History – Transamerica

A history of innovation

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Transamerica has stood for innovation since 1904, when a young entrepreneur named Amadeo P. Giannini founded a bank in San Francisco to make financial services available to everyone.

Today, Transamerica encourages our customers to consider their long-term health in pursuit of their financial success. Because just like with planning and saving, we believe the little steps we take today can make a big difference for tomorrow.

"Be the first in everything."

Helping people goes all the way back to our roots

In 1904, a young entrepreneur with a reputation for helping small merchants and immigrant farmers named Amadeo Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in a converted San Francisco saloon. His goal was to make financial services available to everyone — an innovative concept at the time. Two years later, in the chaotic days after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, Giannini set up a makeshift bank on a desk on the San Francisco docks. Instead of collateral, he gave residents loans to rebuild, secured with only a handshake.

Giannini was never one to make a big deal about his role in helping the city and its residents rebuild, but his legend and his business grew. In 1928, he consolidated his bank into what would become Bank of America. Two years later, the organization acquired the Occidental Life Insurance Company through the newly created holding company, Transamerica Corporation. Less than two decades later in 1946, Giannini’s bank would become the largest private bank in the world.

Transamerica Founder Amadeo Giannini

A legend and his business grew

During those expansion years, Giannini’s legend grew as he provided funding at a critical time to the emerging California agricultural and wine industries. The generous banker also purchased bonds to secure the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression. He even loaned Walt Disney the money to complete his first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Due to the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, Transamerica had to choose whether to divest its banks or its non-bank investments. Transamerica surprised the financial world and chose insurance.

Modern day

In July of 1999, Transamerica began a new chapter in its history when it became part of one of the world's leading international financial organizations: Aegon N.V. Together, we currently serve 13 million customers in the U.S. and employ more than 29,000 people around the world*.

*As of 12/31/16

Looking forward

Today, the Transamerica companies are as committed to helping people as we were over 100 years ago. From life insurance to retirement plans, customers now have access to an even wider range of services to help plan for their financial futures. But the way we see it, our responsibility goes beyond our clients' retirement accounts. We're making wellness a central part of everything we do and want to inspire people to do the same.

From our very beginning, we've been committed to helping our customers build a solid financial foundation for today and tomorrow. And we’ll continue to do so with innovative insurance and financial products that are as affordable as they are exceptional. But we're also showing people how their wealth and health can work together, so they can reduce their health risks and benefit from less stress as they pursue financial wellness. After all, what good is wealth if you don't have the health to enjoy it?

Mother and daughter smiling

A unique approach

In 1968, Transamerica president John R. Becket had an idea. He noticed that the trees in a city park could be tall, yet still allow natural light to filter down from above. This was in contrast with the box-like buildings that surrounded him. So when designing the Transamerica headquarters, he proposed a somewhat radical approach.

One icon deserves another

Inspired by Giannini, Transamerica was built on the idea that — like sunlight — financial security should be available to everyone. So it’s only fitting that our headquarters would transform the San Francisco skyline in the same way that we’ve transformed financial services. Located at 600 Montgomery Street in the heart of one of the city's most storied sections, the iconic Transamerica Pyramid is still recognized internationally today for its distinctive structure.
The Transamerica Pyramid

The 48th floor is a conference room with a 360-degree view

A symbol of longevity

Although the pyramid no longer serves as the Transamerica's headquarters, it is still strongly associated with our company and is depicted in our logo. Today, the Pyramid stands as a symbol of innovation and longevity, much like Transamerica itself.
The Transamerica Pyramid Logo