Of the changes in the firm’s business in the period leading up to World War II, the most dramatic was the change in the insurance operations conducted under Sidney Robbins, who established the firm in the wholesale end. As General Agents the firm would write policies, collect premiums and settle losses on behalf of the insurance companies. Sub-agents throughout the province would work directly with the policyholders and Toole Peet would service them as well as solicit its own clients in the Calgary area.
Toole Peet’s inspector would travel the province advising the sub-agents on insurance company guidelines, new opportunities and premiums. Most of the insurance business was written by ‘Board’ companies – those belonging to the Western Canada Insurance Underwriters Agency. The Board set the rates for nearly all the property risks in the province and the companies shared the business without the expense of rating each risk on their own. The benefit to the agents was that larger risks could be handled. A curiously named rule, The Non-Intercourse Rule, prevented Board agents from utilizing the services of non-Board companies.
Through Sidney Robbins, hail insurance was added to the Toole Peet lines in the twenties. This proved a success with the firm maintaining a branch in Regina for a few years. The firm dropped the hail insurance lines in the sixties when the Alberta Hail Board was formed. Toole Peet couldn’t compete with only the few hail lines that the Board didn’t handle.
Sidney Robbins, and, of course Barney Toole, traveled east regularly to meet with the insurance companies they represented and to acquire additional sources of insurance for their clients. Sidney had an adept manner at becoming personally acquainted with the company representatives and, before long would be exchanging small gifts, arranging visits and tours for the wives, and adding his own congratulations whenever he heard of promotions.
It was a set-up that proved lucrative to the firm for over 40 years. Sidney ran the operation until the mid-sixties when the insurance companies began opening their own offices and Toole Peet, seeing the writing on the wall, sold the general agency business and began purchasing agencies to expand its own commission base.
The Era Ends
The Leduc discovery in 1947 marked a transition point in the economy of the city and province. The new wealth and new opportunities were bringing in entrepreneurs eager to participate in the oil boom. Llew Valentine left the firm to buy his own agency in 1949. At Toole Peet, the partners, junior and senior, were approaching retirement and, naturally enough, were not thinking so much of expansion as they were thinking of travel, hunting, fishing, and golf. Barney Toole died in 1952 at the age of 80. In 1953 George Peet died, at the age of 83. Archer was then in his late sixties. Archer’s son, Bill Toole, married Jean Anderson in 1951 and would soon have four children, Larry, Debbie, Nancy and Glenn.
In 1954 Bill Toole joined the firm to help Archer and focused his generation’s energy on the opportunities at hand. Having worked as a chartered accountant with Peat Marwick since his graduation from the University of Alberta in 1949, he had small knowledge of the real estate and insurance industry. Fortunately, he had two factors in his favor. Firstly, he had the ablest men in the city, including Archer, to rely upon for sound advice as he learned the ropes. Secondly, and most important, he had the firm’s biggest assets under his control, the Toole charm and the Toole Peet reputation.