GERMANY- German retailer KarstadtQuelle is joining forces with the country’s second largest insurer ERGO Versicherungsgruppe in a joint venture to sell insurance, banking and Riester products.

Both parties will hold 50% of the shares in the joint venture KarstadtQuelle Financial Services which has been designed as a sales and marketing company.

ERGO’s products are to be distributed via KarstadtQuelle’s department stores, mail order catalogues and through its e-commerce channels.

A spokesman at for the retailer says the recent pension fund reforms played a part in the decision but were not the driving force. “We just felt that we had a good chance to position ourselves well in the financial services sector,” he says.

Germany has witnessed a number of unusual alliances in anticipation of increased business from the country’s long-awaited pension reforms. French Insurer AXA has announced an agreement with the coffee retailer Tchibo and is already promoting private pensions in the latter’s 7,000 shops and bakery outlets.

Many German insurers have forged links with banks - Allianz acquired Dresdner bank last year, Munich Re strengthened its ties with HVB Group and Generali sought closer links with Commerzbank.

In addition, direct insurers such as Cosmos now offer policies through mail order catalogues and Commerzbank has opened branches in a number of supermarkets.