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The global expansion of British insurers in the nineteenth century has been a feature of insurance history that has highlighted the strategic nature of the multinational enterprise (MNE). The growth of the Australian colonies from the mid-nineteenth century attracted the interest of these overseas insurers. This article considers the challenges these firms faced and the way in which these trials were overcome. Effective networks were important in establishing a market presence in the Australian colonies. A combination of enterprise, luck, and resilience assisted in building these links. The experience of British insurers in the colonies sheds light on the processes of MNE expansion into markets beyond their range of tacit knowledge and expertise.
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.
During the late nineteenth century, sales of life insurance products in Australia increased at a rapid rate. An investigation of the way in which life insurance products were targeted to the consumers provides insights not only into the marketing approaches, but also the changing nature of the mutual organization. This article uses a “stages” approach to analyze the evolution of the marketing message. The experience of Australian mutual insurers suggests that marketing strategies, as with other types of organizational skills, evolve in response to both the prevailing business environment and the ability of the firm to acquire and implement new knowledge and ways of conducting business.
The Australian colonies evolved a government-centred model of infrastructure provision that was novel and, by the standards of the times, reasonably effective in supplying a broad range of infrastructure services. This chapter surveys existing interpretations and explanations of the role government played in infrastructure development in the Australian colonies, especially rural rail, providing explanations that blend efficiency, path dependence and, ultimately, vulnerability to rent seeking. By international standards, the Victorian commission model was an important innovation, giving rise to Andre Metin's famous descriptor, 'socialism without doctrine'. As with transport, the economic and social case for investment in communications sprang from the 'tyranny of distance'. The history of rail in the 19th century shows considerable vacillation between government and private roles; thus, some explanation is needed of why the public ownership model, even if initially contingent and accidental, 'stuck' and spread in the Australian colonies.
The globalization of financial markets over the past decade has focused the spotlight on the responsiveness of financial firms to international pressures. Insurance markets have traditionally relied on global networks not only to expand the insurers' sphere of influence but also to support domestic business. Until relatively recently, Australian insurance companies have not played a significant role in the development of international markets. However, in the last decade of the twentieth century Australian insurers ventured overseas on a scale without precedence. This article presents an historical perspective on the internationalization of the Australian life-insurance market with a view to understanding why these firms have been classified “late starters” in the internationalization stakes. In a broader capacity it provides insights into the impediments to overseas expansion and the forces encouraging or discouraging the development of cross border networks.
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