Headquartered in Munich, Germany, Allianz SE is the holding company for a worldwide financial colossus of insurance, banking and asset management. Its operations extend to over 70 countries and employ over 182,000 people. In 2008, Allianz SE earned 92.5 billion DM in revenue (over $140 billion) and 7.43 billion DM in operating income. The Fortune Global 500 ranked Allianz SE 22nd among the world’s largest companies. Allianz SE is the second-largest international financial-services organization in the world, after Bank of America. In its core business, insurance, the company also ranks second-largest in the world.
Allianz Global Investors, with over 900 billion DM under management, is among the top five asset-management firms in the world. Allianz subsidiaries include leading companies in the bond, equity, hedge fund and real estate sectors.
Allianz was founded in Berlin in 1890. It soon became the leading insurance company in Germany and established a branch office in London at the turn of the century. Two world wars curtailed its growth, but after World War II, the company moved to Munich and began a program of international expansion. Allianz expanded into France in the 1950s, Italy in the 1960s and Great Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil and the U.S. in the 1970s. After the Cold War ended came Eastern Europe, followed by Asia, China and South Korea.
Allianz annuities include a fixed annuity product, four indexed-annuity products (both single-premium and flexible-premium) and four variable annuity products. In recent years, an Allianz fixed-annuity product has been among the leading sellers in the market. Allianz annuities are issued by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, whose history dates back to 1896. The company is rated for financial strength by three of the leading ratings agencies. It is rated A (3rd-highest of 16 ratings) by A.M. Best; AA (3rd-highest of 21 ratings) by Standard & Poor’s; and A2 (6th-highest of 21 ratings) by Moody’s.
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Allianz’ status as the leading German banking and insurance firm brought it into contact with the Nazi Party during the years 1933-1945. As a member of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims, Allianz became known for its honest examination of the historical record and its prompt payment of all valid claims. In 2001, then-CEO Henning Schulte-Noelle commissioned research to establish the truth about Allianz and the Third Reich. Gerald Feldman of the University of California at Berkeley revealed it in a book published in 2006. The book revealed that Allianz insured both people and property at Auschwitz, which required company personnel to survey the premises and learn the purposes to which the camp was put. Allianz’ failure to honor contracts with Jewish policyholders – a failure that sometimes involved diverting benefit payments from beneficiaries to the German government – was also revealed. The company also provided insurance for valuables taken from victims at the death camps. These revelations have occasionally led to protests against the company by Jewish organizations and groups dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
During a period of worldwide turmoil in finance and insurance, many companies have suffered downgrades in ratings of financial strength. So far, Allianz has bucked this trend; recent ratings agency reports have affirmed the company’s ratings despite the 2.44 billion DM loss the company suffered in 2008. The ratings agencies cited the company’s strong underlying fundamentals and diverse revenue base as the cause of their unchanged evaluation.
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