Dr Nikolaus von Bomhard

Munich Re’s ERGO insurance unit is planning to axe 1,800 jobs as part of a cost-cutting drive.

The job cuts have been dubbed “ruthless” by a union representative.

The job losses will fall in Germany as the insurer tries to lower its gross annual cost base by €540m (£412m). This will translate into a net annual saving of €280m.

The company said it would make the savings by “consolidating sales organisations and paring down administration costs.”

German services trade union Verdi’s ERGO representative Frank Fassin told Reuters: “These plans are so ruthless that a socially acceptable implementation of them is hardly possible,”

ERGO announced the cuts alongside a €1bn investment between now and 2020, which will largely be spent on modernising its IT systems.

The insurer also announced that it would be launching a “purely digital” insurance company in 2017, and that its first product would be a motor insurance policy.

Because of the investment being made in 2016, ERGO expects its 2016 financial results to be “slightly negative”, but expects results to return to a “distinctly positive level” in 2017.

ERGO said it expects to contribute more than €500m to Munich Re’s profits annually starting from at least 2021.

Munich Re chief executive Nikolaus von Bomhard (pictured) said: “The strategy programme of ERGO’s CEO Markus Rieß will ensure that ERGO can once again become a strong source of earnings for Munich Re.”