Ault Insurance: An illustrious history

In 1896, Mr Sydney Ault, the grandfather of the present Chairman, became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the early age of 19 and hoped to start a career as a professional Cathedral organist. Things seemed to be going well, but a serious back injury meant that that career had to be abandoned. Instead he was advised by his future father-in-law, WH Webster, to "go into insurance" and this was what he did.
He traded for a few years as a sole trader, and there is an extant record of a policy arranged with the Law Fire Insurance Society (now part of RSA) on "household goods, wearing apparel, printed books, philosophical instruments ..." etc. with a sum insured of £150 at a premium of 3/- (15p). This record is dated 1896, and may well have been taken over from Mr Webster’s agency. Later in 1911, the sole trader was incorporated as a company, in order to raise capital from friends and family, and operated from a single room in the family house.

When Mr Sydney Ault’s son, John Kinder Ault, left school in 1923, he came in to the business as a matter of course; he had no option at that time. He used to collect premiums and prospect in the area on a pedal cycle, and on one occasion was thrown down some stairs when approaching a particularly hostile cold call. At that time there were no employed staff, and he frequently walked through the town to post his own letters at midnight.

In the 1920s, business declined in line with the general depression and for a period it was by no means certain that the company would survive. The business had then to support the family, and that was a precarious task.

After WWII, there were far reaching social changes and the first full-time business executive was employed, having been made redundant from the Midland Employers' Mutual following the changes in the Workmen’s Compensation legislation. Mr Sydney Ault died in 1949.

In 1971, the present Chairman, the grandson of the Founder, joined the company. By then the staff number had risen to eight, including the luxury of a bookkeeper. The business gradually had taken over more and more of the family house and, with the death of the Founder’s widow in 1969, had expanded into the whole of the original house.

Further growth meant that, at the end of the 1970s, the original house was far too small to contain all the staff, and a move to larger premises was inevitable. The business moved (about 100 yards!) to an office block of which the freehold was subsequently obtained.

A rather creaky accounting system was, by this time, hopelessly inadequate to deal with the number of transactions and queries and this was the main reason behind the embracing of computerisation as long ago as 1980. The business was among the early guinea pigs, and suffered frequent hardware breakdowns. In addition, much of the software was bug-ridden. A true baptism of fire!

Mr John Kinder Ault died in 1986. 1969 saw the first in a series of acquisitions of local brokers, culminating with the latest and largest in 2005.

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