Contracts that are too expensive, cult-like behavior, lobbying aimed at politicians with a lot of money: In a dossier, the citizens’ movement “Finanzwende” makes serious allegations against the structural sales company Deutsche Vermögensberatung AG (DVAG) in Frankfurt. Finanzwende was founded in 2018 by then Green Bundestag member Gerhard Schick and sees itself as an “independent and non-partisan counterweight to the financial lobby”.
In structured sales, representatives at higher hierarchical levels receive a portion of the commissions for contracts sold by representatives below them. They are commission-driven, which often leads to incorrect advice and cover-ups: the representative advises terminating an existing contract and concluding a new one. This brings the sales department further commissions that the customer pays.
DVAG is owned 60 percent by the family of CEO Andreas Pohl and 40 percent by the Generali insurance group. The 18,500 representatives are considered to be particularly aggressive in their approach to customers. The company achieved a whopping 2.2 billion euros in sales in 2022, mostly from commissions, and a profit of 246 million euros. The sales department primarily sells insurance policies from Generali, funds from Deutsche Bank subsidiary DWS and investment offers from Allianz Global Investors.
Numerous politicians are closely linked to the DVAG
In the 22-page financial transition dossier, author Pia Eberhardt criticizes the company’s lobbying power and business practices as exploitative and cult-like. She calls on politicians from all parties to stop accepting donations from the structural distributor. DVAG did not comment on the allegations.
“A lot would be achieved if more aggrieved consumers and intermediaries turned their backs on DVAG and if well-known (former) politicians no longer allowed themselves to be harnessed to DVAG’s cart,” the paper says. Politically, the DVAG must be put in its place.
Finanzwende specifically gives three reasons for the criticism. DVAG doesn’t advise customers, it just wants to sell products. “The intermediaries use psychological tricks and manipulation,” it says. The contracts offered come exclusively from DVAG partner companies, even if they perform poorly in tests, such as Generali’s Rürup pension with its high costs.
The second accusation: DVAG maintains a close network in politics and is a major donor to parties in Germany. One of the biggest successes of lobbying was preventing the EU’s planned ban on commissions on life insurance.
Former and current politicians from the Bundestag and the European Parliament are still part of DVAG’s network of influence. “As a member of the CDU’s Economic Council and the SPD’s Economic Forum, DVAG also enjoys privileged lobbying access to both parties.” Theo Waigel and Markus Ferber (CSU), Udo Corts (CDU), Brigitte Zypries (SPD) and the former Verdi boss Frank Bsirke (Greens) are or were part of the advisory board.
Finanzwende also criticizes the “exploitative and cult-like” business structures of structural sales. Agents only make money when they sell policies or recruit new agents for sales. “The lowest-ranking people in particular are under great pressure in this system.”