Published 3 years ago.
About a 9 minute read.
Image: マサコ アーント/Pixabay
In a recent conversation about the role of his company in ensuring a sustainable future in times of increasing uncertainty, MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings’ Shiro Fujii said, “We don’t see ourselves simply as an insurance provider, but as a risk solutions expert.”
Amid new risks and greater uncertainties caused by extreme weather across the
globe and rapid changes in society due to the digital revolution, Japanese
non-life insurance giant MS&AD Insurance Group
Holdings is aiming to create a
“resilient and sustainable society.”
Shiro Fujii, director at MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings | Image credit: Sustainable Brands
As director (EVP at the time of the interview) Shiro Fujii told Sustainable Brands™ in a recent interview:
“Insurance has always had a big role to play in supporting people that take on
challenges. Providing products and services that address social issues will help
prevent and mitigate disasters, as well as create a resilient and sustainable
society in which people support each other.”
So, how should we manage the natural disasters and new risks intensifying inside
and outside Japan? Naoki Adachi, a producer involved in sustainability
efforts at Sustainable Brands Japan, asked
Mr. Fujii about the role that non-life insurance companies should play, along
with their purpose and significance, as society faces an era of mounting
Shiro Fujii: That’s right. Insurance payments for damages caused by natural
disasters have increased significantly in recent years; and unfortunately,
premiums have also risen. As an insurance company, we need to find the best
solution for coping with this. We have to manage both social sustainability and
our own sustainability.
In FY 2018, the insurance industry paid out 1.5 trillion yen (US$13.94 billion)
for claims related to natural disasters, and this was a record high. Analysts
expect the figure to exceed 1 trillion yen (US$9.29 billion) again in 2019.
This amount is down from the previous year; but before 2018, the non-life
insurance industry in Japan had never paid out more than 1 trillion yen for
damage caused by disasters involving storms and floods.
The industry faces two problems: If fire insurance premiums continue to rise,
customers won't be able to afford the purchase of such insurance. On the other
hand, non-life insurance companies won't be able to provide insurance without
premiums corresponding to the risk.
In the U.S. state of Florida, which is often damaged by hurricanes, barely
any private non-life insurance companies offer coverage any more — the state
government handles insurance. Consequently, insurance payouts have become
If damage caused by heavy rain and typhoons keeps increasing in Japan, the point
may come when non-life insurance companies can no longer provide insurance that
fully covers the risks posed by natural disasters.
The government of Japan and private insurance companies are already running
joint initiatives for earthquake insurance. The 1964 Niigata Earthquake produced
the Act on Earthquake Insurance. The amount of insurance paid out for the 2011
Tohoku earthquake and tsunami topped around 1.3 trillion yen (US$12.08
billion), but private insurance companies only footed some of the bill, due to
the government's support through reinsurance. These arrangements meant that
coverage options and payments were sufficient.
Fujii: The most-important aspect of the insurance business isn't simply
compensating for loss; it's protecting customers from loss by working together
on measures to prevent and reduce damage from disasters. Insurance will be there
to provide compensation if losses occur despite these measures.
We're taking the same approach to climate change. We support the Task Force on
Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and engage in initiatives for
mitigating and adapting to climate change. Rising temperatures are increasing
the risk of flooding. We're working with the University of Tokyo and the
Shibaura Institute of Technology to conduct research on improving global
flooding risk forecasts and impact assessments. We want to use these
improvements to support the use of climate-related disaster forecasts in
management strategies and business investment.
We're currently holding internal discussions on our use of coal-fired power
The Japanese government has positioned coal-fired power as a major source of
energy in its fundamental energy plan; however, many Japanese companies are
trying to decrease their reliance on this form of energy. We’re taking these
discussions very seriously.
We also believe it’s important to participate in initiatives to reduce disaster
risk, such as Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR).
Fujii: I believe that the preservation of
and health of the Earth form the basis for achieving a resilient and sustainable
society. The ways in which we manage natural
such as water and forest resources, are now an essential part of business
discussions. The degree of climate change occurring means that this isn't easy,
but I believe that businesses must think about creating mechanisms for
sustaining ecosystems and food chains and incorporating initiatives into their
operations accordingly. We’ll work to improve the sustainability of natural
capital through the business activities (such as consulting) of our entire
As part of this effort, we developed an “animal alert” app with an automotive
insurance company, in working to prevent traffic accidents that kill wild
animals. Traffic accidents are one of the greatest causes of the death of wild
animals. For this, we used data from the government of Japan and local
governments to develop a function that provides voice alerts when drivers
approach areas in which vehicles frequently hit wild animals, and we loaded this
data into our exclusive driving recorder and smartphone app. The sound of the
alert changes in accordance with the animal appearance rate, which is based on
life cycles, time, and the weather.
Fujii: If every car in the world was self-driving, car accidents would be
close to zero. That’s great for society. Fewer accidents and disasters would
make non-life insurance companies happier, too. That's because an insurance
payout for something like a house fire can’t replace the lost memories.
Automatic driving might reduce the need for vehicle insurance, but society will
change and other types of insurance will be required. It's going to be a while
before all vehicles are autonomous. Until that happens, risks will remain,
because self-driving vehicles will share the road with conventional vehicles.
Authorities will create various measures, such as dedicated lanes, but these
won’t eliminate all risks.
In the future, edge computing is likely to provide systems that control
self-driving vehicles by making decisions like humans. However, they could be
prone to programming errors or hacking. No one can say that there won’t be
Although revenue from automobile insurance might decrease, the products and
services of insurance companies will change with society. There are also aspects
of automobile accidents that only insurance companies can provide for, including
negotiations with the other party.
Image credit: MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings
Fujii: In today's society, it's important to accurately convey the facts —
including the risks.
Our mission is to leverage our global insurance & financial business so as to
provide safety and peace of mind, as well as to contribute to the development of
a vibrant society and to help secure a sound future for the planet. To achieve
this goal, we will address the risks arising from the social issues that
challenge us and will provide products and services to overcome these issues.
Through these initiatives, we will create an environment in which our customers
can thrive and conduct their business activities with confidence. The risks
presented in our advertisements were focal points for stories in which we create
shared value with society.
First, our job is to make everyone aware of the risks. Next, it's essential that
we encourage everyone to engage in disaster readiness and safe driving so as to
prevent and mitigate damages from such. This is nothing special needed, but it
can be very simple and basic, such as in: “Please drive carefully” and “Take
care when starting and putting out fires.”
Thinking about the role of our company, we don’t see ourselves simply as an
insurance provider, but as a risk solutions expert. Insurance payouts are part
of our business, but essential aspects can be found before such payouts occur.
In advising customers on risks, we convince them such that they need to
understand the risks that they might be exposed to, and we encourage them to
consider whether they can manage those potential risks on their own. Most
important is a form of accountability that can enable customers to make their
own informed decisions, and this also has huge impact on brand building. A brand
is built on trust and on a promise between the seller and the buyer.
Fujii: That’s right. Insurance is here to support individuals and businesses
taking on challenges. Challenges involve risks. Thinking back to where insurance
originated from, it is believed to have begun in the 12th-13th century marine
trade with “adventure loans” — an arrangement to cover repayment for the ship
and cargo in the event of a shipwreck or other misfortune. The foundation of
insurance is supporting adventurous initiatives, which helps with the
development of society.
Published May 1, 2020 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST