Gerling Koncern Allgemeine

One of my worst fears involves arriving into a city and finding the place completely booked up for a convention. Over the years this has happened to me more times than I care to remember. My last time through Cologne I had a horrific time finding a room within 30 miles because of all things; an international bicycle show. Well guess what, this time I hit Cologne's while its hosting: Anuga 99, one of the world's biggest food business conventions. A room isn't to be had within 50 miles. This is not good, especially if you're on a bike.

Earlier in the day I dropped by the three-story head offices of Cologne Reinsurance only to be told they knew nothing about the introductory letter mailed a month earlier to Chairman R.E. Ferguson. I was aware the company was a subsidiary of Stamford, CT-based General Re but had added them to my list because insurance companies are generally fertile grounds for collecting corporate trivia plus, they're usually on top of things. Well, cross off the last part of the previous sentence. Ferguson, though Chairman of Cologne Reinsurance, is also CEO of General Re and that's where his office is located. So what does that mean? It means my letter "was most likely forwarded to Connecticut".

My visit to Gerling, an international insurance company with over 10,000 employees and DM 12 billion in premium income, proves to be a waste of time. Headquarters near the city center is an pseudo Italian-style complex complete with three fountains in the piazza. Built in the 1950's, the complex, anchored by a 12-story tower, hasn't stood the test of time and looks very dated.

The security guard/receptionist places quite a few calls but no one seems to know anything about the introductory letter sent a month earlier. For that matter, no one cares about helping me either. What's the best the company can do for this international visitor? After waiting 20 minutes, out steps the secretary to Reimer Unterloehner, EVP-Corporate Communications, who hands me an annual report.