Allianz AG Holding
Allianz AG Holding
Incorporated: 1890 as Allianz Versicherungs-Aktien-Gesellschaft
Assets: DM133.27 billion (US$78.88 billion)
Stock Exchanges: Berlin Bremen Düsseldorf Frankfurt Hamburg Hanover Munich Stuttgart London Zürich Geneva Basel
Allianz AG Holding is the parent company of the largest insurance group in Europe, with the strongest world network. It was founded as Allianz Versicherungs-Aktien-Gesellschaft in 1890 by Carl Thieme, director of the Munich Reinsurance Company, and the private banker Wilhelm Finck, at the time when the German economy had got back into its stride after a long depression and was entering the second phase of its industrial revolution.
Taking advantage of the rapid spread of mechanization in the workplace and the steeply rising number of industrial and traffic accidents, Thieme and Finck began by concentrating on accident and liability insurance. However, from the 1890s until World War I, Allianz grew and prospered mainly through freight insurance, which with reinsurance has been fundamental to the Allianz story from its beginning. In the view of leading experts of the time, the freight insurance market was very overcrowded, but Paul von der Nahmer, Allianz’s second company chairman who led the firm from 1894 with Carl Thieme and from 1904 alone, spotted the great possibilities offered by the rapid expansion in the volume of German trade. In 1913, when Allianz had already become by far the largest German freight insurer, this division produced almost 45% of the firm’s premium income.
Before World War I, Allianz had already begun to extend its scope, although it was still far from offering a full composite range. In 1900 it received the first German license to sell plant insurance, and in 1911 it was also licensed to insure against mechanical breakdowns, a service available exclusively from Allianz until 1924. For three decades the role played in the firm’s business by these two classes of insurance did not increase, but Allianz’s expertise in this area due to its early involvement is one reason for the firm’s present undisputed position as market leader in the field of engineering—that is, mechanical, plant, and equipment—insurance. In 1905 Allianz included direct fire insurance in its list of benefits.
Allianz’s advance from medium size to the rank of largest insurance group in Germany took place within a few years, between the end of World War I and the mid-1920s. Before the war the Berlin-based firm had drawn only about 20% of its premium income from abroad. Afterward, like all German insurers, it was cut off from international markets almost completely but later, in a rise unparalleled in the history of German insurance, it came to dominate the whole industry. The foundation for this achievement had been laid by Paul von der Nahmer with his sound and far-sighted financial strategy. As one of the few people to assess accurately the effects that war would have on the future of Germany’s currency and its insurance industry, he had taken early steps to provide Allianz with substantial foreign currency reserves that helped it to achieve an almost proverbial stability amidst the chaos of inflation. After his death in 1921 his successor, Dr. Kurt Schmitt, used these financial reserves to enable Allianz to achieve the highest turnover of all German insurers.
In 1917, at the age of 31, Schmitt was made executive managing director. His innovations were to lead the company to the top of the German insurance industry and to a major global presence. He attempted to establish a foothold in all markets, to expand into all classes of insurance, and to extend the company’s international activities. The conditions of the Treaty of Versailles had stood in the way of the former aim, but his efforts to make the firm active in all classes of insurance were therefore all the more successful. In 1918 he established the motor insurance company Kraft-Versicherungs-AG (Motor Insurance AG), the first large company in Germany to specialize in motor vehicle risks. Immediately after the war ended he also sought collaboration with large life insurance companies. When these negotiations unexpectedly broke down early in 1922, Schmitt, by now chairman of the board of Allianz, founded within the space of ten days the Allianz Lebensversicherungsbank-AG (Allianz Life-Assurance Bank AG), which by 1927 had grown into the largest life insurance company in Europe.
During the hyperinflation of 1922-1923, numerous mergers speeded the firm on its way to the top. Specialist insurance companies were finding it particularly hard to survive, and the German insurance market was hit by a wave of mergers. Allianz concentrated on absorbing only those companies that would fill existing gaps in its own range, both of services and of regions served.
