The Basler Versicherungs-Gesellschaft gegen Feuerschaden (Baloise Insurance Company for Fire Damage) is founded in 1863. Today, it is known as the Baloise Group and operates in four countries under the umbrella of Bâloise Holding Ltd. At the time of its greatest geographical expansion, around 1938, it had offices in 51 countries worldwide. Baloise can look back on an eventful life. Despite its history and the changing needs of its customers, there is one principle to which Baloise has remained true at all times: the principle of safety.
1863: Founding of the company due to the devastating fire in Glarus
- 1861: Great fire of Glarus.
- 2 May 1863: Basler Versicherungs-Gesellschaft gegen Feuerschaden receives a cantonal trading licence from the government of the canton of Basel-Stadt.
- 1864: Founding of Basler Transport (Baloise Transport) and Basler Leben (Baloise Life).
1864: Expansion of business activities and European expansion
- 1864: Baloise expands its business into two more areas. It continues to pursue the original goal of doing insurance business “in all its branches and directions” by introducing transport and life insurance. The new companies were named according to their purpose: Basler Lebens-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft (Baloise Life Insurance Company) and Basler Transport-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft (Baloise Transport Insurance Company). Where possible and not prevented by monopolies or restricted by quotas, the other cantonal licences follow very quickly.
- The young Baloise achieves growth in Switzerland through the acquisition of other cantonal portfolios, first in Graubünden, then in Geneva, Zurich and Valais.
- 4 August 1864: Basler Feuer receives an operating licence in the Grand Duchy of Baden.
- 29 March 1886: The Kingdom of Saxony is the last of the former German nation states to grant it a licence.
- Other countries follow: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, France, Italy and the Danube Principalities as well as today’s Romania.
1869: Its own reinsurance and a leap overseas
- In 1869, Basler Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft (Baloise Reinsurance Company) is established under the leadership of Basler Transport.
- 1885: Basler Leben commences operations in the accident insurance business.
- The geographical activity expands and Basler Feuer starts doing business in Hamburg, Bremen, Constantinople, Alexandria, Smyrna, Yokohama, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
- 1874: Baloise establishes a subsidiary in Austria and in 1891 Basler Feuer begins underwriting direct business in San Francisco.
1891: Germany becomes the most important foreign market
- Baloise builds a representative palace in Berlin to make the growing importance of the company clear to the outside world. The Hotel Angleterre is now in this building, and the basilisk is still watching over its portal.
1900: Technology driving the economy and exit from the USA
- At the beginning of the last century, Europe enjoys solid economic growth. At the same time, a triumphal march of technology begins, causing living conditions to change within the shortest period of time. As technology grows, so do the dangers that threaten people’s material existence.
- In the first decade after the turn of the century, the Baloise companies introduce some new, adapted products, such as insurance against burglary.
- As of 1901: Basler Feuer attempts to exit unprofitable parts of its US business. However, it wants to retain the profitable Pacific coast business. Since the Insurance Office in New York City refuses the withdrawal as long as a policy is still in force in the USA, the Pacific coast business is also sold. Fortunately, as it turns out later: In 1906 a severe earthquake destroys San Francisco; at this time, Basler Feuer is no longer doing business in the USA.
- 16 April 1912: The Titanic sinks; Baloise contributes CHF 4 million to the loss.
- In the same year, the new Head Office of Basler Leben, which is equipped with the first automatic telephone exchange in Switzerland, opens at Aeschenplatz.
1914: War turmoil and an interruption of growth
- The First World War abruptly ends the incipient blossoming of the insurance industry. The Baloise companies suffer from serious disruptions to their international business activities. Additional stress is caused by a flu pandemic, which breaks out towards the end of the First World War and massively increases the mortality rate.
- In the post-war period, companies primarily struggle with currency inflation. In addition, large material assets are destroyed during the war, for which insurance cover is no longer necessary.
- The crisis seems to have bottomed out in the middle of the twenties. However, the ongoing development is no longer characterised by sustainability. At the beginning of the 1930s, the global economy slips back into a deep crisis defined by high unemployment on the one hand and a surplus of capital on the other. During this time, Baloise significantly expands its real estate portfolio. In France and Spain, Baloise co-founds La Cordialité (1921) and the Compañía Vascongada (1929). Basler Feuer and Basler Transport start doing business in Luxembourg in 1933.
1939: Europe succumbs to the next miserable war; Baloise moves to the National Redoubt
- At the beginning of the Second World War, the international business of Baloise companies comes to a temporary standstill. The focus is on Switzerland. This is where the largest inflows of capital since the company was founded are seen.
