In Focus
INSURANCE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Beyond Japan: Sompo Holdings Asia's journey towards a sturdy retail platform

The insurer seeks to build and reinforce brand awareness for direct consumers in key Asia Pacific markets.

Armed with a 130-year strong Japanese history from its parent firm, Sompo Holdings Asia is determined to further cast its prominence throughout Asia Pacific through innovations that meet the changing demands in the insurance industry around the region. Its Japanese entity, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa, is the market leader in Japan’s non-life insurance segment where it pulls ahead of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance with 25.87% of market share as of June 2018, data from S&P show. In an exclusive interview with Insurance Asia, Daniel Neo, who was appointed as regional CEO of Sompo Holdings Asia in April, bared his plans to establish brand awareness outside Japan and target direct consumers in Asia.

After more than two decades in the industry, what key lessons have you learned and how do you plan to use this accumulated industry experience to unlock more growth opportunities for Sompo in the years to come?

I joined the insurance industry more than 20 years ago and was given opportunities to take on different roles, including senior leadership, in seven countries. Then in 2015, I received an offer from Sompo, which I had to accept as I have always admired how Japanese companies maintained their high level of products and services. I believe in certain values and using these values to solve problems.

Although each Asian country is different, insurance is the same fundamentally. It is about providing solutions for customers, distributors, partners, and colleagues. At Sompo Asia Pacific, I am driving a problem-solving culture strongly.

As the new head of Sompo Holdings Asia, how do you plan to lead the company’s growth in Asia? What is your business philosophy for Sompo and what are your long term goals?

From April 2019, four East Asian markets – Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea – joined Sompo Asia Pacific regional strength. With our presence across 14 markets now, we have the confidence that we understand the local nuances, good enough to grow our profits, even exceed the market premium growth. Whilst we continue strengthening our foothold in the markets, we will also focus on building a strong regional management team.

Our core aspiration is to build a strong retail platform – to be number one in travel insurance, top five in motor insurance, and top five international insurance group within Asia in four years. We are also looking at increasing brand awareness and online visibility outside Japan. I believe we have made a number of strong appointments in the expanded Asia Pacific team, and we are continuing to look for talents, as well as retain talents.

We want to form a regional identity of One Unit – One Asia as Sompo Asia Pacific.

What would you say are the key growth areas for the firm? Do you have any targets or milestones you’re aiming to achieve this year?

With a 130-year history of Japanese service excellence, the Sompo brand has built a strong community of customers, business partners, and employees through Asia Pacific. We continue to innovate to meet the changing demands in the insurance industry. Many of my colleagues from Sompo headquarters in Japan are an excellent source of knowledge. They are able to share the many excellent things that HQ has implemented. The regional team works very closely with our HQ colleagues to ensure alignment in upholding the same level of products and services.

What initiatives of Sompo do you plan to continue or enhance as CEO? For instance, Sompo Insurance Singapore tied up with CIMB to offer a pet insurance policy for dogs and cats. What other segments are you targeting for expansion?

Regionally, we are focused on getting the basics right, whilst driving a strong performance culture. One of the ways is through having the right partnerships. Our partnership with CIMB is a perfect example that began in 2016 to distribute our non-life insurance solutions. This bancassurance partnership has been launched in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and the next phase will be Thailand next year. Singapore has a very competitive and mature insurance landscape.

Singapore has a very competitive insurance landscape. How is Sompo Holdings responding to the demand for increasingly digitised insurance experience?

We focus on our customer strategy and leverage on digital technology to better equip our employees with the tools to improve their service. We are the first to market certain innovative solutions, such as a telematics product in Indonesia. Our digital tools and insurtech development are implemented across key markets only after careful research and studying, ensuring that our offerings are effective and beneficial to our stakeholders. The human touch still plays a huge role in the service culture as customers want to talk to people who can help settle their claims seamlessly.

What’s next for Sompo? What are your future plans?

We want to continue providing solutions according to our customers’ needs with our tools, knowledge, products, services, and expertise. We aim to be number 1 in travel insurance, top 5 in motor insurance, and top 5 international insurance group within Asia by 2023. In order to achieve this, we need to continue recruiting and retaining talents within Sompo Asia Pacific

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