CONTENT FROM SOMPO HOLDINGS
SOMPO combines cutting-edge technologies with wisdom to build “A Theme Park for Security, Health and Wellbeing”.
Japan is a nation in the midst of profound and complex change. A society caring for an aging population, coping with rapid technological evolution, and challenged by the existential threat of climate change, Japan is also confronting Covid-19. No wonder people are feeling a greater need than ever for security, health and wellbeing. As one of Japan’s largest insurers, SOMPO is striving to meet those needs – and not for the first time.
More than a century and a quarter ago, Japan was also dealing with disruption. The country had opened its borders after centuries of self-imposed isolation, and its people were adapting to new ideas from the wider world. The capital Tokyo was an ancient city where nearly every building was still made of wood. Fires were frequent and devastating. And so in 1888, the company that would eventually become SOMPO was founded as Tokyo Fire Insurance, the first firm of its kind in the island nation.
From its inception, the company viewed its role as more than just paying benefits in the aftermath of disaster. It saw its purpose as protecting people and society from harm. To that end, it established the Tokyo Fire Brigade, and its “insurance company firefighters” were at the ready 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, putting their lives on the line in the service of safety and security.
SOMPO has never wavered in its mission. As it expanded into Property and Casualty Insurance and began opening offices in other countries and continents, SOMPO strove to improve its clients’ safety before accidents could happen. In the 21st century, SOMPO and its 80,000-plus employees in 30 countries on six continents realize that new risks are arising from new sources every day. Those risks increase with age, and Japan is a rapidly aging society. SOMPO has entered the nursing care business in Japan and as the country’s largest nursing home operator aims to change it for the better. Change is more dynamic and fast-paced than ever. In response, SOMPO is changing too.
“We are transforming SOMPO from a company that steps in when the unexpected happens to one that actively contributes to a more fulfilling life. Rather than merely assisting customers in times of injury or accident, we will be a constant presence at their side – a partner who enhances every day,” says Kengo Sakurada, Sompo Group’s Chief Executive Officer.
To achieve that, Sakurada is leading SOMPO in building what he calls “A Theme Park for Security, Health and Wellbeing.” In SOMPO’s theme park, the attractions are made possible by artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced data analytics and all the technological tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
These new digital technologies are disrupting entire industries. SOMPO has chosen to adapt to and adopt them in reinventing itself. Digital tools deliver data SOMPO uses to craft smarter approaches to its traditional and new types of insurance products. In recent years, the company has moved into agriculture and crop insurance on several continents, and risk assessment and insurance for self-driving vehicles.
“We create high-quality solutions that integrate powerful digital technology. By matching these solutions to each customer’s needs, we will become a ‘theme park’ of possibilities and opportunities for everyone,” Sakurada says.
SOMPO possesses a treasure trove of ‘real data’ – data acquired through sensors that detect real-world activities. The company has amassed vast volumes of valuable information on accidents, catastrophes, lifestyles, health and nursing care. Using that information, SOMPO provides solutions that prevent accidents and illness. SOMPO handles its data with care and the utmost respect for privacy because it values the trust of its customers.
SOMPO’s customers come from every walk of life, and the company is committed to making positive contributions to society.
No company can solve complex social issues on its own. To maximize its impact and expertise, SOMPO is building partnerships with elite global firms in a wide variety of disciplines. SOMPO’s latest collaboration is one of its most promising.
Last November, the firm forged an alliance with Palantir Technologies Inc. of the United States to found Palantir Technologies Japan. In 2020, Palantir Technologies Inc.’s advanced software platforms were deployed to support the global COVID-19 response at institutions including the U.S. Department of Defense, multiple U.S. government health agencies, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, and others.
At Sompo International, a provider of property and casualty insurance outside Japan, tracking climate change is another challenge. AgriSompo, the group’s global agricultural platform, pioneered weather index insurance. SOMPO works with CropTrak, a U.S.-based tech company that collects and verifies data along the entire food supply chain. Through these strategic alliances, the company customizes solutions that enable farmers to make better business decisions, improve traceability, satisfy sustainability reporting, and deliver healthy, nutritious food to markets.
Healthcare is the field in which SOMPO’s data is making the most significant difference right now. Even before the pandemic, SOMPO was using technology to revolutionize elder care at its facilities, using innovations tested at SOMPO’s Future Care Lab in Japan. This allows them to tailor care for each individual while giving seniors more freedom and independence, making their golden years richer and more fulfilling.
SOMPO’s use of technology helped Japan avert a catastrophe. Nursing homes have been epicenters of Covid-19 outbreaks in many countries. But SOMPO’s approach minimized the need for physical contact at its 400 nursing homes by using a video conference system. This is reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission along with other standard precautions. The result is that a very small percentage of Covid-19 deaths in Japan have been at nursing homes.
The New York Times wrote that Japan’s positive nursing home experience “may offer important lessons for the entire industry as it reviews policies and protocols for the next possible world health crisis.”
Those lessons fit neatly with SOMPO’s philosophy: technology should benefit people and society. “That is our philosophy when thinking about Japan’s social issues,” Sakurada says. And so the company keeps learning and creating new and better solutions to the problems we all face. SOMPO’s central pillar is still insurance, not technology. But SOMPO is harnessing new technologies to more effectively protect its customers – and to create a safer, healthier, more secure world. SOMPO’s Theme Park for Security, Health and Wellbeing is still under construction. However, it is well worth the price of admission today.