The German company Allianz SE, founded in 1890, is now the largest international insurance and financial services organization in the world. The two founders were Carl Thieme, the director of the Munich Rückversicherungs-Gessellschaft (Munich Reinsurance) and Wilhelm Finck, a Munich banker, and its original headquarters were in Munich. Thieme ran the reinsurance company on totally different lines to the original insurers as a market niche. However, his work quickly showed him that there were huge profits to be made from direct insurance, and Allianz was established to do this. It was not long before Allianz was making more profits than Munich Rückversicherungs-Gessellschaft, and Thieme and Finck started concentrating their efforts on Allianz.
The firm started offering transport and accident insurance very soon after the company was established, and as a result of an expansion in business, they moved the company headquarters to Berlin, the German capital, where they also offered fire insurance. In 1904 Paul von der Hahmer was appointed the second head of the company; by this time it had already opened an office in London, enabling it to become more international in its focus. Indeed, by 1913 some 20 percent of the premium income of the company came from outside Germany. During World War I, they assisted the German war effort, and the defeat of Germany in World War I led to a curtailing of the international arms of the company.
From 1921 until 1933 there were many mergers as Allianz, under its new general director Kurt Schmitt, took over Bayerische Versicherungs-bank, the Stuttgarter Verein, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Versicherungs-AG, and other companies. It has been alleged that with the rise of the Nazi Party, executives in Allianz started cultivating close relations with some of the German Fascist leadership, although it was certainly not one of the major companies that backed the Nazis. During the Nazi period, Allianz grew and Kurt Schmitt himself served under Adolf Hitler as the Reich economy minister from June 1933 until January 1935. The company continued to expand in the late 1930s. However, with the outbreak of World War II, the company faced problems dealing with insurance in time of war. Much of the infrastructure of the company was destroyed in the war, and when the company’s employees met on May 18, 1945, there were about 250 of them.
After the war, it was not until 1950 that Allianz was able to open an office in Paris, later expanding into Italy, and by the 1970s it was operating in Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The expansion into Britain was helped with the takeover of Cornhill Insurance plc of London (which was renamed Allianz Cornhill Insurance plc), and Kleinwort Benson, which it gained when it bought the Dresdner Bank. It also moved further into the Italian market with the buying of a large stake in Riunione Adriatica di Sicurt of Milan. In the United States, Allianz bought Fireman’s Fund, and in France it bought Assurances Générales de France. With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, Allianz expanded into Hungary in 1990, and then into Slovakia, and during the mid-1990s started to become a major presence in China and South Korea.
The company Allianz SE now has its headquarters in Munich, Germany, and has achieved revenue of €102.6 billion (2007), with a net income of €7 billion (2006). It now provides insurance for 60 million customers in more than 70 countries, and has 165,505 employees. The CEO of the company since 2003 has been Michael Diekmann, who took over from Henning Schulte-Noelle, who ran the company for the previous 12 years. The company sponsors the Allianz Arena Stadium in Munich.
- Gerald D. Feldman, Allianz and the German Insurance Business (Cambridge University Press, 2001);
- Harold Kluge, “Der Einfluss des Geschäfts der ‘Allianz’ auf die Entwicklung der ‘Münchener RückversicherungsGesellschaft’ in deren ersten fünfzig Jahren (1880–1930)” [The Influence of the Business of Allianz on the Development of the Munich Reinsurance Company in its First Fifty Years, 1880–1930], Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte (v.2,2006).
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