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Report - Attending the AOA Seminar in Hong Kong

AOA held a biennial AOA Seminar in Hong Kong on 6 and 7 December 2018 as already briefly reported.

hyoshi_201904This is a reprint with permission of the report by participants of last year’s AOA Seminar that was published in the April 2019 issue of the monthly magazine “Cooperative and Commercial Insurance” issued by Japan Cooperative Insurance Association Inc. (JCIA), an ICMIF member.


1. Report from the AOA Secretariat – AOA Seminar 2018 held in Hong Kong 

Naruto Takahashi, Senior Vice President – Operations, AOA Secretariat

2. Report – Participation in AOA Seminar 2018 in Hong Kong

ZENROSAI (National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperatives) (Japan)

3. A journey to remember: Planning and Organizing YLP in Asia

Jackelyn P. Ballena, Vice President, 1CISP (Philippines)

  • Reprinted from Japan Cooperative Insurance Association Inc.’s monthly magazine “Cooperative and Commercial Insurance” (April 2019 issue)

<1. Report from the AOA Secretariat> 

AOA Seminar 2018 held in Hong Kong

Naruto Takahashi
Senior Vice President – Operations
AOA Secretariat

The Asia and Oceania Association (AOA) of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) held AOA Seminar in Hong Kong on 6 and 7 December 2018. Under the theme of “Impact of Digital Innovation on the Strategies of Our Sector,” 83 people from 28 organizations representing 11 countries attended the seminar, which was hosted by Asia Affinity Holdings Limited, an associate member in Hong Kong. The participants were from various countries; Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore in the Asian region, Australia and New Zealand in the Oceania region, and the UK and France.

Following the previous seminar in Tokyo that focused on utilization of digital technologies, the attendees were provided with opportunities to consider how we, cooperative and mutual insurance organizations, can incorporate the evolution of digital technologies into our business and utilize them, and what kind of points we should pay attention to in the process of utilizing them. These issues were examined from various perspectives through commentaries on the global digital trends in the keynote speeches given by experts, case reports of advanced initiatives by AOA member organizations, and panel sessions.

The keynote speeches and special lectures were provided by significant influencers (those who have great influence on society) whom we invited from the “Asian Development Bank,” which is one of the Multilateral Development Banks, contributing to the economic growth of developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and “Willis Towers Watson,” a global advisory and insurance broking company.

In the case study presentations by AOA member organizations, advanced initiatives were presented including “driverless and electric vehicles,” “digital transformation,” “optimization of work flow by utilizing AI,” and “digital marketing platforms.”

Fumio and Chris

AOA Chair Fumio Yanai (and President of the Board of Directors of Zenkyoren) making the opening remarks with Mr. Chris Black, Chief Executive of FMG (New Zealand), which will host the ICMIF 2019 Biennial Conference

In his welcome remarks at the beginning of the seminar, AOA Chair Fumio Yanai (and President of the Board of Directors of Zenkyoren) said, “Digitization has been accelerating, and AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) have become common. If you consider user-friendliness as the top priority in this trend, it is essential to develop a business model utilizing these digital technologies. It has been said that companies incapable of properly responding to digitization will decline.” In addition to these remarks expressing a sense of crisis, he emphasized that it is necessary for cooperative and mutual insurance organizations to respond to the drastic changes in lifestyles along with the progress of technologies, saying, “We need to determine what innovation is appropriate and when it should be adopted, in order to achieve our sector’s sustainable development and provide our members and users with continuous support.” He continued, “What is great about ICMIF is its spirit of sharing knowledge, experience, and information with each other through the members’ network to achieve success in each market,” to encourage the participants to take this opportunity to have active and extensive interactions among them.

In addition, as the first attempt, AOA offered “Young Leaders Program” (networking, free discussions with CEOs of AOA member organizations and ICMIF) for young professionals separately from the main seminar, aiming at promoting mutual exchange and enhancing motivation of “younger attendees,” which was another focus of the previous seminar in Tokyo. A total of 23 young employees representing 10 organizations in 4 countries participated in the program, and there were active exchanges between them.


