Book Gives History of Munich Re

By Mathieu Carbasse | October 29 2015 11:49AM

Historians Johannes Bähr and Christopher Kopper have published the first academic history of Munich Re. Their book, Munich Re: Die Geschichte der Münchener Rück 1880-1980, describes the company's rise to become one of the world's largest reinsurers as well as the difficulties it had to overcome, particularly during the First and Second World Wars.

Founded on April 3, 1880 with a starting capital of 3 million marks (or $2.19 million Canadian dollars), Munich Re now has a market capitalization of about $41 billion. The firm began with four employees and now has more than 43,000 worldwide. There were eight founding shareholders and this number has grown to nearly 200,000 today.

“Knowledge of one’s own history always also provides guidance on current and future decisions. Further, this is why appraisal of the past is invariably preparation for the future. For example, the mass spread of the automobile or the beginnings of commercial air travel once required similar innovative effort on Munich Re’s part as digitalisation does today. However, the Company has always succeeded in developing coverage concepts for the risks arising from technological upheavals. Once, this meant the introduction of machinery insurance, for example, nowadays this could be performance guarantees for renewable energies or cyber policies”, comments Munich Re’s CEO Nikolaus von Bomhard.

The book also includes an in-depth analysis of the role Munich Re and its directors played during the Nazi era. “An essential part of taking an honest look at our own history is an appraisal of the institutional and personal entanglements of representatives of the company in this period of such terrible injustice”, says von Bomhard. While the two historians conclude that Munich Re was not directly involved in looting the assets of Jewish policyholders, they did find that the company played an indirect role as a reinsurer.

The book is available from the C.H. Beck publishing house. An English translation will follow in 2016.