In the years of rapid currency depreciation, Allianz’s merger policy differed markedly from that of other companies. It succeeded because it was directed towards maximum rationalization. Whereas in other groups mergers tended to result in little more than a hodgepodge of individual companies, the Berlin group immediately welded all its member companies into an organic whole, created a new overall structure, and finally undertook radical rationalization at home and abroad. The latter task was achieved principally by Hans Hess, who had joined Allianz in 1918.
Until the early 1920s Allianz, in common with all other German insurance companies, employed outdated administration and organization techniques. The Allianz board was the first to realize that combating the effects of inflation and employee rationalization would have to be top priorities. Hess succeeded in introducing the basic principles of scientific management into the insurance business. By means of an assortment of technical and, even more importantly, organizational impovements, he managed a significant increase in productivity and a reduction in costs. He spread a network of branch offices across Germany and ensured that the latest equipment was installed. He replaced the old, strongly independent insurance agents, each working for several companies covering the most varied types of insurance, with agents trained in composite insurance and working solely for Allianz. He also set up a system of incentive schemes for employees, run with an element of sporting competition. Alongside this initiative came the extension of the social installations and services provided for staff. These measures gave the firm great stability in periods of crisis. Even during the world depression Allianz was able to maintain its volume of premiums and considerably increase the number of personnel.
Whereas during the inflation period the firm had concentrated on broadening its scope, after the stabilization of the currency in 1923-1924 it set its sights on growth in volume. It was engaged in a major expansion of its capacities when in the mid 1920s a new wave of amalgamation policies hit German industry, and large groups formed for chemicals manufacture, electrical engineering, and heavy industry gave rise to a significant increase in risk potential.
In 1927 the group surprised the public by announcing a merger with the famous Stuttgarter Verein Versicherungs-AG, the market leader in accident and liability insurance. It was the largest merger to date in the history of German insurance. When in the summer of 1929 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Versicherungs-AG, the second-largest insurance group in Germany, collapsed as the result of illegal, loss-making noninsurance deals, Allianz decided within 24 hours to meet all of the Frankfurter’s obligations to its clients. With Münchener Rückversicherungs-AG, Allianz immediately founded the Neue Frankfurter Allgemeine Versicherungs-AG to assume the Frankfurter’s liabilities. This dramatic rescue operation saved the whole insurance industry from a serious loss of public confidence and from state intervention in its affairs.
The industry could not, however, escape government interference after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and enlisted savers and insurance policy holders in his secret financial preparations for war. From 1935 onwards the regime obliged insurance companies to increase their subscriptions to government loans; from the summer of 1942 three-quarters of their investment capital was affected in this way.
It was in an attempt to protect the industry from this sort of encroachment that in 1933, after much hesitation, Kurt Schmitt agreed to become trade minister in Hitler’s second cabinet. He was convinced he would be able to restrain National Socialism and lead it in the direction he wished it to go. A few weeks were enough to make him regret his action; he gave up the attempt, and after a year took the first opportunity to withdraw from politics. In 1935 he became chairman of the supervisory board of Allianz Lebensversicherungs-AG and in 1938 he was made chairman of the board of directors of Münchener Rück. In 1933 he had been succeeded as chairman of Allianz Versicherungs-AG by his former deputy, Hans Hess, who during the whole of the Third Reich made no secret—even in public—of his profound dislike of Nazism and took part in the resistance movement against Hitler.
During the 1920s and 1930s Allianz expanded its range, venturing into completely new areas of insurance. Its innovations in the field of engineering insurance were particularly forward-looking. It was the first in Germany to offer installation and guarantee insurance, in 1923, and construction and civil engineering insurance, in 1934. While other insurers still saw their role purely and simply in terms of providing financial compensation for loss, Allianz built up an independent technical-advice and loss-prevention service. In 1920, using special engineers, it carried out the first regular inspection of powerplants. From 1924 it also published Der Maschinen-Schaden (Mechanical Breakdown), a periodical that today continues to combine the utmost practicality with high scientific standards. In 1932 Allianz set up its first materials- and equipment-testing installation, which swiftly became a highly-reputed center for loss research. The firm completed its activities in this area in 1938 with the introduction of a fire damage prevention service. However, political conditions in the inter-war years meant that it could only scratch the surface of its international aspirations.
