The Years of the Lion (1861-1870)


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Assicurazioni Generali: a Journey that started in 1831. (1800 - 1860)

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The Years of the Lion (1861-1870)

  1. 1. The Years of the Lion decades 1861-1910
  2. 2. 1861-1870 Difficult years A Looking out crucial phase in the nation-building process, 1861 - Serfdom is abolished in Russia. the 1860s proved to be very difficult for Gene- 1863 - The world’s first underground railway is in- augurated in London. rali. The economic climate had been affected 1864 - The International Red Cross is founded. by the Italo-Austrian conflict. The war had se- 1865 - After the victory of riously hampered economic growth in both the Unionists, the American civil war comes to an end. countries, especially in Austria, which had been Abraham Lincoln is assas- defeated. Trade in the port of Trieste stagnated sinated. also due to the delay in the construction of the Lewis Carroll writes Alice in Wonderland. railway line connecting it with the hinterland 1867 - Maximilian of Hapsburg, Emperor of Mexi- and, as a consequence, business moved fur- co, is executed by the rebels led by Benito Juárez. ther North. Assicurazioni Generali was left with Reinforced concrete is used for the first time in the construction industry. no option but to take note 1869 - Dmitry Mendeleyev publishes the periodic of the new situation, as table of the elements. stressed in the 1860 Board report: “The political compli- cations, paralysing industry stopped growth […] and ordinary operations in and trade, bringing up the the main insurance sectors.” But the worst was prices of primary goods be- still to come. While eight insurance companies yond all control, naturally were forced to shut down in Trieste, Generali’s results in 1865 were the worst in the Company’s history, with a loss of nearly 400,000 Florins. The following year the gloom did not lift due to several factors, the main one being the cholera outbreak in the city, the fourth in The unification of Italy. On March 17, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was solemnly established by the Parliament in Turin. The unification of the country, however, was still unachieved: only after the 1866 war, Venice – with the Veneto and Friuli regions – became part of Italy, whereas Rome was only conquered in 1870. In the pictures (from top to bottom): the first Italian Parliament meets in Turin; the battle of Bezzecca won by Garibaldi over the Austrians in 1866; the breach of Porta Pia on September 20, 1870, marking the fall of Papal Rome. Difficult years 22
  3. 3. Looking in 1862 - Generali resumes operations in the Papal States, after the interruption in 1837 due to the in- troduction of an insurance monopoly. Generali takes over the portfolio of Società Ponti- ficia di Assicurazioni. 1866 - Generali moves its Central Head Office from Palazzo Carciotti to Palazzo Stratti, a build- ing that had been purchased in the 1850s. 1870 - The Central Head Office is once again The Suez Canal. Pasquale Revoltella, senior transferred, this time to a building located in Via Board member of Assicurazioni Generali, was one of the men behind the Suez Canal initia- Procurerie. tive. Works for the construction of the canal, based on a project by Ferdinand de Lesseps, began in 1856. Over 74 million cubic metres of soil were dug and removed. The Canal was the century. In 1866, the Company – which had solemnly opened on November 17, 1869. recorded continuous growth in the course of its 35-year history – decided to move its head- quarters from Palazzo Carciotti, where they had been since its foundation, to Palazzo Stratti, a prime property in Piazza Grande purchased in the early 1850s. The new location was not to last, though: barely four years later, faced with increasingly disappointing results and tougher competition, Generali decided to transfer its Central Head Office to a more modest property located behind the Town Hall in order to cut costs and create new sources of revenue. New headquarters. In 1866, Generali left its original offices at Palazzo Carciotti and moved to Palazzo Stratti. Built in 1839 by a Greek merchant and purchased by the Company in the 1850s, the building would house the Central Head Office for only four years. 1861-1870 23
