The mark of distinction for Demerara Mutual is the quality of insurance coverage it provides, the solid security and protection that thousands of policyholders have enjoyed since 1891.
Four (4) generations of Caribbean peoples have seen DM evolve from its inception as the first local carrier of Life Insurance in then British Guiana. Though the company was set up as an off-shoot of the Hand-in-Hand Mutual Insurance company, it could not be established without acquiring the then princely sum of $100,000 as “guaranteed capital” to begin operating as a Life Insurance business. Forty-one persons contributed this capital, among them the Right Reverend W.P. Austin, Bishop of Guiana, and Drs. J.L. Veendam and F.H. Anderson.
Demerara Mutual’s mantra then, as it is now, was “to encourage thrift and prudence by offering cheap but safe Life Insurance on a basis adapted to the special needs of tropical countries”, according to international journal, The Review, in 1918.
“Sound economic management” was the kind of terminology commonly used to describe Demerara Mutual as it grew and expanded its product range to accommodate changing times. Despite the nuts-and-bolts economics that must govern every business, Demerara Mutual continued to be innovative, providing AFFORDABLE insurance and managing the finances of the ‘smaller man”.
The First ‘Canvassers’
The first DM Sales Agent, then called a ‘Canvasser’, was officially employed in 1893, less than a year after the establishment of the company. He was Mr. G.U. Shaw. As the decades went by, insurance sales, or canvassing, evolved into a serious, lucrative occupation. It was said at DM Centennial that the success of the Society must be seen as being inimitably linked to the vigour and effectiveness of its ‘canvassers’.
Early giants in Field Operations after the turn of the century, and the real architects of the Agency System were S.N. Abdool, A.O. Abdool, T.C. Edwards, H.K. George, A.A. Fredericks, and G.C. Irving among others.
At the Board meeting of 13th March, 1894, the Directors took the bold decision to entertain mortgage applications. The first mortgage was granted the same year on a property at Lot 79 High & Cowan Sts., Kingston, Georgetown.
Then in 1914, an ambitious HOME PURCHASE PLAN was launched to help policyholders purchase the rented homes they lived in. The policy was designed to purchase the mortgage in the event of the death of the policyholder, leaving the property unencumbered for its heirs. This policy led ultimately to the Directors’ decision in 1978 to establish a DM housing development scheme - Atlantic Gardens, East Coast Demerara.
By then accustomed to doing the bold and the unexpected, Demerara Mutual purchased approximately 100 house lots, then went overseas to buy construction materials to build and sell the properties on an easy mortgage plan. The scheme was eventually handed over to the local authorities complete with water, electricity and other infrastructure.
Spreading Our Wings
Perhaps the most significant demonstration of the innovative “Demerara Mutual Spirit” was the approach it brought to expanding into the Caribbean. The process was not novel since Barbados had already expanded into British Guiana, but Demerara Mutual imbued it around 1915 with its own mantra – togetherness. The intention was to play a role in welding the British colonies in the Caribbean Basin into closer unity. DM offered similar benefits to the habitants of the Caribbean territories – Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent - as obtained in Guiana.
DM is on record as being one of the first practical supporters of Caribbean integration.
Expansion and Growth
Demerara Mutual opened its doors in 1891 selling a package of life insurance that expanded and refined with each passing decade. Mortgage plans were introduced just past the turn of the century. Then in 1993, the Demerara Fire and General Insurance Company was formed as a subsidiary to Demerara Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd. to provide insurance coverage for vehicles and other movable and immovable assets.
The areas of coverage have grown to encompass group and individual health and travel, plus financial coverage for the more delicate aspects of life and living. DM continues to venture and expand its operating territory in the financial marketplace in Guyana and the Eastern Caribbean.