The GIAJ Chairman's Statement (Translation)
(March 17, 2016

Hisahito Suzuki, ChairmanHisahito Suzuki, Chairman

 It has been around nine months since I was appointed Chairman of the GIAJ and I would like to report on the major activities and related events we have been engaged in since.

1. Introduction

 Five years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and many people who were evacuated after the disaster still cannot return home. We wish to once again express our condolences to the victims and extend our sincerest sympathies to all those affected by the catastrophe.

 Upon the fifth anniversary, while reaffirming the significant impact that the earthquake had on this country, we have renewed our awareness of the weight of the general insurance industry's responsibility in contributing to the stability and improvement of the day-to-day lives of people as well as the greater economy.

 We will never forget the lessons learned, and are determined to fulfil our social mission and responsibility of protecting our customers from risks.

2. Priority measures

(1) Awareness-raising and educational activities for consumers

 Marking the fifth anniversary of the disaster, on March 8 we held a symposium in Tokyo on disaster prevention and reduction entitled 'Motto Bousai (promoting disaster prevention) - utilizing the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake'. The event was attended by many university students, its target audience. Professor Itsuki Nakabayashi from Meiji University gave a lecture on disaster prevention. He talked about the increasing concern regarding the possibility of massive natural disasters including an epicentral earthquake in the Tokyo metropolitan area. We also held a panel discussion where experts and university students engaged in volunteer activities in the affected areas discussed the challenges and prospects of disaster prevention and reduction. According to the feedback we received, the participants reaffirmed the significance of self-help and mutual-help, and were encouraged to think about what they can do to help promote disaster prevention and reduction. We believe that the event provided an opportunity for young people to realize the importance of disaster prevention and reduction. We hope that, with the symposium as the turning point, the students will lead the next generation in local disaster prevention efforts and volunteer activities.

 In order to boost our consumer-centric awareness-raising and educational activities, we launched the 'Senior Conductor System' program to utilize the knowledge and experience of retired insurance professionals at consumer education lectures. On March 18, we will hold a lecture at a high school in Tokyo on liability for damages related to bicycle accidents. In view of a case where a court ordered payment of a large amount of reparation regarding a bicycle accident, we will explain the effective use of insurance as preparation for such cycling related risks. We will actively enhance the new system to make our awareness-raising and educational activities for consumers at the local level more tailored and beneficial.

(2) Promoting earthquake insurance

 Focusing on the 11 prefectures we designated as priority regions this fiscal year, we completed a series of public forums in February. These events attracted a total of more than 1,800 people, many of whom were local residents. The forums offered lectures on past, large-scale earthquakes and quake risks at the local level by earthquake specialists and public sector experts in charge of disaster prevention. In addition, representatives from Regional Independent insurance Agents of Japan, Inc. explained that earthquake insurance can play a very important role as a self-help measure in that it helps those affected to get back on their feet immediately. The forums were well-received by the audience, some of whom told us they now fully understand that earthquake insurance will support them in getting back on their feet.

 In Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, we held explanatory sessions on the necessity of earthquake insurance for shared utility areas within condominiums, targeting members of the Condominium Management Companies Association. Based on examples of claim payments after the Great East Japan Earthquake, we emphasized the usefulness of earthquake insurance in the recovery of such utility areas following damage.

(3) Disaster prevention and reduction that takes local characteristics into account

 In six selected regions where the occurrence of large-scale disasters is of great concern or which have been affected by record damage, we are conducting educational activities for disaster prevention and reduction according to each region’s circumstances. So far, we have held lectures and symposiums in Kumamoto, Kochi, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Tokushima Prefecture. Our February 28 event in Hiroshima, where the torrential downpour and consequent landslides in August 2014 inflicted severe damage and losses, featured lectures by public sector experts and others including a university professor on ongoing disaster prevention initiatives and measures to increase the level of prevention at the local level. The participants who were mostly local residents also took part in a map exercise to learn how to set up and manage evacuation centers, on the premise that large-scale landslides could force them to be evacuated.

