Suncorp is a great Queensland success story and is, today, Queensland’s largest company with major brands in insurance, banking and superannuation and a market capitalization exceeding $16 billion.
It began its life in 1916 as the State Accident Insurance Office, which soon became the State Government Insurance Office (SGIO), as a Queensland Government monopoly provider of workers compensation services. It remained Queensland’s workers compensation authority until these functions were transferred to the Workers Compensation Board in 1978 (now WorkCover). In the intervening years, and on the back of its workers compensation, it built an impressive portfolio of life and general insurance services which enabled generous surpluses to be invested in a wide range of commercial and government chosen initiatives.
By the 1970s it had evolved into a major financial institution fulfilling a social role, in particular, rescuing a number of struggling building societies and, consequently, opening the SGIO Building Society in 1976 which then took over the collapsing Queensland Permanent Building Society in 1977. With diversification growing, the SGIO became Suncorp in 1985. As Queensland’s leading financial institution, it played a major role in supporting other Queensland businesses such as investing in Castlemaine Perkins and the Bank of Queensland when they were under threat of takeover.
By 1996 Suncorp, still 100% government owned, was an allfinanz group with approximately $10 billion in assets including complete ownership of the Queensland Industry Development Corporation, originally the Queensland Agriculture Bank founded in 1902, and 44% of the Bank of Queensland. In reaction to an attempt to takeover Queensland’s Metway Bank (Metway) a merger of Suncorp, QIDC and Metway was effected on the initiative of the State Government which disposed of its shareholding following the merger. A much larger, consolidated and privately held Suncorp emerged.
Suncorp has continued to thrive notwithstanding repeated natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand and narrowly avoided losing its independence during the GFC, an achievement for which its then Chairman, John Story AO, is regarded as a hero.
Over its lifetime, and in its many forms, Suncorp has delivered significant benefits to the Queensland economy and community. Its workforce exceeds 12,000 employees, 7000 of whom are in Queensland, it has 8 million customers and is one of Australia’s largest and most innovative insurance companies. Its reach is now both national and international but its heart and soul reside in Queensland.