Munich Re

The three big dominant players in the reinsurance industry are Swiss Re, General Re and Munich Re. Which of these players gets to call themselves the world's largest reinsurer? Munich Re, with over $30 billion in revenues.

Three years ago I visited Munich Re only to be frustrated in not getting past the lobby. Earlier that day I had been right across the street getting an extensive tour of Allianz's bland and uninspiring head office. Allianz is one of the world's biggest insurers and I was expecting something more grand. Then I walked over and entered Munich Re's beautiful four-story edifice (built in 1912) with its neo-classicism exterior and Vienna Youth-style interior (Art Deco). Though I received a nice enough reception at Munich Re I wasn't allowed past the lobby because (according to them) my letter of introduction sent to the CEO a month earlier hadn't been received.

Entering the building I have to explain myself to the guard before being directed to the reception area. The two friendly receptionists, a man and a woman greet me. The reception waiting area is a joy to hang out in not because you're surrounded by brown marble but because you've got all kinds of publications in English to read including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and The Economist. Next to each chair there's a selection of bottled fruit drinks which you can help yourself to (I like the cherry juice).

Who comes out to greet me? It's Rainer Kueppers, Deputy Member of the Executive Management Central Division; Information and Public Relations, the same man I dealt with during my last visit. This time however I get the grand tour of the place and my timing is right because renovations of the building were recently completed.

Plenty of art lines the hallway walls. It's contemporary with an international array of artists. Matters of fact, executive dining rooms are named after artists whose works hang in the rooms. There's also a large fresco by Rheinhold Max Eicher, depicting a fight between the four elements: earth, fire, storm and water.

The head office, who's exterior is painted a good-looking yellow, lies about a mile from the city center. When this building was erected back in 1912, the locals said the company was crazy to build it "out there in the boondocks".

The company has several other buildings in the immediate area and that explains the need for two cafeterias. How's the food? It gets two thumbs up from this biker. My hauptspeise, a salad-like concoction with ham, lettuce, egg, mayonnaise, carrot and mushrooms is delicious.

Insurance companies are known (at least by me) of having impressive boardrooms. Nothing really stands out about this one except it's set-up for tele-conferencing. I can't see CEO Hans-Jurgen Schinzler's middle floor corner office because "he's busy" though we do walk by his door. Schinzler can't have much of a view because he's not very high up. Is this a prestigious location? Well, after the Second World War the Allies used the building as their headquarters.