  4. 4. 1871-1880 At the top of the Italian market W Looking in ith the fall of Papal Rome in 1870, the process 1875 - The Company begins to pay dividends leading to full unification took a decisive step in gold Franc pieces: this measure will remain in forward. Despite regret – at an ideal level – force until 1914. for not having succeeded in annexing the 1877 - Masino Levi resigns the post of secretary general that he had held for forty years. He is suc- eastern end of the Venezia Giulia region ceeded by Marco Besso, who will remain at the and the northern part of Trentino, helm of the Company until 1920. Generali begins to underwrite glass insurance. from a geo-political point of view the 1880 - The first issue of Mittheilungen – a news nation had in fact been forged. In bulletin for Generali employees in the Austrian Rome, the magazine L’Assicurazione Empire – is published. published the first set of statistics on the insurance business in Italy, Besso since 1877 – focused its attention on revealing that Assicurazioni Generali Italy, as Austria’s economy was in the throes of of Venice was the country’s biggest a profound financial crisis, followed by massive Marco Besso insurer, followed by another company from stock exchange speculation and uncontrolled Trieste, RAS, whose Italian head office was in credit expansion. The bubble eventually burst Milan. The outlook for the Italian insurance and 74 banks had to file for bankruptcy. Soon, industry in the 1970s appeared to be bright. Generali’s supremacy in the Italian insurance As a consequence, Generali – led by Marco market annoyed its competitors, who did all they could to hamper the Company’s expansion, stressing the fact that it was after all a foreign company. Nevertheless, Corporate communication makes its debut. In 1880, Generali published the first issue of Mittheilungen, a German-language in- formation bulletin for employees and agents operating in the terri- tories of the Austrian Empire. The publication provided data relating to the Company’s activity, market figures and in-depth technical ar- ticles. At the same time, client communication was intensified using posters and billboards, such as the one shown above, to advertise the services offered by Generali agencies. At the top of the Italian market 24
  5. 5. The extermination of the Indians. The end of the civil war in the US heralded the intensification of the fight against the native populations, who are determined to defend their rights over the land of their ancestors. In 1876, General Custer – who had commanded the Cheyenne massacre on the Was- hita River eight years earlier – was defeated and killed at the Little Bighorn River. The military success did not, however, halt the massive deportations of na- tive Americans into reservations. Looking out 1871 - Giuseppe Verdi composes Aida. “Dr Livingstone, I presume” are the words attributed to journalist Henry Morton Stanley when track- ing down the famous explorer dis- appeared in Africa. Trade unions are legalised in Great Britain. 1872 - The world’s first ever national park is established at Yellowstone. 1873 - The repercussions of the slowdown in the economy are felt throughout the world: the “great depression” begins. this did not prevent Generali – known 1875 - The Opéra is inaugurated in Paris. everywhere in Italy as “La Venezia” – not only 1879 - Thomas Edison invents the first incandes- from achieving constant growth, but also from cent lamp. recording an increase in the number of Italian shareholders. Besides the original shareholders from Venice, Padua and Milan, investors now also came from Turin, Rome and Naples. A note issued by the Company announced that four- fifths of its share capital were in “Italian hands”. To safeguard the interests of shareholders, Generali made the decision in 1875 to pay dividends in 20 gold Franc pieces, regardless of the shareholders’ country of residence. This measure, aimed at avoiding dividend depreciation, remained in force until the outbreak of World War I. Impressionism. The term comes from the title of a painting, Impression, sun- rise, by Claude Monet. Displayed for the first time in Paris in 1874, it became the building block of an artistic movement that involved artists of the calibre of Re- noir, Cézanne, Degas and Pissarro. 1871-1880 25
  6. 6. 1881-1890 The establishment of the Group F ifty years had passed since the foundation of As- sicurazioni Generali – half a century of hard work to achieve remarkable experience, financial so- lidity and international presence. With a consoli- dated position in Italy, under the supervision of the Veneto Head Office, and in the Empire, the time had come for Generali to seek new markets. A major expansion drive was launched in the second half of the 1870s and in the 1880s, when as many as 15 new bases were added to the al- ready significant network of foreign branches. The expansion was focused on two main areas: the Mediterranean – from Greece to the Middle East and northern Africa – and the large overseas ports that were becoming the maritime hubs of international trade. These were San Francisco The