Bruce and Bruce Company, Its Origin and History
No one has ever made the accusation that the birth of what is today known as Bruce and Bruce Company was the cause of the Great Depression of 1929. Yet it is undeniable that Harley Bruce (1898-1976, father of Bob and Bill) began his own actuarial practice, Harley N. Bruce, Consulting Actuary, on October 1, 1929, and the crash happened before the month was over.
In 1929 most actuarial services were provided through the Chicago actuarial office of Donald Campbell. The political procedure called for Harley to seek the blessings of Campbell before starting a competitive practice. Harley succeeded in getting Campbell's blessing, but it contained a codicil calling for Harley to confine his practice to the lower half of the state of Illinois.
A major setback took place on the eve of the crash when the bank held its doors open for an additional ten minutes for the firm to make a deposit of its first large fee. The headlines the next morning announced the collapse of the bank. Good-bye fee.
The firm managed to survive the depression years. The biggest event was the firm taking on the reorganization of the old Peoria Life into Alliance and Casualty. This called for a move to Peoria and with it a brief period of prosperity. The depression was still going strong. In 1939 the move to Chicago took place and another challenge rose when the consulting office agreed to a 5 year contract to manage the operations of Municipal Employees Life Insurance Association. That was a tough assignment because World War II was in full blast, and Harley had to do all the selling himself. He succeeded in increasing membership from about 2,500 to almost 30,000 in 5 years. Just about every Union in the city was insured; policemen, firemen, elevator operators (remember them?) and so on.
When the war ended, son Robert returned from the Air Force and completed his actuarial studies at Michigan. There is no question that Bob's arrival was the greatest thing to ever happen to the actuarial firm, which then became known as Bruce and Associates. He ran the practice to prosperity despite the sacrifices commencing in 1946 with the arrival of Harley's new "baby", Employees Life. Indeed, the new life company was like a baby in many ways, the demands of free services, but mostly the need to constantly invest more money (Guarantee Funds).
Harley's other son, Bill, joined the firm after his army discharge in 1954. He agreed to learn the operations of an insurance company from the ground up, and somehow that helped ease the strain of 60 hour weeks on Bob, and before you could say Jack Robinson, it was 1973 and Harley was selling the actuarial business to his 2 sons, who then changed to Bruce and Bruce Company (BBC). In 1977, following the sudden death of Harley, they bought 2.5 acres of land in Lake Bluff's industrial park and had a 13,000 square foot office erected to serve as the home office of both Bruce and Bruce Company and ELCO Mutual Life and Annuity.
One of the greatest assets of any company is its employees. The entire Bruce and Bruce Company staff epitomizes the meaning of the word loyalty. The company would not be where it is today without the years and years of contributions and loyalty of its employees.