With his stern gaze and high forehead, glasses and a three-piece suit, Carl von Thieme looked every bit the entrepreneur he was.
Thieme was 46 when he launched Allianz Versicherungs on Kochstrasse in Berlin in 1890, only 10 years after establishing Münchener Rückversicherungsgesellschaft, or Munich Re.
Germany had been booming since 1871, the year the German Empire was proclaimed. The next few years were known as the “Gründerjahre,” or founding years, marked by a period of rapid industrialization.
Not satisfied with owning the world’s largest reinsurance company, Mr. von Thieme was enthusiastic about the direct insurance business, which offered higher growth rates and profits. He teamed up with banker Wilhelm Finck in Berlin and, on February 5, exactly 125 years ago, Allianz was entered into the commercial register.
Officially, the company was never supposed to be a subsidiary of Munich Re. But for a long time, the two companies were closely aligned through business agreements, interlocking financial arrangements and staffing overlap. They were known as the “Siamese twins” of the German economy.
Yet, there was a deliberate effort to maintain some distance between the two. Munich Re customers feared the competition a new direct insurer would bring, and concessions were made to allay such fears.
On January 13, 1890, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck officially granted Allianz a license as a transport and accident insurer. At first, Allianz avoided the fire insurance business, which was widespread in the industry.