first offshoot. In 1882, Generali set up Erste and Valparaíso in the Americas and Bombay, Co- Allgemeine – its first insurance subsidiary – in lombo, Shanghai and Hong Kong in the Far East. Vienna. The company’s headquarters were located in the building depicted in the watercolour above. The turning point, however, came with the deci- sion to ensure increased stability and autonomy in key markets by creating specialised operative units with separate financial means and struc- tures. Thus, it was with this in mind that Erste Allgemeine Unfall und Schadensversicherung was established on January 24, 1882. Headquar- tered in Vienna, the new company became the first subsidiary of that Group, which would become one of the key players in the European insurance industry over the following decades. Erste Developing hail insurance. The technical features of the hail sector led Generali to establish two specialised companies in Italy and Hungary. The picture above gives an indication of the intensi- ty of hail fall in various parts of the Italian peninsula in 1881. The establishment of the Group 26
  7. 7. Looking in 1881 - The Com- pany celebrates its Jubilee year. Generali begins to underwrite accident insurance. 1882 - In Vienna, Generali establishes Erste Allgemeine Unfall und Schadensversicherung, the Group’s first subsidi- ary, specialising in accident insurance. The com- pany will be later merged into Generali Vienna. Azienda Assicuratrice, Trieste’s oldest insurance company, folds up and its portfolio is taken over by Generali. 1886 - Generali transfers its Central Head Office to a new building on the seafront – the same building that currently houses the Company’s headquarters. 1890 - Anonima Grandine in Milan and a com- pany based in Budapest, both operating in the hail insurance line, are established. Generali’s new headquarters. “It commands the most enchant- ing view of the gulf on the wa- terfront”, proudly wrote Eugenio Geiringer, the architect who de- signed the building that houses the Central Head Office in Trieste. The building, the first in the city to be supplied with electric power, offered a vast array of very mod- ern facilities, such as a conference hall, where three rooms, separat- ed by columns and mobile walls, could be easily transformed into a single large space to host the ever increasing number of shareholders. Pictures from top to bot- tom: The Allegory of Electricity by Eugenio Scomparini, a paint- ing owned by Generali and currently kept in one of the rooms of the building; the grand escalier, which was demolished in 1965 to make room for the new AGM hall; the Central Head Office building seen from the waterfront and from the sea in two pictures taken at the end of the 19th century. 1881-1890 27
  8. 8. 1881-1890 Looking out 1881 - In Russia, the first pogroms against Jews are organised. 1882 - Austria, Germany and Italy form the Triple Alliance. 1883 - A law enforcing compulsory health insurance is passed in Ger- Allgemeine initially operated in the accident sector – a many. Gottlieb Daimler assembles the first sector that Generali had also begun to tap in relation to internal combustion engine. the new demand for security that was emerging in the Carlo Collodi publishes The Adven- market. At the end of the 1880s, two other companies tures of Pinocchio. 1885 - Louis Pasteur discovers the were established in Italy and Hungary: after a string of rabies vaccine. unfavourable years, Generali had decided to pull out 1886 - The Statue of Liberty is assem- of the hail insurance sector, entrusting the business bled in New York as a gift from the French people. to newly-established companies. Having set for itself Chemist John Pemberton perfects ambitious goals, Generali felt that the time had come the formula of Coca Cola. to move into more suitable headquarters. In 1886, the 1890 - The massacre of the Sioux Lakota at Wounded Knee brings an Trieste Central Head Office was transferred to a build- end to the Indian wars. ing at Riva del Sale, on the seafront, which had been The International Labour Day is set on May 1. designed to accommodate its expanding business. Symbol of modernity. On the occasion of the International Ex- position of 1889, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in Paris. Italy’s imperial quest. In 1885, from the bridgehead of Massawa on the Red Sea, Italian troops be- gan the conquest of Eritrea, Ita- ly’s first colony. The expedition met the bitter hostility of the lo- cal population, which led, two years later, to the Dogali massa- cre, when 500 Italian troops were annihilated. Setting sights elsewhere. Generali’s expansion guidelines were tightly linked to the maritime routes opened by the Lloyd Austriaco shipping company, which, following the opening of the Suez Canal, reached the distant ports of the Far East. The establishment of the Group 28