 In recent years, natural disasters have become larger and their variety more diverse, which has led to the increased importance of disaster prevention and reduction. We will intensify our efforts to contribute to a worry-free, safe society on the local level.

3. Other specific measures

(1) Super-aging society

 In order for the elderly to purchase general insurance without anxiety, we revised our booklet that offers tips on concluding an insurance contract. Taking into account the advice of the Japan Association of Consumer Affairs Specialists and other experts, we added information on difficulties that the elderly tend to face in their daily lives, such as traffic accidents in which an increasing number of senior drivers are perpetrators, and problems associated with home repair services.

 In view of the enforcement of the law on elimination of disability discrimination in April 2016, we set our basic policy on responding to people with disabilities. Our member companies, in line with the policy, will strive to not treat these people discriminately when concluding contracts or making claim payments, and to take circumstances into reasonable consideration.

(2) Globalization

 On December 15 and 16, the Japanese Financial Services Agency held a workshop in Vietnam. At the event, the GIAJ, in collaboration with the Jiken Center, a Japanese organization offering training for insurance loss adjusters, explained general insurance and the Japanese loss adjustment system, which attracted great interest among the participants. In Cambodia, in response to the national insurance association’s request, we have started to provide support in the study of the introduction of an examination and training system for insurance solicitors. We will continue proactive efforts to contribute to improving the level of sophistication of the financial infrastructure of Asian countries, mainly through insurance technical collaboration.

 In response to the increase in non-Japanese residents, we launched an English website called 'Guide to Living Safely in Japan'. While Japan is often said to be comparably safe, various risks still exist in our daily lives. The website is aimed at promoting understanding among non-Japanese residents of general insurance as preparation for such risks.

(3) Establishment of new systems for insurance solicitation

 Following the enforcement of the revised Insurance Business Act in May 2016, basic rules on insurance solicitation, such as requirements to correctly confirm customer intent and provide appropriate information, will be established, and agents will be additionally required to make sure systems are in place to ensure appropriate insurance solicitation. By updating various guidelines and providing information through our member companies, we have advanced our responses to the revisions of the act. With about two months to go before enforcement, we will further collaborate with agents to establish proper solicitation systems, in order to make certain that the public have a high level of confidence in the insurance industry overall.

(4) Promotional activities for Compulsory Automobile Liability Insurance (CALI) and support activities utilizing profits from managing CALI premiums

 Having a valid CALI policy in place is compulsory for all registered vehicles and motorcycles. Starting from March 1, we began public information activities on CALI, in which Mirai Shida (an actress) calls for better understanding and recognition of the system with the catch phrase 'Check the expiration date!' We are focusing particularly on riders of motorcycles with engine capacities of 250cc or less, because they are not subject to regular inspections and therefore riders tend to forget the validity period of their CALI policies. We will continue to stress that CALI is designed to assist traffic accident victims, and having it is obligatory if you own an automobile.

 Utilizing profits from managing CALI premiums, since 1971, we have been engaged in awareness raising activities by concentrating mainly on providing assistance to victims of car accidents and promoting prevention measures. In fiscal 2016, in cooperation with local residents, we will additionally support model projects to prevent accidents involving the elderly.

4. Conclusion

 I have three months to go before the end of my tenure as Chairman of the GIAJ. With the goal of disseminating the importance of self-help and mutual-help, we have utilized our resources through regional activities. This year one such program, the ‘Exploration for Disaster Prevention’ for elementary school students, received the 'Best Resilience Prize' at the Japan Resilience Awards 2016 for contributing to making industries, people, communities, and the country as a whole more resilient to disasters. Promotion of disaster prevention at the local level is our country's foremost priority. We will steadily advance our efforts concerning the main initiatives to help build a worry-free, safe society. We would highly appreciate your continued support and cooperation.