From banknote printers to international industrial group
Hermann Giesecke and Alphonse Devrient founded Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) in Leipzig in 1852. The company specialized in printing banknotes. After their property in Leipzig was expropriated in 1948, and following the firm’s subsequent re-establishment in Munich, Siegfried Otto developed the company into an international technology group.
Milestones in G+D’s history
- 1852 Founded in Leipzig by Hermann Giesecke and Alphonse Devrient
- 1854 First banknote printed, with international orders following
- 1922 First commission from the German Reichsbank
- 1948 Re-establishment in Munich of the expropriated company
- 1958 First commission from the German Bundesbank to print Deutschmark
- 1964 Purchase of the Louisenthal paper mill in Gmund am Tegernsee
- 1968 Development of the eurocheque system
- 1975 Introduction of automated banknote processing systems and the first machine-readable banknote worldwide
- 1981 Production of the first chip cards commissioned by French banks and the German Bundespost
- 1991 Delivery of the first commercial SIM cards worldwide
- 1999 Euro banknotes printed
- 2003 Foil production facility set up in Louisenthal
- 2004 Passports with chips become available
- 2015 Veridos GmbH founded – a joint venture with Bundesdruckerei, Berlin
Success through printing
On June 1, 1852, Hermann Giesecke (1831-1900) and Alphonse Devrient (1821-1878) founded the “Giesecke & Devrient" Typographic Art Institute in Leipzig. Until the foundation of the German Reich in 1871, G&D printed what were known as "Staatspapiergeld" (government banknotes) for eight German principalities, and banknotes for 19 private central banks. By 1865 business had become international, with a printing order from Switzerland.
Further orders came from South America and Thailand (for banknotes and stamps in 1891). These orders were fulfilled – as they still are today – with technical expertise relating to the latest printing processes, and consistently staying one step ahead of counterfeiters, giving the company its competitive edge. In the 1920s, G&D started printing for the German Reichsbank for the first time.
The business after 1948
After the company building in Leipzig was destroyed, Siegfried Otto, husband of Jutta Devrient, a descendant of G&D founder Alphonse Devrient, began redeveloping the company in 1948. Business at the new headquarters in Munich grew rapidly. A major milestone came in 1958 in the form of an agreement with the German Bundesbank to supply half of all German banknotes. The Louisenthal paper mill in Gmund am Tegernsee was purchased in 1964. In the years that followed, this grew to be the most advanced paper mill in Europe. Louisenthal became one of the first locations in the world to produce banknote and security paper.
Smart cards: a new mainstay
In 1968, the European banking industry developed the eurocheque system jointly with G&D. This marked their successful entry into the electronic card business. In 1989, G&D invented the “SIM plug-in”, which gained acceptance as the global standard for SIM card formats. The smartcard business is not just limited to payment transactions and mobile communication. New customers were found in the health and transport sectors. Since 2004, G&D has also produced a passport with a chip that stores biometric data.
Machines read banknotes
Printing banknotes is a major pillar of G+D’s business. When the European Central Bank commissioned 15 printing works to produce euros in 1999, G+D was the company that printed the largest volume of these, due to its high skill level and flexibility. G+D regularly develops new security features which present effective barriers to counterfeiters. An example of this is LEAD®, an optically variable foil strip with holographic and micromirror structures.
The foundations for the new systems business were laid in 1975, with the introduction of the first machine-readable banknotes and the release of the ISS 300 banknote processing system. By 2001, more than 2,200 of these systems had been installed worldwide. These systems assist central and commercial banks, banknote printers, cash-in-transit companies, and casinos in increasing the security and efficiency of all their cash management processes. The systems are supplemented by packing systems, banknote destruction systems, and comprehensive consultancy and service support.
The BPS® M7 banknote processing system was released in 2009. It checks up to 120,000 banknotes per hour for authenticity and fitness for circulation. The machine also reads their serial numbers at the same time. In addition, it simultaneously detects a wide range of information about the condition of the banknotes. As a result, G+D big data solutions optimize the entire cash cycle, whether through reworking the features on banknotes, or using well-founded and accurate capacity planning to optimize the use of manpower and machines.
Now a high-security group
In 2001, G+D established a new business unit focusing on information and network security, as well as a portfolio for secure, company-wide IT communication. Acquiring a controlling share in secunet Security Networks AG in 2004 then added the IT security solutions business. secunet is a specialist in high-security solutions in IT. In 2009, G+D acquired an additional 26.4% of the shares from RWTÜV. In creating the Mobile Security business sector, G+D is increasingly focusing on the mobile security applications market. G+D Mobile Security supplies complete solutions comprising secure elements, software platforms, services, and solutions. These form the basis for the management and protection of digital identities throughout their lifecycle. In 2023, Mobile Security was split into two divisions.
G+D also has decades of experience in the field of government solutions. By 1994 the company was delivering national ID cards and personalization systems to Namibia. This was followed by many major international projects. Documents and processing systems continued to be further developed during this work. Innovations range from storage options for biometric data, and the development of a thermochromic security feature which enables authenticity to be checked by rubbing it with the fingers, to contactless ID cards with numerous eGovernment applications. G+D and Bundesdruckerei combined their international government solutions business in a joint venture that started in 2015. Veridos supplies highly secure travel documents, ID systems and healthcare cards. These can be used both for conventional identification purposes, and for providing authentication and protection for electronic business processes via the internet. These business areas relating to security solutions currently generate more than half of G+D’s total revenues. The company remains completely family-owned to this day.
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