Day 1 – 6 December 2018
Welcome Remarks
Keynote Speech I-II & Panels
Reinventing the Institution of Insurance in a Networked World
Catastrophe Risks and Regulation of Insurance Markets / FinTech in Insurance – Taking Innovation To The Next Level
Case Studies & Panel
Trial of Driverless and Electric Vehicles in Western Australia
NTUC Income: Our Digital Transformation Journey
JCIF’s sophistication of claims payment process and optimization of work flow by utilizing AI
Day 2 – 7 December 2018
Young Leaders Program
Free discussions with CEOs of AOA member organizations and ICMIF
Keynote Speech III
Building Resilience and Sustainability through digital engagement
Special Lecture
Key Themes in Asia
Case Studies & Panel
Zenkyoren’s strategy on utilization of digital technology
Integrated Business Management through Digital Marketing Platform
Enhancing our relationship model online
eCall: safer mobility and exemplary public-private cooperation in the area of emergency calling
Report from a Young Leader
A Young Leader Journey – Unleashing Potentials through Opportunities
Remarks from ICMIF
Closing Remark


<2. Participation Report>  

Report – Participation in AOA Seminar 2018 in Hong Kong

ZENROSAI (National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperatives), Japan

This article is a report by four people from ZENROSAI who participated in the seminar and the Young Leaders Program: Ms. Kyoko Hitoshio, Manager, Brand Strategy Department, Mr. Ryo Ishiwata, Manager, Claims Handling Department (Life Insurance), Ms. Rie Kiritani, Quality Control Department, and Mr. Yoshikazu Sato, Management Planning Department.

1. Introduction

The Asia and Oceania Association (AOA) is one of the regional associations of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF). It has 46 member organizations from 13 countries in the region. The AOA seminar has been held once every two years for its member organizations, mainly providing commentaries on key issues and global trends concerning the cooperative/mutual insurance business and the insurance industry in general as well as cooperative organizations. In addition, activities of the member organizations are also reported.

This report outlines the lectures and discussions at the AOA Seminar in Hong Kong (6 and 7 December 2018) under the theme of “Impact of Digital Innovation on the Strategies of Our Sector,” with 83 participants from 28 organizations representing 11 countries.


A scene from the seminar
A scene from the seminar
2. Day 1


(1) Welcome remarks

At the opening of the seminar, AOA Chair Fumio Yanai (President of the Board of Directors of Zenkyoren) greeted the participants and said, “AI, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and InsurTech (insurance and technology) are spreading at a tremendous speed in the world. The information and communication technologies invented so far (radio, TV, Internet, and SNS) have been disseminated much faster with the times, and each organization needs to respond to this trend of technological innovation. I hope this seminar will help promote initiatives of each member organization.”

Mr. Graham Clark, Chief Executive of Asia Affinity Holdings Limited in Hong Kong, which is the host organization of this seminar, gave the audience a message, “The recent technological innovation goes beyond mere simplification of tasks and cost reduction; it redefines the way humans do their jobs. Under this social change, I hope each organization overcomes challenges in this new era by building a network between cooperative and mutual insurance organizations and sharing good practices.”

(2) Reinventing the Institution of Insurance in a Networked World
 (Keynote Speech I)

Mr. Rowan Douglas, Head of Capital, Science & Policy Practice of Willis Towers Watson gave a keynote speech on the global situation and insurance business. Based on his experiences of participating in the “G20 Insurance Forum (Argentina)” in September 2018 and Insurance Development Forum (IDF), he said, “I again realized that insurance systems are beneficial in every country despite the differences in politics, laws, and markets. One of the major topics for discussion in G20 in 2020 is disaster countermeasures and there will be growing interest worldwide in the insurance business, which plays a role in closing the protection gap. We need to become partners with regulatory authorities, not to make an adversarial relation between them, in order to develop better laws and institutions, and business environment. To achieve this, it is necessary to continue to communicate the basic stance of our sector to policymakers, and to increase those who agree to the removal of unnecessary regulations by strengthening cooperation with academic experts and research institutes.”

(3) Impact of digital innovation on insurance markets in Asia and future outlook, regulations and disaster preparedness initiatives in Asia
  (Keynote Speech II)

In his keynote speech, Mr. Arup Chatterjee of Asian Development Bank (ADB) said, “New technologies represented by blockchain bring opportunities, although they could be threats. Cost reduction of 5 billion to 10 billion dollars globally is expected by introducing advanced technologies. It is also possible to further increase customer trust in the insurance business by fast and accurate task performance based on technologies. When introducing digital technologies, which will have a major impact on the way people work, it is indispensable to give consideration to work ethic, labor practices, and customs unique to each country. Since the existing regulations of various kinds were formulated without considering new technologies, it is important to share and raise awareness of the new concept about insurance and how it works when communicating with regulatory authorities.”

