Zurich financial services

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Founding and development

Since our foundation in Zurich in 1872, we began to look beyond our borders. Our largest international operations in chronological order have been Germany (1875–1900), France (1900–1920), the United States (1920–1978), Switzerland (1979-1981), then the United States again, from 1982 through to the present. This constant focus on international business is an important factor that differentiates us in the marketplace.


Innovation has been our other driving force. Founded as a marine re-insurer in 1872, we entered the new field of accident insurance just two years later. After the nationalization of worker’s liability in Germany in 1886, we began to experiment there in liability insurance. While our liability business grew around third-party liability of factories and other industrial premises, by 1890 we had introduced new products in Germany for a whole variety of other liabilities, including homeowner’s/real estate liability, medical malpractice for doctors and pharmacists, hunter’s liability, private liability and horse owner’s liability. In 1898 the Belgian branch office published the first rate schedule for auto liability.

Zurich entered life insurance in 1922 when the Vita Life Insurance Company was founded in Switzerland. In 1925, Vita became the first European insurer to offer free medical check-ups to customers in accordance with the life insurance ground rule “Good health is good business.” With the establishment in 1976 of the International Division (later renamed Zurich International, today Global corporate), we became the first European insurer to offer so-called umbrella treaties, which (for example) could cover all facilities of a corporation worldwide. Risk Engineering, founded in 1978 as part of the International Division, provided integrated risk services to corporate customers for the first time. In 1994 we were the first insurer to introduce direct telephone marketing to Switzerland.

Zurich today

The Zurich Financial Services Ltd we know today was created in 1998 through the merger with the financial services businesses of B.A.T Industries p.l.c., which almost doubled the size of the Group and enlarged our insurance operations, especially in the United States and United Kingdom. In the U.S., the merger brought into the Group the Farmers exchange, which we manage but do not own, and which is the third-largest personal lines, property and casulty insurer in the United States today.


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