Interview with contemporary witnesses on the development of everyday office life at the Delvag Group

Who are you two, when did you join the Delvag Group and in which area are you currently working?

Sabine: I'm Sabine Gerhards and I've been with the Delvag Group for 38 years. I have been working as a Senior Underwriter in Delvag's aviation team (XU-A) since 2009. My tasks include managing Delvag's participation in the fleet policy of the Lufthansa Aviation Insurance Group (LAIG) and working in the hull franchise area.

Ulrike: I am Ulrike Rauschenbach and I am assigned to the Liability Division at Albatros Firmenmakler (QA/IL). I carry out overarching activities in the areas of property insurance and liability, including the annual survey of all Lufthansa Group companies to determine the risks and sums for the premium calculations (previously using an Excel list and now using the latest “Origami” software). I also prepare insurance overviews for the Lufthansa Group companies and take care of the Group's insurance manual.


When did you start at Delvag and what was your career path like?

Ulrike: I started on February 1, 1986 and Sabine on February 15, 1986. I had just finished my apprenticeship and applied for a job at Delvag: as a receptionist in the Delvag Group's new office in Gertrudenstraße in the middle of Cologne. After I had been on parental leave for six and a half years from 1994, I was able to start a part-time job at Albatros when I returned. Initially, I worked in a kind of back office that had just been set up for the administrative activities of various departments and later became part of Albatros Firmenmakler. I then moved to the Aviation division as a “Key Account Manager” and then to the Liability division, where I still work today.

Sabine: : During my first time at the Delvag Group, Ulrike and I worked together at Lufthansa's headquarters in Deutz. Under the guidance of the Lufthansa security officer, we developed various concepts for security and disaster control for our then new site in Gertrudenstraße. From 1995, I first worked in technical accounting at Delvag Rück and later as an “Aviation Insurance Clerk” at what is now Albatros Firmenmakler before joining the aviation team at Delvag in 2009. It has always been very exciting to be so close to the pulse of the LAIG Group, because world events always have an impact on air transport - be it natural disasters, wars or in times of pandemic. And the special thing about Delvag is the many opportunities and possibilities for development that the company offers. You can see that in the careers of both of us.


You've been with the company for almost 40 years. How have the communication channels and therefore your day-to-day work changed during this time?

Ulrike: Of course, our activities have changed a lot over time. When we were hired, it was our job to welcome customers and employees and to manage the alarm system and IT. It was also our job to coordinate anything with the property management. One means of communication at that time was the MFA (multifunctional workstation), which made it possible to save documents and send them as Teletex (the Teletex service was an internationally standardised communication service for the transmission of texts). There was also the fax machine and the Lufthansa-internal Sita-Telex (telex machine for transmitting texts), which could be sent to Lufthansa stations worldwide. Incoming telexes were printed out continuously on a roll (with a carbon copy that had to be kept), cut off by us and taken to the specialist departments.

Sabine: Yes, the MFA was a technical innovation at the time and a huge piece of equipment. I think there were only three or four at Delvag and each secretariat had specific usage times.

Ulrike: So we were the communication center and were not only responsible for Sita-Telex and Teletex, but the phone was also constantly ringing: There was a red one for emergencies as well as two internal phones, the switchboard and the fax phone. Our reception job was always very varied. The tasks changed over time and were constantly being added to. It was all very informal and we knew everyone...

Sabine: ...and of course everyone knew us too.


Very exciting, so without you a lot of things wouldn't have worked back then.

Ulrike: Yes, not least because many calls went through us. Many of the employees and their telephone numbers from back then are still in our heads today. (laughs) Some funny things also happened. We probably had a similar number to the “Hotel am Wasserturm“ in Cologne. People kept calling us by mistake. That led to entertaining phone calls with people who often couldn't believe that they had ended up with an aviation insurance company instead of a hotel.


You were both on parental leave around the year 2000. What happened afterwards?

Ulrike: After our time out, many things from our beginnings no longer existed and events like 9/11 also changed a lot. After the attacks, all aviation cover was canceled by the insurers and everyone involved had to be informed. There were then government guarantees at roughly weekly intervals, which also had to be sent to the certificate recipients. At that time, however, there were hardly any e-mails and so all documents had to be sent by fax. People had to queue for hours and days at the fax machines to send them. And at some point, of course, there were computers, emails and e-files, which were still quite new to us at the time. Corona also brought many changes, of course. Thanks to digitalisation, which was already well advanced, we were fortunately well equipped technically for the pandemic, so we were able to switch to working from home straight away. And the topic of digitalisation will certainly continue to change our day-to-day work - if the milestones in the past were the introduction of new devices and software, it will certainly be AI in the future.

Sabine: I also love the opportunities that Microsoft Teams offers us in everyday office life. Online presentations and training are now a matter of course. Compared to the past, everything has become incredibly fast-moving. If you receive an e-mail, you can reply to it within seconds. When you consider the speed at which information is processed today, the pace of work in past decades is of course unimaginable in retrospect. Even though the working day is much more tightly scheduled today than it used to be, modern working methods also have their advantages: Compared to the past, there is now a much more frequent and regular exchange with managers and senior management. It's also nice to have free soft drinks and coffee in the office, which we like to enjoy on our rooftop terrace at One Cologne after work in the summer.


Has there been a particular highlight for you in recent years?

Sabine: For me, Delvag has always been a good and very attractive employer overall, which has enabled me to develop personally in a number of ways.

Ulrike: The benefits in our company have always been really great - the employee flights that you can book, the anniversary flights, etc. And now I'm also going into semi-retirement. Of course I'm looking forward to that too.

Sabine und Ulrike: : Our previous summer parties were also a particular highlight for both of us, as they were always something very special.


Would you like to wish Delvag anything for its 100th anniversary?

Sabine und Ulrike: : Congratulations and a long and bright future! Continue to be as great an employer as we have come to know you.


Thank you Ulrike and Sabine for the interview.