World War II hit Allianz hard. The head office in Berlin was completely demolished, and since it was situated in the eastern part of the city there could be no question of rebuilding it. The partition of Germany also meant the loss of a large part of its marketing area, together with several of its most successful branch offices. At the end of the war the various specialized sections of the company were scattered all over Germany in numerous different locations. There were no longer any headquarters. With the difficulty of communications between the western zone of Germany and West Berlin, particularly after the Berlin blockade of 1948, it became clear that in the interest of the company as a whole, Berlin must now be ruled out as a future base. The seat of the central management was therefore moved to Munich, and that of Allianz Lebensversicherungs-AG to Stuttgart.
In October 1948 Hess relinquished the chairmanship of the board of management. He was succeeded by Hans Goudefroy, who made it his business to preserve the assets of the Allianz group and its internal stability even after the currency reform of 1948. In the mid-1950s, under his leadership, Allianz completed its second phase of rationalization. The adoption of electronic data processing—in 1956 the board of directors started using one of Europe’s earliest computers—is a striking example of the many innovations embraced since then by Allianz. At the same time, by a rapid expansion of its foreign business network, the group regained its leading position in the German insurance market. Such dramatic growth was without precedent in Europe. Outstripping all other insurers, Allianz acquired a presence in every part of the Federal Republic of Germany, and owing to its new slogan, “... höffentlich Allianz versichert!” (I hope you’re insured with Allianz!), created in the mid-1950s, it became known to virtually everybody.
During the 1950s and 1960s Allianz concentrated almost exclusively on the home market, with the emphasis on private insurance, though it did make some advances in the large-risk industrial sector, particularly in the area of engineering insurance.
In February 1962, following the premature death of Goudefroy at the end of the preceding year, the chairmanship of the board of management was taken over by Alfred Haase, previously organization manager of the Allianz group. In a smooth transition, Haase carried on the work of his predecessor, further expanding the network of agents, developing the domestic private insurance business, and continuing internal rationalization. During his term of office the Allianz Allgemeine Rechtsschutzversicherungs-AG (Allianz General Patent Insurance A.G.) was founded; it commenced trading in 1970. Haase also presided over further developments in loss prevention. In 1969 the old testing installation was renamed the Allianz Center for Technology and in 1971 it was enlarged by the creation of the Institute of Motor Vehicle Technology.
At the turn of the 1970s the German insurance industry was faced with new problems, most notably a cost explosion due to steep wage rises throughout the whole economy. In addition a sharp increase in the accident rate had taken the motor insurance sector into the red. Competition throughout the industry was becoming much fiercer, too. Although Allianz’s turnover continued to climb, net yield began to fall. Into this very difficult situation stepped Wolfgang Schieren, who in 1971 came to the group as managing director. As had happened half a century before under Kurt Schmitt, there began a new phase in the firm’s history. Schieren began by ordering a halt to staff recruitment and instigating a radical cost reduction program. While competitors’ staff numbers continued to rise, the Munich group was already economizing in order to invest for the future.
A second consequence of Schieren’s appointment was that Allianz ceased concentrating its acquisition activities primarily on private insurance and gave equal consideration to large-risk industrial and commercial business. Within a few years the firm became the foremost German concern in this increasingly important sector, in certain areas of which, such as engineering insurance, it is a world leader. Restructuring of the organization of industrial insurance formed part of this new orientation. In 1987 an operation began that was to extend over several years, aimed at simplifying the hitherto complicated classifications of large-risk industrial insurance.
