The life-changing ‘crash’ of PGA Sompo’s CEO
How a car accident propelled Fumihiko Harada to a career in insurance.
It was a literal crash that propelled Fumihiko Harada, PGA Sompo Insurance Corporation Director/President and CEO to a career in insurance.
Talking with Insurance Asia, Harada-san, amusedly explained that during his university days, he had a part-time job that involved modifying second-hand vehicles, which he tried to do with his own car. But because the modifications he did were not fit for his car, he got into an accident wherein his car went off a cliff.
He was fine, but the car was another story as it was a total wreck. However, even though his car was destroyed, he managed to recuperate the losses because it was insured.
“I never realised the importance of the non-life insurance industry before so that situation was an eye-opener for me, that [insurance] is something that can help people. And that is the reason why I started my career in insurance.” Harada-san said.
In any business, leaders have to be knowledgeable about everything in their industry. For Harada-san, his day typically starts with him catching up on what’s happening with their customers, the industry, and the country.
He then proceeds to talk with department heads, personally seeing that everything is working smoothly.
“I’m more of a hands-on guy. Since our office is smaller compared to other offices, it’s easier to change the direction of the company and to manage everything to support our clients,” Harada-san said.
Harada-san is definitely an old hand. In his 28 years of experience in the general insurance industry, 16 years were spent working outside of Japan and in China, Hong Kong, and SOMPO’s regional headquarters in Singapore. In fact, Harada-san has already worked with nine SOMPO subsidiaries in South Asia and Oceania before becoming the president and CEO of the PGA Sompo in the Philippines.
“[Despite] having knowledge of the industry, the dynamics of day-to-day local operations are different, especially in the points of management. It requires more hands-on experience and an understanding of the local context, the story behind it,” Harada-san explained.
Since Harada-san’s appointment in 2016, PGA Sompo has prospered under his guidance with its portfolio almost doubling and profits increasing by almost 20 times since 2015. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, PGA Sompo broke its records, posting the highest gross written premiums in its history at PHP2.408m ($47k). This is 20% more than their numbers in 2019.
Additionally, PGA Sompo also recorded a 34% increase in profit to PHP120m ($2.34m) in 2020 compared to 2019, a testament to Harada-san’s achievements.
In a market report by AM Best, the Philippines’ non-life market is maintaining a stable growth after signs of recovery were noted by the end of 2021.
The report revealed that net premiums increased by 7.6% to $700m. It also noted that the government's “Build Build Build” programme, which consists of around 20,000 infrastructure projects nationwide, has now resumed and is expected to drive the Philippines’ economic recovery.
This is just one of the three major trends PGA Sompo is looking to take advantage of this year.
According to Harada-san, PGA Sompo has a keen edge when it comes to supporting the Philippines’ infrastructure development as they have one of the biggest acceptance capacities in the market.
“Our risk acceptance capacity is backed by our head office SOMPO in Japan, SOMPO is around 13 times bigger than the entire Philippines’ non-life insurance market in terms of its premium. Our strong capacity continuously supports mega infrastructure businesses,” Harada-san said.
PGA Sompo can also provide professional indemnity (PI) that covers design risk in construction. According to Harada-san, few insurance firms in the market can provide PI coverage at the moment.
The second trend PGA Sompo sees is expanding the accessibility of insurance services led by digital services and embedded insurance services.
Harada-san said they have also started to delve into this trend by creating insurance products. An example is their collaboration with e-wallet giant GCash in providing online shopper protection.
These kinds of insurance products and services have become popular because of the last trend rising in the Philippines, which is an increase in insurance awareness or the concept of safety, boosted by the aftermath of the pandemic, Harada-san revealed.
Currently, PGA Sompo is focused on providing various embedded insurance services to its customers as they believe that it allows insurers, especially non-life insurers like them to provide insurance products through different platforms, enhancing value propositions to customers.
“We are currently providing various products through online platforms like LAZADA, RedDoorz, and Rewire, and also collaborating with insuretech partners to leverage the latest insurance technologies to seamlessly integrate innovative insurance solutions into third-party product or service providers’ ecosystems. Embedded insurance services can provide broader access points of insurance protection to consumers. Innovative insurance solutions will provide new opportunities to reach out to new customers across digital touchpoints to support people’s everyday lives.” Harada-san said.
PGA Sompo’s mindset that led them to excel in its industry is deeply rooted in a concept called “omotenashi,” meaning “to wholeheartedly look after guests.”
“It is an implicit understanding that there are no unnecessary tasks if the result ensures great experiences for a guest. With the Japanese rooted high-quality pursuing mindset, we have been developing our services and digital solutions. We care about the user experiences (UX) of our sales portal. Our portal is simple and easy to use with quick action. We are focusing on developing our customer experience (CX) by providing high-quality services,” Harada-san explained.
It was this kind of mindset that led them to win Insurance Asia’s Insurer of the Year - Philippines last year.
In his parting words, Harada-san: “I am a strong believer in the functionality of insurance. Insurance is really about caring people, or supporting someone in their time of need.”
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