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
also due to the delay in the construction of the Lewis Carroll writes Alice in
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
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.
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-
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.
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
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
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.
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
1872 - The world’s first ever
national park is established at
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.
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
1881 - The Com-
pany celebrates its
Generali begins to
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
1886 - Generali transfers its Central Head Office
to a new building on the seafront – the same
building that currently houses the Company’s
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 - In Russia, the first pogroms against Jews
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
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
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
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
From the eagle to the lion
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-
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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.
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
Group News, a magazine
focusing on Genera-
li’s worldwide organisa-
tion, has been published
in English since 1991.
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
New impulse for real estate
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,
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.
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
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
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
1901 - Guglielmo Marconi (Nobel prize in Phys-
ics in 1909) relays the first trans-Atlantic radio
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
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-
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.