90 years: the story of a small Spanish mutual society that became a global company
1933-2023: 90 years, the history of MAPFRE. The company we know today is very different than the one that was founded on May 16, 1933. Everything is different, because history in these 90 years has changed a lot, and MAPFRE has been adapting to this new reality. There are many differences, but the essence remains the same as it was in the beginning: protection, customer care, support for society.
Many things have changed, but there are others that remain unchanged. The soul of the company is the same. Such is the case with companies that have a purpose, that exist because they have something to contribute, because customers trust them, and because the company always stands with them, especially in the hardest of times. We care about what matters to you: that’s our purpose today. And though it might not have been stated as such, it has been so since the beginning of our journey.
In 1933, the Mutualidad de Seguros de la Agrupación de Propietarios de Fincas Rústicas de España was founded, initially with the purpose of covering workplace accidents in the countryside. That was MAPFRE’s first and main activity at the beginning. But very soon, the company began to expand its lines of business and explored the automobile insurance business (and agricultural machinery, which was very closely related to its original activity). It thus anticipated what would become compulsory automobile insurance, which materialized in 1965. The ability to anticipate and envision the future are characteristics that have defined MAPFRE’s work and, as this fact shows, have been innate to the company since its origins.
The creation of a regional network throughout Spain (which is still the largest in the country today, with 3,000 offices) and entering the life insurance business were also very important milestones in the company’s first 25 years. An era in which we also began to do something that was unprecedented. Advertising campaigns were launched to attract automobile customers and the clover became MAPFRE’s symbol. A symbol that remains to this day, and that identifies the company.
Concepts such as reparation instead of indemnification, or the modernization of the automobile service, creating centers of expertise and quick payment, arrive at MAPFRE and, therefore, to the insurance industry. This desire to anticipate customers’ needs and adopt the best practices of every market has been a constant in MAPFRE’s history, and even more so in recent years. Innovation has always been a part of MAPFRE’s DNA.
Solving problems as they arise, as problems also happen, the 1980s marked two milestones in MAPFRE’s history: The year 1983 was when MAPFRE achieved leadership in Spain. A year later the Group’s process of international expansion process began. Colombia was the first country MAPFRE landed in. Logically, Latin America – for reasons of language, culture, and historical ties – is the Group’s natural market, although it doesn’t stop there: MAPFRE’s expansion now encompasses nearly 40 countries. But it’s in Latin America where MAPFRE’s international expansion is strongest. Today MAPFRE is the leading insurance company in this region, surpassing local companies and multinational groups that arrived on the continent much later.
This process of expansion would begin in Europe years later, where the insurance market is much more mature and, for that very reason, more difficult. In 2014, MAPFRE acquired two companies in Italy and Germany, and they are now Verti. These are two companies dedicated to direct insurance, i.e., telephone and mainly online sales, a segment MAPFRE had entered in 2011 with the creation of Verti in Spain. MAPFRE gradually increased its presence in different European countries and in 2008 took a much bigger leap with the purchase of Commerce, the most important transaction MAPFRE has ever carried out in its history: an insurance company in the United States, which today ranks in the top 25 in automobile insurance, the most important for the Group as it represents 20% of the entire business.
There are still two continents yet to be reached by MAPFRE: Africa, where MAPFRE’s footprint is through Assistance, a business model now entirely transformed and focused on the digital relationship, which even has a new name: MAWDY. MAPFRE RE, the Group’s reinsurer, is how the company entered many Asian countries, and today it has business in more than a hundred countries.
At the same time, the first agreements are being signed to increase the number of distribution points for MAPFRE products. In some cases these are local agreements, but in others bancassurance alliances are being established with large corporations, notably Banco do Brasil, a partner with whom we have set up one of the largest financial groups in Brazil.
The 1990s also saw an event that would mark MAPFRE’s history: the company’s IPO, which meant easier access to capital. The year 2006 marked a major milestone in the future of the company. MAPFRE undertook a process never seen before in the history of Spain: its demutualization and conversion to a public limited company. Since then, all MAPFRE’s businesses have been listed on the stock exchange. It was a very complex process, as there were no precedents, but the result was exemplary.
The entire expansion process, not only geographically, but also in terms of product and business, required centralized structures to support the entire business, so that MAPFRE could be much more than the sum of businesses in different countries. It thus became a global company with 31 million customers, more than 31,000 employees and a premium volume of more than 24.5 billion euros, placing MAPFRE among the world’s largest insurers. MAPFRE is now one of the top ten European insurers in terms of premium volume. Along with the insurance and reinsurance business, the last decade has also seen a boost in asset management.
MAPFRE has experienced firsthand the major changes in the economy, but it has also allied with many companies that decades ago took the step, just as MAPFRE had done, to go abroad. These companies are multinationals, which need a different offering that covers very specific needs. This specialization is what gave rise to MAPFRE Global Risks, the Group’s unit specializing in solutions for large risks.
Technology, digitalization, new ways of working, innovation (with a proprietary model created by the Group in collaboration with startups), multi-channeling, etc., are trends that are very present in the company’s day-to-day business. Nor can we overlook the importance of and MAPFRE’s commitment to sustainability, a concept that is on the public agenda of any large company. With our own approach, which always keeps people in focus, sustainability is part of MAPFRE’s future as well.
And the history of MAPFRE cannot be understood separately from its Foundation. The Group’s wager back in 1975, aimed at showing that you can do business while also helping those who need it most, is simply the ambition and tangible demonstration of MAPFRE’s commitment to the societies of the countries it operates in.
90 years of successes and failures (there have been some of those too): that’s the life of a company, just like that of any living being. A company that never stays put, that’s constantly moving, changing what doesn’t work and improving its strong points. 90 years after its founding, MAPFRE maintains its essence, which is now written in its purpose: “We care about what matters to you”.