Our History

The growth of QBE, nationally and internationally, is the story of an institution that for more than 127 years has played a significant part in Australian commercial history.

In October 1886, two young Scotsmen, James Burns and Robert Philp, established QBE’s foundation company, The North Queensland Insurance Company Limited (QI). By 1890, QI had established over 36 agencies in locations including London, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

In 1904, the company opened its own offices on Fenchurch Street London. In 1924, QI opened offices in New York.

In 1921, Burns founded the Bankers’ and Traders’ Insurance Company (B&T), with QI being the largest shareholder. The name Traders’ was derived from the Burns and Philp-founded South Sea Islands trading firm Burns Philp and Company, which also had a shareholding in the insurance firm. The Bankers’ was derived from the Royal Bank of Canada-owned Montreal Trust Company, which also had a stake in the venture.

In 1959, QI and B&T each purchased 40% of The Equitable Probate and General Insurance Company, with Burns Philp taking the other 20%. In 1973, QI and B&T merged and took the name QBE Insurance.

The Q was taken from Queensland Insurance, B from Bankers' and Traders' and E from The Equitable Probate and General Insurance Company that had been already acquired by both companies.

In 1991, QBE and the trading company Burns Philp ended their 105-year-old partnership when they unwound their cross-shareholdings in each other.

QBE has since become one of the top 20 insurers and reinsurers worldwide, growing its gross written premium from $1 billion in 1994 to more than $17 billion in 2013.

We look forward to the future with the same excitement, determination and enthusiasm that our founders did in 1886.