Mund & Fester Company History:
Faces, Personalities, Underwriting

Setting Sail for Hamburg

Jules Guillaume Fester, fresh off his 24th birthday, is self-confident, and yet nonetheless brimming with nervous excitement, as he arrives in Hamburg after a long journey in the year 1876. He is used to the sea air, as his trip has taken him from Antwerp, familiar seat of the Fester family, to Hamburg, with the purpose of planting another milestone in the long history of the Mund & Fester Insurance Company.

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In 1881:

Stepping outside the company’s door, Jules Fester can experience the era’s social and political transformations up close. Otto von Bismark forces Hamburg to become a member of the Prussian initiated Norddeutsche Bund (Northgerman Federation.) The relinquishing of sovereignty over customs, the creation of a free port and the building of a new warehouse district (Speicherstadt,) result in the elimination of thousands of workers’ quarters.

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1909: Mund & Fester- All in the Family

In 1909 Jules Fester brings his nephews Hermann Firgau and Georges Fester into the company as partners. This enlargement of the firm makes it necessary for Mund & Fester to look for its own larger premises, and Jules Fester finds them in Hermannstrasse 16.

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1910: The World Gets Smaller...

Ernst Mund, son of the founder Adoph Mund, had become a partner in the Antwerp firm in 1899. Ernst’s brother, also named Adolph, is called upon to travel abroad.
He has been an underwriter in St. Petersburg since 1908 and, subsequently, in Copenhagen and Berlin.

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1914: Turning Point- World War I

The outbreak of World War One, on the 3rd of August, 1914, marks a first painful turning point in the hitherto prosperous history of the firm of Mund & Fester. The entire movement of goods- import and export overseas is prohibited. Commerce grinds almost entirely to a halt.

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1923: Back to Business

It is not until the end of inflation in 1923, when a US-Dollar is again traded at 4.20 Reichsmark, that the business situation begins to improve markedly. Communications are restored with the English companies in 1925 and commercial trade is, at last, taken up again.

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1927: Adolph Mund Comes to Hamburg

Georges Fester leaves the firm in 1919 to form his own Mund & Fester company in Copenhagen.
In 1927 however, a scion of the Mund family, Adolph Mund, the nephew of Adolph Mund of the original founding partners from Antwerp, joins the firm.

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1929: A Shock- The Burning of the “Europa”

The year 1929 brings a bitter blow for all the insurance companies.

The gigantic steamer “Europa,” just completed in the shipyard of Blohm and Voss, is almost completely destroyed by fire on March 29th.

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1937: Sorrow and Gratitude- Jules Guillaume Fester Dies

In 1934 Edgar von Borries, an underwriting agent in the firm of Mund & Fester since 1927, replaces Herr Firgau as a partner in the firm. The senior member of the firm, Jules Guillaume, dies on October 3rd, 1937. The company loses with him a highly admired and trusted man who had also been well regarded by the Hamburg Stock Exchange. The owner/partners are now Adolph Mund and Edgar von Borries.

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1939: The Next Turning Point- World War II

The outbreak of World War II causes the business ties to foreign companies, comprehensively reestablished after WWI, to be ruptured for the second time. Alone War insurance payouts serve to mitigate the significant loss of premiums.

 

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1945: The War Ends- Faithful Companions- Jonny Hinz and Hermann Ahrens

At the war’s end Adolph Mund manages, together with his loyal, longtime agents Jonny Hinz and Hermann Ahrens, to carry on anew with Mund & Fester's business relations. Hinz and Ahrens both feel particularly deep ties to the firm, and are the first to commit their memories and knowledge of the firm to paper in 1970.

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1946: Renewal Across the Board- Dr. Werner Berndt Joins the Firm

The year 1946 is one of renewal, not only socially and politically, but also within the firm of Mund & Fester. Upon the resignation of Edgar von Borries, who leaves to found a firm of his own, Dr. Werner Bernd, director of the Allianz, joins the firm as a partner. This marks a decisive point in the history of the company.

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1952: A Proud Moment- The Departure of the “Santa Ursula“

The Petersberg Agreement of November 22nd,1949, lifts economic sanctions on Germany, allowing large transport ships to be built again and the maritime insurance business to once more grow substantially.

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1958: The Death of Adolph Mund

On March 15th, 1958, Adolph Mund dies completely unexpectedly, posing difficult challenges for Dr. Werner Bernd who is now the sole partner. He, however, does not hesitate for long and takes up the reigns, leading the company on his own from now on.
With skill, expertise, and a sense of strong personal dedication, he manages to bring about continued growth in the company’s revenue. In addition, he serves as second chairman in Hamburg’s Union of Insurers: an insurance-man through and through!

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1966: Incredible- Werner Bernd Dies in a Storm

Then, on April 12th, 1966, something shocking occurs. Werner Berndt is killed in an accident aboard the Italian luxury liner “Michaelangelo”.

 

 

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April 1966: The Son Takes Over

Michael Berndt, still dealing with the tragic death of his father, is now obliged to take up the reins at Mund & Fester. His years as apprentice at Mund & Fester at the side of his dominating father had been anything but easy...

 

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1974: 100 Years of Mund & Fester- A Look Back

In 1974 the firm of Mund & Fester celebrates its Centennial under the leadership of Michael Berndt. The entire staff looks back, with no small measure of pride, at the long years of activity as one of Hamburg’s leading underwriting agencies.

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2001: 9.11. A Day that Changes Everything

It is with a sense of apprehension and reflection, stemming from the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, that Mund & Fester celebrates the 125th anniversary of its founding with a formal gathering at Hamburg’s Hotel “Four Seasons”.

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2003: Father and Son - Oliver Berndt and the Mund & Fester Team

Oliver Berndt has lead the firm of Mund &Fester since his father Michael Berndt’s death on December 31st, 2003. Just as his father was, 30 years before him, he is a stickler for detail and knows the maritime insurance business, with all its intricacies and risks, like the back of his hand. He is truly fascinated by his profession.

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