  9. 9. From the eagle to the lion 1833 1971 A year after its foundation, Assi- With the changes under curazioni Generali Austro-Italiche way in Generali’s market- is allowed to use the qualification ing strategy, the tradi- of imperiali regie privilegiate (i.e. tional image of the lion operating under imperial privileges) of St Mark is deemed no longer responding to the and to include the image of the two-headed tastes of the time and to modern forms of expres- eagle, the symbol of the House of Hapsburg, in its sion. As a consequence, the trademark undergoes documents. a profound restyling and the Generali logotype is added. The new corporate identity is accompa- 1848 nied by an advertising campaign that hinges on Following the insurrection that led the message: “From now on, call us Generali”. to the establishment of the Vene- 1978 tian Republic, Generali has the appellation “austro-italiche” re- The need for strategic moved from its company name co-ordination of the and chooses the lion of St Mark as entities operating in its symbol for operations in the Ital- various markets leads ian territories. On early hail insurance policies, to the design of a Group the lion is depicted brandishing an unsheathed trademark, whose introduction is combined sword; this representation will co-exist for nu- with the updating of the consolidated financial merous years with the traditional swordless lion statements: a fundamental instrument repre- printed on fire insurance policies. senting the variety of interests that refer to the Parent Company. 1881 1990 In its Jubilee year, the Company decides to unify its trademark, In coincidence with the first ever international adopting the lion facing advertising campaign, sustained by the claim right, which will be “Generali: the insurer without frontiers”, the the symbol of Ge- Group’s trademark is fur- nerali up to the early ther fine-tuned in order to 20th century, when the classic representation enhance its visibility and – with the lion facing left – will be re-instated. identity. From the eagle to the lion 29
  10. 10. 1891-1900 The golden age T he international economic outlook in the last dec- to develop. The following year, Generala was set up ade of the 19 century appeared to be improving, in Brăila, Romania. It had the necessary financial th although the depression that had characterised means to operate in marine insurance and soon the 1880s was yet to be entirely overcome. The widened its business to include – after its head- situation in Trieste was particularly ebullient: the quarters were moved to Bucharest – fire, accident, resident population in the last twenty years had hail and life insurance. By this time, Assicurazioni risen from 70,000 to 120,000, while the number Generali had become the parent company of a of houses as well as the volume of trade had al- most doubled. Generali, in the meantime, continued to strengthen its organi- Looking in sational structures. In Ita- 1893 - The first number of Il Bollettino is ly, a specialised company issued. The monthly magazine, in Italian, is distributed to Generali employees in Italy. – Anonima Infortuni – was 1896 - Anonima Infortuni is set up in Milan. set up in 1896 to boost the 1897 - Generala is set up in Romania. accident sector. The Parent 1898 - At the Italian Expo of Turin, an impor- tant trade fair, Anonima Company transferred to the Grandine is awarded newly-established compa- the Grand Prix gold medal. ny its entire portfolio in the accident line of business that had taken fifteen years In Romania. The Bucharest headquarters of Generala, set up in 1897. Boosting communication. The 1892 calen- dar poster reproduced the gold medals re- ceived by the Company in international exhi- bitions and trade fairs: it is a proof of the prom- Picasso’s sketches. In 1900, a young artist by the name of Pablo Picasso submitted inence Generali had already gained in the Ital- to a Spanish insurance company (which was part of the Generali Group for many ian insurance market. years) a drawing in which maternity was represented as a metaphor of insurance. The golden age 30
