ITC DIA Europe

Theme Park for the Security, Health and Wellbeing of Customers

Written by Roger Peverelli and Reggy de Feniks - Founders The DIA Community on Sep 20, 2019

The January issue of Time Magazine read ‘SOMPO – Japan’s traditional insurance provider – is transforming into a global force for innovation, advanced technology, health and well-being.’ A great incentive for us to sit down with Koichi Narasaki, Group Digital Officer at SOMPO. Koichi is renowned as a fast thinker, a fast decision maker and a fast speaker. Under his leadership, SOMPO recently announced a co-operation with LINE, the leading social media platform in Japan, and a business partnership with Chinese unicorn ZhongAn.

SOMPO is an insurance conglomerate and is operating in 30 countries. Its consolidated revenue is USD 34 billion and total assets under management USD 111 billion. SOMPO operates with four business units: Domestic (Japanese) P&C Insurance, Domestic Life, Overseas Insurance and Nursing Care & Healthcare Business. SOMPO is the largest elderly care and nursing care provider in Japan. Among the three largest Japanese insurance groups, the company is recognized to be the most aggressive when it comes to innovation. A prime example is the appointment of Koichi Narasaki as the Group Digital Officer in 2016.

You’ve had quite an interesting career path. Started out at Mitsubishi Corporation, arguably one of the largest Japanese conglomerates, and then you spend 16 years in Silicon Valley, running 5 start-ups …
Koichi: “Mitsubishi actually made a big mistake when they sent me to Silicon Valley. Three years later they had lost me forever. I was thrilled and completely electrified by Silicon Valley and its power. So, I jumped ship and started to work at my first startup which later became five. Until three years ago when SOMPO headhunted me.”

You’re quite new to insurance. What is your view on the developments in the insurance industry these days?
Koichi: “I think the insurance industry is as a play of digital disruptions. We are getting digitally disrupted in many areas of insurance. The auto insurance is a prey to Mobility-as-a-Service, just think about autonomous vehicles and e-sharing. Home insurance is ‘competing’ with IoT sensing technology and disaster prediction using AI. We should focus more and more on Smart Home and Smart Factory; but also Smart Communities rather than just selling home insurance policies. Life and health insurance is now all about preventive health, digital health. I wear Fitbit and I have an Apple Watch. I want to be healthier rather than seeing my doctor. And so does everybody.”

SOMPO’s new mission statement reads ‘Theme Park for the Security, Health and Wellbeing of Customers’. Very provocative, especially in insurance. Can you explain the meaning behind it?
Koichi: “When Kengo Sakurada, CEO of Sompo Holdings, interviewed me, he said: ‘We are just graduating out of the insurance industry’. I was puzzled. Why would you have to bother about graduating? Then he explained. Insurance is, in terms of customer experiences, ‘too few too late’. Insurance companies don’t do anything until policyholders get into a traffic accident or if a loved one is deceased. That’s when insurance companies come to action. Mr. Sakurada believes we should be more proactive and preventive. That’s also one of the reasons why we have acquired two nursing care providers. It’s about the society. We are still an insurance carrier but on top of that insurance platform we are building security, health and well-being as our new ‘theme park platform’. That’s what I came to love and that’s why I’m working for SOMPO.”

You’ve been at SOMPO for about three years. Now you’ve opened up several digital labs and invested and partnered with many startups..
Koichi: “Yes. I have opened up three labs – in Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv – and setting up sustainable and disruptive innovations at the same time. We do this because, in my view, open innovation really makes sense to both corporates and startups. In the last fiscal year we delivered 58 PoCs and 10 are in production, commercialized and in the field already. 2016 through 2018, we ran 112 PoCs. This is an average, 3.8 each month. To date we have a total of 20 successful products and services in production. That’s how we further accelerate the launch of new products and services for these ‘theme park’ platforms.”

Can you give an example?
Koichi: “Sure. Our engineers use best practice AI and open source to make our own AI based products and services. One of my favorite products is the Snap`n’Quote. You make a snapshot of one of our competitors’ policy and within 40 seconds we give the customer a better quote. We make those customers switch from their existing carrier to us. We have made it in three months.”

A direct impact on sales! Can you also give an example from the Future Care Lab SOMPO opened?
Koichi: “We’re very big in nursing care so we opened a lab to focus on that. We have bought an electric wheelchair in the marketplace and asked for their APIs. Then, we made our own software to turn this electric chair in an autonomous driving chair. Our engineers built this in 8 weeks.”

SOMPO recently featured in the special Davos issue of Time Magazine. You had a great headline: ‘Providing Solutions for a Changing World’.
Koichi: “We are the exclusive sponsor to this Davos issue because we wanted to share that we are helping to change the world for the better. Because at the end of the day, insurance is about the society and our future. Our mission reflects in all our digital transformation efforts and practices. This is where we accelerate innovation for our customers.”

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