were among the first actuarial consulting companies to make use of computers. Today, actuarial and financial modeling software play a major role in our work.
Post-war, Willis’ non-marine and reinsurance businesses grew. In 1971, Willis was broker for the moon buggy.
In 1976, a new Willis headquarters — 10 Trinity Square — was purchased, and the company became publicly traded for the first time.
The 21st century poses new threats, and Willis helps clients remain resilient as they face them.
A History of Shared Values
A strong client focus, an emphasis on teamwork, unwavering integrity, mutual respect and a constant striving for excellence are the values at the core of Willis Towers Watson’s rich history. Many of our clients have been with us from our earliest days. Whether they first came to us for brokerage services or actuarial work, they were met with respect, a strong sense of advocacy and an emphasis on excellence. These values will continue to define our approach to business and our relationship with our clients, now and in the future.
The birth of insurance broking and the actuarial profession
1828 — Henry Willis began his career as a merchant selling imported goods on commission in the U.K. at the Baltic Exchange in London.
1841 — Willis applied for membership of Lloyd’s, where he started to broker insurance for the cargoes of commodities he sold on commission. As his enterprise grew, he became involved in the hull business, establishing himself in marine insurance and founding Henry Willis & Company.
1865 — Predecessor actuarial consulting firm Fackler & Co. was founded in New York.
1878 — Reuben Watson formed R. Watson & Sons, the world’s oldest actuarial firm, when the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows appointed him actuary the same year. Manchester Unity remains a client today — as do many of our earliest actuarial and brokerage clients.
1889 — Peter Fackler helped create the Actuarial Society of America, a predecessor of today’s Society of Actuaries. The company’s consulting actuaries have a long history of involvement in professional societies, serving on committees and boards, and helping shape the actuarial profession. Today, we remain one of the world’s largest employers of actuaries.
Establishing ourselves at the forefront of our industries
1896 — Henry Willis & Co. developed a relationship with U.S.-based Johnson & Higgins, which provided Willis access to the U.S. market.
1898 — Henry Willis & Co merged with Faber Brothers to form Willis, Faber & Co and developed a huge marine account, reputedly the largest broking portfolio in the world.
1928 — Willis Faber & Company merged with Dumas & Wylie Limited to form Willis, Faber & Dumas.
1910s — After the passage of the National Insurance act of 1911, R. Watson & Sons became the lead advisor to the U.K. government on national insurance programs.
1920s — Walter Forster, a founder of a predecessor company and known as the “father of pension planning,” sold one of the first major insured pension plans to Eastman Kodak Company.
1934 — Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby (TPF&C) was founded. It initially operated a reinsurance and life division, eventually specializing in pensions, reinsurance brokerage and employee benefit plans.
Adapting to an increasingly connected world
1943 — Birchard Wyatt formed the Wyatt Company, an actuarial consulting firm, in Washington, D.C.
1950 — Fackler & Co. was acquired by the Wyatt Company.
1950s and beyond — Private pensions continued to grow in popularity, leading to a boom in actuarial business on both sides of the Atlantic, and solidifying our position among the largest actuarial consulting forces in Europe and North America.
1960s — TPF&C expanded its services to include health care, compensation and organizational consulting
1976 — Willis, Faber & Dumas listed on the London Stock Exchange, signifying its status as the leading U.K. specialty broker.
Expanding globally and adding capabilities
1970s and 1980s — Regulatory change and rising employee benefit costs in the U.S. spurred a further need for actuarial expertise.
1980s — Willis’ reinsurance business expanded and eclipsed marine broking for the first time.
1986 — Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby acquired Atlanta-based Tillinghast, Nelson & Warren.
1987 — Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby was renamed Towers Perrin.
1990 — Willis, Faber & Dumas entered the U.S. as a retail broker through a merger with Corroon & Black, establishing it as the world’s fourth-largest insurance broker.
1995 — R. Watson & Sons and The Wyatt Company forged an alliance, forming Watson Wyatt and consolidating their global resources.
1995 — Willis acquired a 33% stake in French broker Gras Savoye.
1997 — Willis Corroon was privatized by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in a $1.4 billion deal.
1998 — Willis operations were amalgamated under one name: Willis Group.
2000 — Watson Wyatt was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Helping our clients succeed in a more uncertain world
2001 — Willis Group was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and experienced strong growth.
2006 — Willis Research Network was launched as the world's largest collaboration between academic institutions and the finance sector.
2008 — Willis Group’s U.S. presence was doubled with a $2.1 billion Hilb Rogal & Hobbs acquisition.
2010 — In a merger of equals, Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt combined to form Towers Watson.
2012 — Towers Watson acquired Extend Health and entered the private health care exchange market in the U.S.
2015 — Willis Group exercised its right to acquire the remainder of Gras Savoye and agreed to purchase 85% of Miller, the leading London independent wholesale insurance broker.
2016 — Willis Group and Towers Watson merge to become Willis Towers Watson.