  11. 11. Looking out 1891 - Work begins on the Trans- Siberian railway, which will be fin- ished in 1917. 1895 - The Lumière brothers held the world’s first public motion pic- ture screening in Paris using their Cinématographe. The inventor of the dynamite, Alfred Nobel, establishes the Nobel prize institute. 1896 - With the defeat of its troops at Adwa, Italy is forced to acknowledge Ethiopian sovereignty. The gold rush starts in the Klondike. 1897 - Bayer researcher Felix Hoff- mann synthesizes aspirin. 1898 - French writer Émile Zola defends Alfred Dreyfus and accuses the military establishment. Following the Hispano-American war, Cuba gains independence. Hawaii is annexed to the United States. Mr and Mrs Curie (Nobel prize for Physics in 1903) discover radium and polonium. 1900 - King Umberto I of Italy is assassinated. Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams. China is swept by the Boxer rebellion against for- eign legations. The rebellion is quelled by an international force comprising the major European powers, Japan and the United States. Italy sends its Bersaglieri. The belle époque. The last decade of the cen- tury was a prolonged period of peace that brought about a beneficial phase of prosper- ity and great discoveries: electricity, the inter- nal combustion engine and chemical prod- ucts. It was at this very time that the automo- tive industry began to develop, which over the next century would act as the powerhouse of economic growth (on the left: a vintage car, looking more like a cart with no horse). This period saw two other particularly significant inventions: the cinema, which would ultimate- ly transform entertainment into an industry, and the radio, thanks to Guglielmo Marco- ni’s experiments (second photo from top). The peace that prevailed in most of the world was conducive to the reintroduction, thanks to the initiative of Pierre de Coubertin, of the Olym- pic Games, whose first modern edition in 1896 was aptly held in Athens (top picture, the 100 metres dash). Trieste, too, was undergoing a period of great prosperity, as witnessed by the number of ships in the port at the end of the century (picture on the left). 1891-1900 31
  12. 12. 1891-1900 complex organisational structure that was grad- ually taking the form – very unusual in those days – of a Group and started to feel the need to establish a periodical communication channel to spread information while developing skills and forging corporate identity. To this end, Il Bollettino, a monthly magazine distributed to all Italian employees, was published in 1893. Written in Italian, it flanked the news bulletin in German targeted at employees in the Empire and central Europe. The house organ soon be- came a professional training and marketing tool, especially in the life sector, where the Company held a 22% share of the Italian market in terms of premium income and Prestigious headquarters in Milan. The positive develop- insured capital, and 31% in terms of new ment of the accident and hail businesses, handled by Anoni- ma Infortuni and Anonima Grandine, respectively, led the Parent business – a clear indication that the Com- Company to design suitable headquarters in Milan for its two spe- pany portfolio was booming. cialised companies. Works on the building, located in central Piaz- za Cordusio, started in March 1898 and were completed in Septem- ber 1899. The building was the first in Milan and the second in the country to be made of reinforced concrete. Photos, from above: view of the façade as seen from a snapshot taken at the beginning of the 20th century; detail of the mosaic in the niche above the main entrance; the offices. At the centre, an automatic travel insurance vending machine placed by Anonima Infortuni at Termini rail- way station in Rome in 1898. The golden age 32
  13. 13. The house organs Starting in the 19th century The first publications distributed to Generali employees date back to the 19th century: Mittheilungen has been published in German since 1880 for Company offices in the Hapsburg Empire, whereas Il Bollettino has been published since 1893 for Italian employees. International impetus Il Bollettino, with its editorial office based in Trieste since 1940, widens its horizons in the postwar period. After an interruption during the war years, the publication is resumed in 1950 with a cover symbolising the Company’s renewed international impetus. In the Nineties photographic covers start to be used, sometimes dedicated to foreign Group compa- nies (in the picture: an event sponsored by Vi- talicio Seguros in a 2006 cover). Group News, a magazine focusing on Genera- li’s worldwide organisa- tion, has been published in English since 1991. Online magazines In 2007, Il Bollettino under- takes a new project: the pa- per version is dedicated to specials only and a new online periodical magazine is creat- ed to inform readers in a fast- er and more interactive way. Group News has also been published in an electronic format since 2008. The house organs 33
