Gerling, one of Europe's largest insurance groups, is celebrating its 100th anniversary on Tuesday. On May 4, 1904, 25-year-old Robert Gerling founded an insurance agency in the city of Cologne where he became one of the most successful agents in the region by passing on rebates from insurers on to his clients. In 1909 he established his own insurance firm that he christened Rhine Fire Insurance Inc. and expanded his service to include direct and reinsurance. His empire continued to grow and was given a powerful boost when giants such as the Krupp company and Bayer chose Gerling as their primary insurance provider. Robert Gerling died in 1935. At the beginning of the 1960s, Gerling was Germany's second largest insurance company and in the 1980s, had some 8,000 employees and more than two million customers. At the end of the 1990s, however, Gerling stumbled badly, emerging from the crisis in 2003 only after selling its reinsurance and credit insurance arms. Today, Gerling has revenues of €4,4 billion ($5.3 billion) and about 7,200 employees overall. The group is represented in 20 countries.