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An insurer (legally insurance carrier , outdated underwriter ), colloquially insurance , is the party to an insurance contract that grants insurance protection (insurer). Several parties can be insurers in an insurance contract ( co-insurance ). The party who is granted insurance, i.e. who takes insurance, is the policyholder .

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the insurer must always be a company ( insurance company ) in the legal form of a stock corporation , a mutual insurance association , an institution under public law or a corporation under public law . In other countries, individuals, for example in Great Britain the names of Lloyd's of London , can be insurers. In legal parlance, every insurer is simply referred to as an insurance company. Legally, every natural or legal person who conducts insurance business is an insurer. Other financial services (for example the real estate financing and capitalization transactions of the life insurers) may only be offered by insurers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland as ancillary service or on behalf of a third party, as an intermediary for another provider.


Insurance cover was granted by individuals or by guilds and guilds until the 17th century. The first commercial insurers did not emerge until the middle of the 17th century. These were mainly specialized in fire and (sea) transport insurance. The first professional insurers were founded by the state, for example the Hamburger Feuerkasse (1676) and the Berliner Feuersozietät (1718); According to today's parlance, these were institutions under public law. The first life insurer working on a modern actuarial basis and at the same time the first VVaG was the English Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships (Equitable Life) (1762). The first German mutual insurance association was the Gothaer Feuerversicherungsbank for the German trade stand (1820). The first stock corporations came into being at the end of the 18th century, and in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century.

State control

Because of their central economic role, insurers such as banks are subject to special state control in all economically developed countries.


The central federal regulation is the law on the supervision of insurance companies (Insurance Supervision Act - VAG). The VAG regulates, among other things, authorization , business operations, legal forms , capital investments and supervision. The responsible supervisory authority is the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority , the relevant specialist ministry is the Federal Ministry of Finance. Corresponding laws and authorities also exist in most other countries.

In Germany, 626 insurance companies and pension funds are licensed to conduct business (as of September 2013).


Due to European law, insurers domiciled in another member state of the European Community or a signatory state to the European Economic Area , which are only represented by a branch in another member state or signatory state or who conduct insurance business in services directly from abroad, are only subject to national supervision to a limited extent . Insurers domiciled in other countries may only sell insurance business in the member or contracting states through branches that are supervised like insurers domiciled in the relevant state. Exceptions apply to certain commercial lines of insurance and simplifications apply to pure reinsurers .


The legal basis for the supervision of insurance companies in Switzerland is the 2004 revised federal law concerning the supervision of insurance companies ( Insurance Supervision Act, VAG ). FINMA is the responsible authority, while parliament is responsible for overall supervision .


Forms of organization in Germany

In Germany, the insurance operations only in the legal form of the mutual insurance company , the joint stock company or institution or public body (see: Public insurer ) are operated. In addition, there is the principle of segregation : life, health and the rest of the property and casualty insurance business must be operated by legally independent insurance companies. If the legal protection insurance is operated by a property and casualty insurer, at least the claims settlement must be carried out by a legally independent company. The division of lines resulted in the formation of a group, as this is the only way to offer all types of insurance from a single source. For example, if you take out life, health and liability insurance with your insurance broker, you have actually concluded three contracts with three different, legally independent insurance companies.


The private insurance companies based in Germany have joined the Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft e. V. merged. The Swiss Insurance Association represents the interests of insurance companies in Switzerland. The insurance companies in Austria are organized in the Association of Insurance Companies in Austria .

Direct insurer

A direct insurer or direct insurance is an insurance that is not taken out indirectly through a sales force, but in direct sales , e.g. B. via the Internet , telephone or fax or by post . This is not to be confused with the special form of life insurance , German direct insurance .

Marketing and Sales

Marketing comparable to that of consumer goods companies was not found in the insurance industry in many European markets until the mid-1990s. Above all, the deregulation of the markets, the more intense competition and more demanding customers, as well as, last but not least, the lucrative old-age provision market pushed the professionalization of insurance marketing.

The starting point for the systematic market development are methods of market segmentation and risk segmentation , which are given a new dimension in the course of increased market research activities and better technical possibilities - such as data mining tools.