- Baloise fears the destruction of its Head Office in Basel. It therefore builds a chalet in Saanen near Gstaad, in the National Redoubt guarded by the military. In the cellar, there is a walk-in safe with meter-thick reinforced concrete. Here, 50 employees manage securities and 700,000 life insurance policies until 1945. Shortly before the fall of France, the Head Office in Basel is evacuated and closed for five days.
1945: Recovery in Western Europe and renewed growth
- In the wake of the rapid economic recovery in Western Europe, Baloise once again successfully positions itself as an insurance company in the European countries. As technology advances and national prosperity increases, there are more and more assets that are hedged against risks.
- Baloise acquires minority shareholdings in Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador. In 1958 Basler Unfall (Baloise Accident) is founded.
1971: The current structure of the company is created; Baloise Austria restructures itself
- In 1971 the Baloise companies Feuer, Transport and Unfall merge to form Basler Versicherungs-Gesellschaft (Baloise Insurance Company). Basler Lebens-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft (Baloise Life Insurance Company) remains an independent subsidiary for regulatory reasons.
- In Austria, where Baloise has been doing business since 1874, the industrial business is sold. Baloise becomes an all-lines insurer in the core business there
1980: Baloise expands
- In the 1980s, Baloise expands into other European countries, including the founding of Basler Versicherungs-Aktiengesellschaft (Baloise Insurance Joint Stock Company) in Austria in 1983.
- In 1985 Deutsche Ring Leben/Sach is acquired.
- In 1985 Baloise Insurance Company of America is founded, and Baloise acquires Providence Washington Insurance Company in 1988.
- In 1986 Baloise becomes the majority shareholder of the Belgian insurance company Mercator in Flanders.
1990: One and a half decades of restructuring and a successfully defended takeover attempt
- For Baloise, the 1990s are turbulent times of restructuring. It withdraws from operations in Italy, France and the USA, and Rhein Rück, acquired in 1991, is sold again in 1997. The sale of the branch in Spain follows in 2001. The restructuring is completed with the sale of Mercator Bank in 2004.
- As of 1991, two major shareholders hold more than 40 per cent of the shares in phases and independently of each other – due to the statutory voting right restrictions, they are entered in the share register with 2 per cent of the votes each. In 2003, the takeover attempt is fended off and the largest shareholder, a nominee, still holds 3.8 per cent of Baloise shares.
2000: First steps in the new millennium with the specialised financial services provider
- Baloise acquires Solothurner Bank SoBa, formerly Solothurner Kantonalbank and today Baloise Bank SoBa. It thus takes the first step toward the business model of becoming a specialised financial services provider.
- In the same year a branch is founded in Zagreb, Croatia.
2002: After a year of losses, it returns to the black with brisk business in the national subsidiaries
- 2002: After the collapse of financial markets following the terrorist attacks in the USA, Baloise reports its only year of losses. The year after, it already succeeds in strengthening business in its core markets again. It takes over the German insurance company Securitas and merges it with its own branch in Germany to form Basler Securitas.
- Deutscher Ring Leben/Sach establishes branches in Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the same year.
2005: Operational excellence and growth spurt in Luxembourg
- Baloise’s strategy of operational excellence lets it sustainably improve business.
- 2006: Baloise acquires Winterthur Europe Vie in Luxembourg. With a market share of 9 per cent, it is now among the top five insurance companies with its products in the freedom of services.
- In the following year it acquires Osiguranje Zagreb in Croatia and starts business operations in Serbia.
- Baloise Life (Liechtenstein), which specialises in innovative investment-linked life insurance products, is founded in Balzers.
- 2008: All German companies are placed under the uniform management of Baloise, including Deutscher Ring Leben/Sach which is based in Bad Homburg. They now operate under the name of Basler Gruppe Deutschland.
2011: Start of Group-wide repositioning
- The group under the umbrella of Bâloise Holding AG now operates in public as the Baloise Group.
- With the acquisition of the insurance companies Avéro Benelux and Nateus, Baloise is also represented in the Walloon part of Belgium and is now one of the top five insurance companies in the non-life segment in Belgium.
- 2009: Baloise launches the ‘Baloise 2012’ programme and repositions itself throughout the Group. With the ‘Safety World’, it places holistic safety at the centre of corporate performance: “Making you safer”. The company thus renews its corporate maxim “Safety is our Principle”.
2016: Launch of the Simply Safe corporate strategy
- Baloise is implementing its Simply Safe corporate strategy to achieve its restructuring and goals through 2021.
- Against a backdrop of changing conditions in the insurance sector, Baloise expands into an innovative solutions provider that leverages its core business and goes beyond traditional insurance.
- A focus on the customer lies at the heart of the new strategy. This is not only about covering and insuring risks, but also about addressing the wider needs of customers in a changing social environment. With a clear focus and three simple and ambitious goals in the areas of employees, customers and shareholders, the company starts its journey towards future growth in the financial year 2017.