(4) Trial of Driverless and Electric Vehicles in Western Australia
  (Case Study 1)

Mr. Patrick Walker, Executive General Manager of Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (Inc.) (Australia) shared their case study with the audience by saying, “Widespread use of safe driverless and electric vehicles can help reduce traffic accidents and solve social problems such as maintenance of transportation infrastructure and local communities in depopulated areas. To achieve them, we are promoting our project with the approval of local governments. We are continuing dialogues with a regulatory authority to have them understand the significance and future prospects of our initiative in order to conduct demonstration tests of the vehicles in public spaces. In addition, we have had our customers and employees understand how important our initiatives are socially, and this effort has led to enhanced brand strengths. This is the biggest factor of our 8% business growth per year.” His presentation made us recognize again that communicating the importance of our business to the society is indispensable for the growth of cooperatives.

(5) NTUC Income: Our Digital Transformation Journey 
  (Case Study 2)

Among 25 insurance companies in Singapore, which is one of the most digitized countries, NTUC Income was ranked first in innovation, online, and overall by the Applied Innovation Institute Singapore Insurance Innovation and Digital Benchmark in 2018. Ms. Juliana Chua, Head of Digital Transformation of NTUC Income, who played the key role in the accomplishment, said “We place most importance on agility to avoid being left behind the trend of technological innovation. We have been promoting initiatives such as establishment of a dedicated team of digital innovation experts, designing of plans on a weekly basis, and establishment of business alliances with other organizations and start-ups.” In trying a new plan, she repeatedly said, “We do not seek perfection of the plan but place importance on how to quickly satisfy the needs of our cooperative members.” The entire audience showed great interest in their thorough efforts.

(6) JCIF’s sophistication of claims payment process and optimization of work flow by utilizing AI
 (Case Study 3)

Mr. Hiroki Ono, General Manager of Claims Planning Division, JCIF (Japan CO-OP Insurance Consumers’ Co-operative Federation) introduced a claims payment assessment system, whose full-scale operation started in September 2018. He said, “When the costs for claims payment processing started to increase in FY 2011, we started research on Analytics Life Cycle; we spent a year for its application, including 6 months on the analysis of one year’s claims payouts history (1.3 million claims) and system development, and 3 to 6 months on the employee training to learn how to use the system. Although incomplete collection of information and inefficiency were factors that increased the burden on claims investigation, the predictive scoring model has realized accurate and efficient fraud detection. This system enabled saving of time for preliminary assessment of ordinary claims and rapid payment, as well as early detection of fraudulent claims and enhancement of investigation capacity. In order to reduce system operation costs and provide customers with better services, it is necessary to consider sharing (joint use) of processing systems and fraud detection bases, which currently differ for each cooperative insurer.”

Source: JCIF (Japan CO-OP Insurance Consumers’ Co-operative Federation)
Source: JCIF (Japan CO-OP Insurance Consumers’ Co-operative Federation)
3. Day 2
(1) Young Leaders Program – Free discussions with CEOs of AOA member organizations and ICMIF

Using the time before the start of lectures, young attendees were split into four groups and exchanged opinions with CEOs of overseas member organizations (Japanese attendees participated in the discussion in three groups).

Mr. Roy S. Miclat, President of 1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines Life and General Insurance (1CISP) (Philippines), which achieved rapid growth after a management crisis, said that he, as a manager, gives utmost importance on “dialogues with members” and “thinking from the members’ viewpoints.” The attendees admired his organization’s firm maintenance of its identity as a cooperative, despite that it being an advanced organization that has already started application of blockchain. In addition, he talked about working style reform of his organization and said “We hope half of the officers and employees will telework (work at home) by 2022.”

In the roundtable discussion between Mr. Chris Black, Chief Executive of FMG (New Zealand) and young attendees, they exchanged opinions about young professionals’ mindset, revitalization of organization, etc. Mr. Black said, “I hope you fully understand your organization’s competitive environment (customer management, introduction of technologies, and costs) and take on challenges without fearing failure. In order to revitalize organization, it is necessary for all officials and employees to share values and vision and to involve cooperative members as well as employees in the decision-making process.” 

Mr. Graham Clark talked about the importance of redefining our business in line with the recent social trends, including SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), and said that digital technologies are indispensable to gain support from members in our modern society. He added that he hopes for bold thinking and reform while maintaining the identity as a cooperative.

Free discussion between the CEO and young leaders
(2) Building Resilience and Sustainability through digital engagement
 (Keynote Speech III)

Mr. Graham Clark gave a keynote speech on the theme of “importance of community for cooperatives.” Citing an example of microfinancing to the earthquake victims in Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, he proposed that we need to consider “what community we want to create and support,” beyond the framework of insurance business, in order to enhance values of cooperatives and expand their member base. He also explained five elements required to form and support a community (education, financial inclusion, ensuring profits, engagement, and effect measurement).