Insurance products already go beyond the requirements of traditional insurance technology and classic product conditions. The range of value added services (e.g. in the form of assistance services) is increasing. Target group products (for example for certain professional groups, customers in certain phases of life) have become increasingly important. Insurance companies are increasingly cooperating with industrial companies in the development of technology-based product innovations (for example in the motor vehicle insurance market). The role of advertising can be assessed very differently depending on the type of insurance company. Large exclusivity organizations control awareness levels, likelihood values ​​and images through advertising . For direct insurers, advertising is also often necessary to highlight certain specific product features, especially low premiums and positive test results. Sales promotion is of the utmost importance in the insurance industry . For the general public, reading insurance terms and conditions is not a familiar or everyday matter. Insurance-related or legal ways of thinking appear unfamiliar. Traditional tools for sales promotion such as brochures, sales manuals and posters in shop windows and in the sales room, as well as salespeople competitions are now complemented by a large number of other instruments.

Sales are of particular importance in the insurance industry. In the area of ​​non-life insurance, sales through commercial agents who are tied to only one insurance company, so-called exclusive sales or single-company agents, are of particular importance. Exclusive organizations traditionally benefit from the special proximity to customers in regional and personal terms.

Insurance brokers , unlike agents, are independent organizations from the insurer, who look for the best possible solution on the market on behalf of the customer and carefully examine it according to objective standards. In contrast to employed insurance agents of the companies, independent brokers can choose from a large number of products for their customers. Depending on which target group represents the core target group, the marketing and sales concepts of insurance brokers are very different. Wealthy private customers, freelancers and tradespeople particularly value medium-sized insurance brokers because of their one-stop advisory services. Although the target group of medium-sized insurance brokers does not usually deal intensively with insurance, the client's assignment is a challenge for the broker, as the need for coverage is higher and more complex than in the case of a “retail customer”. In order to have all information available in the complex market at all times and to be able to advise customers optimally and individually, a majority of insurance brokers join a broker pool such as B. to the Fonds Finanz Maklerservice , Jung DMS, BCA or similar and thus has access to a large number of companies as well as sales-supporting offers. Industrial companies have very special requirements and in some cases place the highest demands on the broker's advisory and negotiation skills. You will usually use the services of an industrial insurance broker.

Structural sales are traditionally characterized by a strong focus on new customer acquisition. Structural sales organizations that have developed special target group products and that consistently use network advantages in product marketing through good knowledge management are particularly successful in the long term .

E-commerce technologies will be used more in the future. However, their overall market share in the distribution channels will not increase significantly in all EU countries. In Germany, for example, only a very moderate increase is expected for the next few years, while in Scandinavian countries the Internet is already playing a very important role for certain insurance branches. Nonetheless, regardless of the country market considered, it can be assumed that the Internet will play an increasingly important role in the early sales phases and in the area of ​​services.
In the area of social media , however, insurance companies are still underrepresented. A study has shown that insurers have not yet recognized the potential of Web 2.0 and are therefore often the target of reputation attacks (see AIG).

Annex sales and cooperation models in the marketing of insurance products, for example in the automotive industry, are now in great demand. Insurance services are important value added services for industrial and trading companies that are in intense competition in almost all sectors.

The implementation of the EU Broker Directive affects the marketing and sales practice of the individual broker types to a very different extent. Large exclusivity organizations, established brokerage companies and listed structured sales organizations usually met the requirements of the directive before they were implemented in national law. The situation is more difficult for the very many smaller insurance brokers and structured sales organizations, as well as for multi-company representatives and part-time agents.

Two new forms of sales of insurance are on the one hand online advice (after making an appointment, interested parties can get a lot of information through personal advice on personal insurance for all groups of people via the internet) and on the other hand sales through in-app purchases Insurer's own applications for mobile devices (the offer there specializes in day-based short-term insurances, which due to their relative simplicity can be taken out on the move and can be viewed by the policyholder).


  • D. Farny: Insurance Management . 4th edition. Karlsruhe 2006, ISBN 3-89952-205-2 .
  • Frank Görgen: Insurance Marketing. Strategies, instruments and controlling . 2nd Edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-17-019735-0 .
  • Peter Koch : History of the insurance industry in Germany , Karlsruhe: Verlag der Versicherungswirtschaft, 2012

See also

Individual evidence

  1. BaFin of September 2013, company database ( Memento of October 7, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ,, October 9, 2008
  3. Study: Damage to the image 2.0: Criticism in social media is a growing danger for insurers
  4. Daily briefing: How to use the advantages of online advice
  5. Press release: Risk Protection 2.0: Mobile Insurance Protection ( Memento from July 26, 2014 in the Internet Archive )