Diekmann, Michael 1954–
Chairman and chief executive officer, Allianz
Born: December 23, 1954, in Bielefeld, Germany.
Education: Göttingen University, 1982.
Family: Married; children: three.
Career: Diekmann/Thieme, 1983–1988, CEO; Allianz, 1988–1989, executive assistant to the head of the Hamburg regional office; 1990, head of sales at the Hamburg Harburg office; 1991–1992, head of the Hannover office; 1993, head of customer relationship management for private customers; 1994–1995, head of sales for the North Rhine–Westphalia region; 1996–1997, director of insurance management for the Asia-Pacific region; 1998–2003, member of the Allianz management board; 2002–2003, responsible for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and group human resources; 2003–, chairman and CEO.
Publications: Wildnis Privat—Der Ratgeber für Kanutouren in Kanada.
Address: Allianz AG, Königinstraße 28, D-80802, Munich, Germany; http://www.allianz.com.
■ Michael Diekmann headed up the Asia-Pacific and North America business arms of Allianz until 2003, when devastating losses at the German insurance giant led to the resignation of the CEO, Henning Schulte-Noelle. Diekmann stepped into the position and moved quickly to fix the ailing company. He cut noncore businesses, reduced staff, and raised capital. Within a year Allianz was back in the black and poised to become a world leader in the insurance market.
EARLY ADVENTURES IN PUBLISHING
Michael Diekmann studied law and philosophy at Göttingen University in Germany. After graduating in 1982, he headed up his own publishing business, Diekmann/Thieme, which
produced adventure travel books. He wrote and published his own book describing his experiences on canoe trips through the Canadian wilderness. But in 1988, tired of competing with the big publishing houses, he left Diekmann/Thieme and took a job with Allianz as executive assistant to the head of the company's Hamburg office.
STARTING OUT WITH ALLIANZ
Diekmann rose quickly in the company, becoming head of the Hamburg Harburg sales office in 1990 and head of sales for the region of North Rhine–Westphalia in 1994. In 1996 he moved to Singapore to head up Allianz's Asia-Pacific region. Two years later he was given a seat on the Allianz management board. In the Pacific he turned losing subsidiaries into profitable businesses through acquisitions and through the introduction of a new infrastructure and new pricing models.
In 2002 Diekmann became head of Allianz's insurance businesses in the Americas. In the United States he faced a huge challenge with the consistently underperforming U.S. Fireman's Fund. Diekmann slashed thousands of jobs and cut relations with unprofitable vendors. He also centralized and streamlined operations and pumped more money into the ailing subsidiary. He then focused on insuring more profitable clients, such as commercial and marine properties, agribusinesses, and wealthy homeowners. Although the Fireman's Fund was not completely healed, Diekmann put it on the road to recovery.
"Michael was instrumental in allowing us to get traction," Jeff Post, Fireman's Fund CEO, told Institutional Investor magazine (February 2004). "He puts the right people in place and then makes sure that they deliver. If they don't, he will take action." But even as Diekmann was turning around Allianz businesses, the company as a whole was struggling. In 2002 Allianz was hit hard by big losses from recently acquired Dresdner Bank's investment division. Also devastating were the September 11 terrorist attacks, destructive flooding in Europe, and huge asbestos claims from the U.S. Fireman's Fund. Altogether, Allianz lost $1.45 billion, its first loss since World War II.
RISE TO CEO
In 2003 the company underwent a great deal of turnover. In March, the Dresdner Bank CEO Bernd Farholz stepped down from his post in the midst of significant losses and severe job cutting. Then in April the Allianz CEO Henning Schulte-Noelle stepped down, turning over the reins to Diekmann. Diekmann, a much more aggressive manager than his predecessor, introduced several radical changes to bring his company back. He slashed costs by cutting employees (more than 15,000 at Dresdner Bank), eliminated noncore businesses, increased capital through a $5 billion rights issue, and established tough profitability targets to turn around the company's subsidiaries. In less than a year Diekmann was able to bring Allianz back into the black (profits neared $2 billion in 2003) and increase share prices significantly.
Diekmann's charm and open management style won over Allianz employees, many of whom had grown weary of the closed-door approach of his predecessor. Analysts also praised his track record in turning around underperforming subsidiaries, as he did in the United States and Australia.
A Frankfurt senior investment banker well acquainted with Diekmann said that the word describing his colleague best was "Schonungslosigkeit" (ruthlessness). "It is an unbending, uncompromising bloody-mindedness, and it is very much regarded as a virtue," he told Institutional Investor magazine (February 2004).
As of 2004 Diekmann was still trying to fix Dresdner Bank while moving closer to his goal of making Allianz a global force in the insurance industry and a serious rival to the insurance leader American International Group. In addition to his responsibilities at Allianz, Diekmann was a member of the boards of BASF, Linde (deputy chairman), and Lufthansa.
See also entry on Allianz AG in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Capon, Andrew. "Back to Basics: Tough, Disciplined, Intensely Focused, Allianz's CEO Michael Diekmann Is Putting His Haus in Order," Institutional Investor, February 2004, pp. 20–28.
Fairlamb, David, "Can Diekmann Plug the Leaks in Allianz?" BusinessWeek Online, December 30, 2002, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_52/b3814065.htm.
Tomlinson, Richard, "Insurance for Dummies: It Doesn't Take a Genius to Figure Out that Allianz Has a Big Problem. Now It Is New CEO Michael Diekmann's Turn to Come Up with a Solution," Fortune International (Asia Edition), May 26, 2003, p. 42.