(3) Key Themes in Asia
 (Special Lecture)

Mr. Kevin Angelini, Senior Director of Willis Towers Watson, shared examples of technologies being used in China and Hong Kong, etc., such as simplification of insurance claim process, payment assessment by image recognition, and push notifications of traffic accidents. He said, “In today’s society, where increase of medical care expenditures is a big challenge, InsurTech is expected to progress in the field of health insurance, and some disease prevention program services have already started, including risk assessment using genomic information of each individual and presentation of how to address the risks. Insurance companies need to shift their services to customers’ lifestyle improvement services.”

(4) Zenkyoren’s strategy on utilization of digital technology
 (Case Study 4)

Mr. Yoshinao Kiyama, Managing Director of Zenkyoren (National Mutual Insurance Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives) (Japan), who supervises the operational reform by digital innovation in Zenkyoren, presented utilization of smartphones to further improve customer services and reduce operational burden, as well as restructuring of the existing system that started in 2012. He also talked about research on how to use AI and blockchain while assessing the advantages and disadvantages of adopting them.

Furthermore, he presented a scheme aimed at establishing a JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) economic zone by one-stop solution of various services (mutual insurance, finance, agriculture, agricultural and livestock products, medical care, food, environment, culture, and logistics) centering particularly on agricultural and livestock products and agriculture utilizing IT technologies, in order to further strengthen relations of trust with members. He added that partnership with other organizations is worth considering when promoting operational cost reduction and joint research of technologies.

At present, there is a scheme to jointly promote research, development, and utilization of digital technologies among Zenkyoren, Kyoei Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Ltd., The Norinchukin Bank and other mutual insurers in Japan. He talked about a future perspective that they will be able to further enhance collaboration particularly with mutual insurers that share the spirit of mutual aid, as well as expectations for Japan Cooperative Insurance Association Incorporated to play a role as a bridge between mutual insurers.

事例報告をするJA共済連 歸山常務
Mr. Kiyama, Managing Director of Zenkyoren presenting his case study
(5) Integrated Business Management through Digital Marketing Platform
 (Case Study 5)

Mr. Jae-Bong Kim, Senior Manager, Digital Finance Department of NH Life Insurance (Republic of Korea) said, “In the Republic of Korea where financial transactions through mobile devices are becoming common, the insurance revenue of the new fiscal year on the online life insurance markets is growing at an annual average rate of 40%. Each company is further promoting system investments and establishment of a new department taking charge of FinTech (Finance and Technology). Aiming at becoming the top in the online insurance market, NH Life Insurance has established three major strategies; ‘development and promotion of products optimized for web transactions,’ ‘expansion of communication with customers via web and SNS,’ and ‘creating information-offering contents.’ We have been integrating online insurance, and various mobile services and websites into a comprehensive digital marketing platform, and strengthening promotion for young customers living in urban areas and their parents’ generations living in local areas.” The audience seemed very much attracted by the proactive adoption of technologies being promoted in NH Life Insurance, which used to be recognized as conservative.

(6) Enhancing our relationship model online
 (Case Study 6)

Mr. Glenn Croasdale, Head of Online Services of FMG (New Zealand) reported their initiative for achieving good balance between strengthening of online services and maintaining identity as a cooperative.

He said, “We have established a strategy for promoting online transactions; 50% of total transactions by 2025 and 65% by 2030 to be made through online channels. This strategy is taken ultimately for maintaining and strengthening customer relationships. The close relationships with customers continue to be our highest strategic priority. The basic principles for system development are ‘small start’ and ‘trial and error.’ Currently, online services and simplified insurance claims procedure being provided on a trial basis are on track and gaining favorable reviews from customers.”

Mr. Croasdale, who has set the top priority of his organization on “achieving services that are easy-to-use for customers,” called our attention to an important perspective, which I think each organization should keep in mind; “any functions or services that are not customer-focused will definitely result in failure.”

Panel discussion with participation by the speakers (Mr. Ono, General Manager of JCIF on the right)
Panel discussion with participation by the speakers
(Mr. Ono, General Manager of JCIF on the right)
(7) Young Leader Journey – Unleashing Potentials through Opportunities
  (Report from a Young Leader)

Ms. Jackelyn P. Ballena, Vice President of 1CISP (Philippines) talked about her personal background of being promoted to an executive at a young age, experience she gained in attending the Young Leaders Program during the ICMIF Conference in London in 2017, and experience of a study group visit to Japan conducted by 1CISP in June 2018 utilizing her networking with young leaders in the conference, as well as young employee training plans within 1CISP.

