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New Year Message 2017

Firstly, I would like to extend my New Year greetings to you all.

Looking back over the last year, I believe that the year of 2016 would have marked a turning point in the global history with some key decisions that have implications for the global economy: in June, the British voted to leave the European Union; in November, the U.S. citizens chose Mr. Donald Trump for the President-elect; in Japan, the Bank of Japan introduced negative interest rate policy which brought an unprecedented low interest rate environment.

As for the financial sector, the year of 2016 brought momentum toward significant innovations in our businesses driven by innovative activities benefitting from the latest IT technology such as FinTech.

Against this background, in 2016, the Japanese economy seems to have turned back to get on a gradual recovery track. In fact, unemployment rate declined to reach all-time low and actual wage is showing a trend toward improvement as well, both of which are supported by economic policy of the Government amongst other factors. In order to assure momentum for the economic revitalization, I recognize that, for 2017, it is absolutely necessary for both of public and private sectors to enhance their coordinated efforts.

The life insurance sector has been playing the social role to support people's lives financially by appropriately providing insurance payouts, while complementing public security scheme by providing tools for private security. In this changing environment, the life insurance sector is expected to play its roles more effectively in supporting the super-aged society, and we need to demonstrate our capacity by making proactive efforts.

Recognizing the above dynamics, in 2017 we will continue to advance the three initiatives set forth in my inaugural message last July.

The first initiative is Promoting friendly Life Insurance Services for the Elderly: Recommendation on Utilizing the Individual Number System in the Private Sector.

Now that Japan is experiencing the super-aged society, the LIAJ has been conducting a series of initiatives that aim to encourage member companies to improve service quality for the elderly. The life insurance industry will continue to strive for improved service quality so as to ensure smooth and prompt service processing and improved convenience. When it comes to improving effectiveness and efficiency of confirmation of existence/addresses of the elderly policyholders, we believe that the utilization of the Individual Number System, which went into operation last year as a public infrastructure, will pave the way to the next level. To this end, the LIAJ is developing recommendation on early accomplishment of “Utilization of the Individual Number System”. The LIAJ took stock of practices among the life insurance companies regarding servicing for the elderly, and identified cases where the Individual Number System could actually be used and benefit customers. The LIAJ has so far outlined recommendation to be published in November 2016. The outlined recommendation will set the stage for an expert panel discussion in a symposium hosted by the LIAJ on 19 January 2017, and the panel will facilitate further discussion in finalizing the recommendation. The final recommendation is aimed to be published in April.

The second initiative is Promoting nationwide Understanding on the Insurance Business: Continued Promotion of the Insurance Education.

In recent years, while the importance of self-help efforts is increasing as to compliment the sustainable social security system, participating rate of insurance is declining for younger people. In this context, the LIAJ commented on “Summary of Discussion” published last year by the Central Education Council of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a part of its ongoing discussion on the review of the Course of Study. The LIAJ will continue to make efforts to increase opportunities for insurance education at schools. For example, the LIAJ is preparing educational materials for junior high school and high school students in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, incorporating insights from active teachers. Additionally, the LIAJ is developing a web portal within the LIAJ's website to collectively provide information on insurance education to teachers.

The third initiative is Enhancing and Sophisticating the Basis of the Life Insurance Business: Supporting Consumer-oriented Management.

Last year, “Customer oriented management” was highlighted and broadly discussed in the Working Group on Financial Markets of the Financial System Council, which is managed by the Financial Services Agency. The LIAJ underscores “customer-oriented action” in its Code of Conduct, and member companies conducted various measures to achieve customer orientation. Giving due consideration to the discussion in the Working Group, we now believe it is important to aim for best practices through PDCA management cycle. The LIAJ will continue to strive for enhancement and sophistication of the basis of life insurance business in order to promote sound development of the industry; the LIAJ continues promoting the member companies' consumer-oriented management through encouraging efforts by member companies to reflect consumers' perspective and providing supports to adapt their customer services to the revised Insurance Business Act.

According to the Oriental Zodiac, 2017 is the year of the tori or bird. The kanji character for tori signifies “bearing fruit,” while the sound is a part of the verb meaning “to attract.” As such, the years of the bird is said to be a good year for business. I would like to sincerely wish you all a very fruitful new year during which good luck and customers attracted to you, and also hope that in 2017 various policy measures toward economic revitalization bears rich fruits to show us the great success of Japanese economy.

Akio Negishi
Chairman
The Life Insurance Association of Japan