In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the three largest life insurance companies had a presence in more than forty countries. In the 1880s they turned their attention to the Australian colonies, in which life insurance markets were expanding. The venture, however, was met with unexpected market resistance, and the expectations of the Big Three were never fully met. An eclectic paradigm provides an explanatory tool, which is applied to an investigation of the experiences of American companies. These companies were not able to realize the ownership and location, or internalize the advantages, needed to build a sustainable presence in the Australian life insurance market.