Ms. Ballena, who was also involved in planning and management of the Young Leaders Program in this seminar, said that she hoped young employees of each member organization actively expand their possibilities. She also addressed the CEOs among the audience saying, “I hope you trust in your young employees and provide them further opportunities to play active roles and for networking.”

Participants in the Young Leaders Program held for the first time in the AOA region
Participants in the Young Leaders Program held for the first time in the AOA region
(8) eCall: safer mobility and exemplary public-private cooperation in the area of emergency calling
 (Case Study 7)

Dr. Manuel NGO, MD, Director of International Mobility and Operations Department of IMA (France) and Mr. Benoît RIGALLAUD, Head of Market of the same Department presented “eCall” service they offer currently in cooperation with the public sector in France. It has now become mandatory to equip all new vehicles with an “eCall” device. Their speech described their valuable experiences of a number of failures to achieve stable operation of the service, and discussions with the government to build consensus, as well as compliance with regulations.

4. Conclusion

What impressed us most during the two-day seminar was that each member organization has been taking on new challenges in response to digital technologies that have begun to flourish.

The word “agile” was heard in the speeches by multiple speakers, mainly in the context of system development. The cooperative and mutual insurance organizations, which are considered to be conservative in general, have been boldly repeating trial and error in their initiatives for adopting digital technologies in their systems, sometimes without fear that the results may not be sophisticated. This, we felt, represents their ever stronger sense of crisis of being left behind in the insurance market.

We were encouraged by seeing that each member organization is struggling to tackle problems similar to ours and taking on challenges in various countries and in different regulatory environments, and that each of them is keeping its identity as a cooperative under this changing environment and technological trends.

We are convinced that inspiration and confidence as a cooperative organization gained through this seminar will lead to new challenges to be taken on by each member organization. We would like to once again express our gratitude to the AOA Secretariat that offered this opportunity to member organizations and to speakers in the seminar.


<3. A journey to remember: Planning and Organizing YLP in Asia>







Jackelyn P. Ballena
Vice President, 1CISP (Philippines)

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Laozi)

It is my honor to be asked to plan and organize the Young Leaders Program in Asia at the last Asia Oceania Association (AOA) Seminar 2018 held in Hong Kong along with Mr. Yoshikazu Sato of Zenrosai. I learned of the matter during the Young Leaders Forum and Intelligence Committee Meeting when I was in Finland through Ms. Hiroko Kowada, Executive Secretary of AOA. I was excited and looking forward on how we can pull off the program given it is just more than one month to prepare, it will be done outside the Philippines, and the participants are from different countries in Asia. It was quite challenging to conceptualize on how we will go about the Young Leaders Dinner given the various culture and language of the expected participants.

For the AOA Seminar 2018, the Young Leaders activities included Young Leaders Dinner before the AOA Seminar 2018 proper and Meeting of Young Leaders with CEOs on the second day of the seminar. Further, part of the program is a sharing of a Young Leader’s Journey.

There was a total of eighteen young leaders who attended the Young Leaders Dinner. The activity opened with a short introduction about Young Leaders Program. Followed by the Human Bingo Game to break the ice. Then dinner and networking wherein they had the opportunity to get to know more their fellow young leaders personally and professionally. Lastly, the night ended with writing of commitments in the Commitment Art Wall.

For the meeting of young leaders with CEOs, Chris Black (Chief Executive of FMG), Graham Clark (Chief Executive of Asia Affinity Holdings Limited), Roy Miclat (President of 1CISP), and Shaun Tarbuck (Chief Executive of ICMIF) gladly answered the queries of present curious young leaders. Young Leaders were given the opportunity to ask anything under the sun.

Yours truly delivered my Young Leader’s Journey experience since 2017 ICMIF Biennial Conference in London and my takeaways in attending the Intelligence Committee meeting with Young Leaders Forum members in Finland last November 2018 with the audience. I ended my presentation with a challenge to both segments of the group. Asked present Presidents/CEOs/Board of Directors if they are ready to trust their young leaders. On the other hand, asked present young leaders if they are ready to face the challenge. With said presentation, I am hopeful that leaders in position would trust more their young leaders and give them a break to prove themselves and make a difference in their organization. On the other end, inspire more young leaders to accept the challenge.

With this first ever Young Leaders Program in Asia during the AOA Seminar 2018, I am hopeful that this is just the beginning.

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