Finally, under Wolfgang Schieren, Allianz evolved from a domestically-focused business to an internationally oriented insurer. In 1970 the group’s premium income was DM4 billion, only 3.2% derived from abroad; in 1989, out of a total income of DM31.8 billion, 40% came from foreign premiums. Allianz reacted promptly to the increasing internationalism of German industry as West Germany developed, from the beginning of the 1970s, from being a mere exporter to being a foreign investor. As Allianz expanded its services to industry, it wanted to offer its clients insurance cover for their foreign investments too. It was realized early on at Allianz’s Munich headquarters that dramatic changes were taking place in industry and that an insurer who was active only at a national level could no longer meet the needs of increasingly multinational enterprises.
During the first phase of these foreign activities Allianz tried to gain a footing in foreign markets mainly by setting up new companies. The Allianz International Insurance Company Ltd. began trading in London in 1975, and similar companies were established in Spain and the Netherlands. In France the Paris board of directors was enlarged. In 1977 the firm ventured into the U.S. market for the first time, setting up the Allianz Insurance Company to deal in property insurance in Los Angeles. This development ended the first phase of Allianz’s foreign expansion.
In 1974, constrained by the legal upper limit set for foreign investors, Allianz had bought a 30% share in a Brazilian insurance company which from then on traded under the name of Allianz Ultramar. In 1977 the group acquired from Commercial Union of London the Anglo-Elementar-Versicherungs-AG with headquarters in Vienna, and two years later, in the United States, the North American Life and Casualty Company, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as the Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company of Dallas. In the same period Allianz established a foothold in Australia, and in 1981 it moved into Chile.
The creation of this world network went almost unnoticed by the public until the beginning of the 1980s when Allianz, in a dramatic takeover attempt, tried to obtain a majority holding in the British Eagle Star Insurance Company. By June 1981 the German group had acquired almost 30% of Eagle Star’s shares. At the end of 1983 there was a battle between Allianz and the conglomerate BAT Industries for the remaining shares. BAT emerged the victor, though Allianz made a profit of £156.5 million by selling off the Eagle Star shares bought in 1981.
In 1986 Allianz did succeed in establishing itself in the United Kingdom, however, when it acquired from BTR pic the Cornhill Insurance Company, founded in 1905. Cornhill’s foreign interests afforded, among other advantages, an entry into the developing east Asian market. In 1984 Allianz had already taken a further step towards internationalism with the acquisition of a majority holding in the Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtá (RAS), the second-largest insurance company in Italy. Through RAS’s wide foreign network Allianz gained entry into several countries in which it previously had had little or no representation.
Interests were acquired in Argentina, Spain, and Greece, and a new company was formed in Indonesia. In collaboration with local banks, life-insurance companies were set up in Spain and Greece. In 1985 Allianz reorganized as Allianz AG Holding, to reflect its size and diversity. In September 1989, in the fight for control of the French insurance group VIA/Rhin et Moselle, Allianz acquired—within the space of a few days—first 50%, then 65% of the shares as the previous owner, the conglomerate Compagnie de Navigation Mixte with the help of Allianz managed to fend off a takeover attempt by the state insurance company AGF and the bank Paribas. Another sensational acquisition, this time in Budapest at the end of 1989, was that of a 49% interest in Hungary’s former state insurance company Hungária Biztositó, which had come into being three years earlier when the state monopoly company was split into two parts. Allianz thus demonstrated its interest in any east European market willing to adapt to the free market economy. Finally, Allianz made a considerable stir at home by buying a 51% interest in the Deutschen Versicherungs-AG, which was founded on July 1, 1990, to take over the business of the former East German state insurance service. The crowning achievement among all these foreign activities was undoubtedly the acquisition of the Firemen’s Fund Insurance Company of Novato, California, a U.S. insurance group which in 1989 received $3.4 billion in premiums. By this one move the Allianz group almost quadrupled its premium income in the United States. No other insurer is as active internationally as Allianz.