  14. 14. 1901-1910 New impulse for real estate investments E xpectations were high with the new century: million Crowns). In Italy, Generali confirmed its world economy was booming in the era that his- position as the country’s top player in life insur- tory would come to know as the belle époque, a ance – which recorded in this period a major period of peace and prosperity that was highly upsurge – as well as in the fire insurance sector. beneficial for all countries. Generali’s two subsidiaries, on the other hand, Looking in This, however, came to a ranked first in the hail and second in the acci- 1903 - Generali begins construction of its build- ing in Piazza Venezia in Rome. bloody end with the Great dent sector, respectively. The size of its guaran- 1904 - Through Anonima Infortuni, the Group War. In 1906 Generali cel- tee funds increased at an even faster pace: up acquires Caja de Previsión y Socorro of Barce- ebrated its 75th from 56 to 293 million Crowns. lona. 1905 - La Concorde (later merged anniversary. The As its finances grew ever more solid, Genera- into Generali France), a company Company was at li announced a major real estate investment providing accident and theft insur- ance, is set up in Paris. the peak of a peri- drive, whose ultimate goal was to create a Ge- 1906 - Generali celebrates its 75th od of growth: over nerali office in the centre of major cities and to anniversary. the previous 25 give adequate visibility to its financial standing. The share capital, previously in Flor- ins, is converted into Crowns. A capital increase years, premium in- Thus, between 1900 and 1906, Generali went operation is carried out through a one-for-five come in the non-life sector ahead with the construction of some of its rights issue. 1909 - Marco Besso is appointed chairman, thus more than doubled (from most prestigious properties, such as the build- re-establishing a post that had remained vacant 13.5 to 31 million Crowns), ings located in Florence (Piazza della Signoria), after Ritter de Zahony’s resignation in 1835. whereas production in the The Company’s articles of association are radi- cally revised: the number of Board members as life line of business liter- well as executive directors is increased. ally exploded (from 5 to 39 Generali’s buildings. It was Marco Besso who, between the two cen- turies, initiated a policy of real estate investments to give Generali a “home” in the most prestigious spots of Italy’s main cities. In the pho- tos, the buildings in Turin (Piazza Solferino), Rome (Piazza Venezia) and Florence (Piazza della Signoria). On the right, Marco Besso visits the construction site in Rome. New impulse for real estate investments 34
  15. 15. Looking out 1901 - Guglielmo Marconi (Nobel prize in Phys- ics in 1909) relays the first trans-Atlantic radio signal. King Camp Gillette and William Nickerson reg- ister the patent for the safety razor and blade. 1902 - Boers from the Orange Free State and the Transvaal are forced to accept British domina- tion: the Union of South Africa is born. 1903 - The feminist movement is founded in England by Emmeline Pankhurst; suffragettes will often clash with the police. 1905 - Albert Einstein (Nobel prize in Physics in 1921) publishes The The era of flight. On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright Special Theory of Relativity. made man’s first ever flight aboard a powered aircraft as- 1907 - Pablo Picasso paints Les Demoiselles sembled with his brother Wilbur. d’Avignon, a work that marks the birth of cubism. 1908 - Old-age pensions are introduced in Eng- land and the working day for miners is reduced to eight hours. Turin (Piazza Solferino) and Rome (Piazza Venezia). 1909 - The first Manifesto of Futurism is pub- However, storm clouds were looming. In 1907, a seri- lished in Paris by Filippo Tom- maso Marinetti. ous economic crisis spread from the United States to Robert Peary and Frederick Europe, followed shortly afterwards by the diplomatic Cook both claim the honour of being the first man to have crisis and the Balkan wars triggered by Austria’s annex- reached the North Pole. ation of Bosnia. Generali – as can be read in corporate 1910 - Rudyard Kipling (Nobel reports – was seriously affected by the interruption prize in Literature in 1907) publishes the poem If. of insurance activities in the countries at war, by the sharp decline in government bonds and fixed income A new style of expression. In the figurative arts, securities and by the uncertainties that were seriously Europe saw the emergence of Art Nouveau, the ex- pression of the will to break with tradition and to straining international relations. create a new aesthetics that, in painting, was above all personified in the figure of Gustav Klimt (founder of the Vienna Sezession school of painting). Franz Kafka. The Bohemian writer worked at Generali’s branch in Prague from October 1, 1907, to July 15, 1908. 1901-1910 35