This unprecedented expansion would not have been possible without group restructuring. The dual functioning of Allianz Versicherungs-AG as a primary insurance company operating in the home market as well as a holding company, proved a hindrance to the expansion of international activities and increased industrial involvement as well as to the marked growth of its inter-group company reinsurance. In June 1985 the direct German property insurance business was transferred to a fully owned subsidiary under the name Allianz Versicherungs-AG (Allianz Insurance AG). The interest in Allianz Lebensversicherungs-AG (Allianz Life Assurance AG) and the foreign subsidiaries remained under the holding company now trading as Allianz AG, which has also taken over the reinsurance business passed on by the Allianz companies. In spite of all the group’s business successes and new acquisitions, this reorganization must be seen as the most significant event in Allianz’s history since World War II.
With its superior structure and management, technical equipment, and international presence, as well as the wide range of services it offers, Allianz has set world standards. In technical insurance in particular it is always the first to advise on occasions when even the largest construction projects, such as the Eurotunnel that is to link the United Kingdom and the Continent, are in need of support. The Allianz Center for Technology is undoubtedly the foremost institution in the European insurance industry for loss-research and prevention. It constitutes an essential basis for the full risk services offered by the enterprise.
In the recent past these many successes have boosted dramatically the price of Allianz shares, which doubled in value between 1975 and 1982, and increased tenfold by the end of 1989. In 1990 Allianz had the highest stock market capitalization of any German enterprise.
Alico-Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH; Allianz Allgemeine Rechtsschutzversicherungs-AG (50%); Allianz Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH (89.2%); Allianz Grundstücks-AG; Allianz Kapitalanlagegesellschaft mbH; Allianz Unternehmensbeteiligungsgesellschaft AG; Allianz Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH; Allianz Versicherungs AG; Allianz Verwaltungsgesellschaft mhH; Allianz Zentrum Für Technik GmbH; Aquila Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH; Assecuranz-Compagnie Mercur AG (50%); Beta-Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH; Frankfurter Versicherungs-AG (49.9%); Globus Versicherungs-AG (98.8%); Interunfall Allgemeine Versicherungs-AG; Komet Automobil-Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH; Kraft Versicherungs-AG (49.8%); Münchener Lebensversicherung AG (75%); Nona-Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH; Oktava-Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH; Prima-Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (69.4%); Quarta-Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (57.2%); Quinta- Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH; Séptima-Vermögensverwaltungs-gesellschaft mbH; Sexta-Vermögensverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH; Firemen’s Fund Insurance Company (U.S.A.); Deutschen Versicherungs-AG (51%); Akquila, Incorporated; Allianz Arab-German Insurance Company S.A. (Luxemborg); Allianz Compañia de Seguros S.A. (Chile); Allianz-Ercos S.A. de Seguros y Reaseguros (Spain, 51%); Allianz Europe Ltd. (Netherlands); Allianz Finance B.V (Netherlands); Allianz France Société Anonyme d’Assurances sur la Vie (France, 98.6%); Allianz Industrial Compañia de Seguros y Reaseguros, S.A. (Spain): Allianz Insurance Company (U.S.A.); Allianz Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.; Allianz Nederland N.V. (Netherlands); Allianz of America, Inc. (U.S.A., 52%); Allianz of South Africa (Proprietary) Ltd.; Allianz Pace Assicurazioni e Riassicurazioni S.p.A. (Italy, 50%); Allianz RAS Holding France (96.2%); Allanz RAS Tutela Giudiziaria S.p.A. (Italy); Allianz S.A. (Spain); Allianz (UK) Ltd.; Allianz Underwriters Insurance Company (U.S.A.); Allianz Versicherung (Schweiz) AG (Switzerland); Anglo-Elementar Versicherungs-AG (Austria, 91.7%); Corn-hill Insurance PLC (U.K., 99.7%); Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.); North American Life and Casualty Company (U.S.A.); Via Assurances I.A.R.D. Société Anonyme d’Assurances et de Réassurances à Primes Fixes (France, 64.7%).
Arps, Ludwig, Wechselvolle Zeiten: 75 Jahre Allianz Versicherung 1890-1965, Munich, Allianz-Versicherungs-AG, 1975; Borscheid, Peter, 100 Jahre Allianz 1890-1990, Munich, Allianz Aktiengesellschaft Holding, 1990.
Translated from the German by Olive Classe