Hitting the right notes for insurance

Insurers’ overseas ventures resort to the power of music to boost employee morale

Hitting the right notes for insurance

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Due to weak growth forecasts in their home market, Japanese insurers are trying some musically inclined company tactics to strengthen their ventures in emerging Asian markets.

India-based insurance joint venture Reliance Nippon Life has a throng of female insurance agents bring its Mumbai office to life by fervently singing the Indian national anthem every morning.

After Nippon Life Insurance of Japan invested in Reliance Life Insurance in 2011, it spent quite some time trying to figure out a sales strategy to drive its expansion. Part-time salesmen weren’t very effective in explaining insurance policies and providing aftersales service, leading to almost half of newly sold policies being cancelled within a year.

“We needed committed, full-time salespeople who can provide meticulous after-sales care,” Koji Ichiba, general manager at Nippon life's international planning & operations department, told Nikkei.

As women’s’ employment in India was below 30%, Nippon Life decided to bring over the “seiho ladies” (life insurance ladies) strategy that was successful in Japan.

“We concluded that our best chance was to hire homemakers,” Ichiba added.

The strategy proved successful, partly due to housewives being more at ease talking to a door-to-door insurance saleswoman than if the agent were male. The move produced not only an increase in sales, but also boosted female employment.

Reliance Nippon Life currently has around 2,600 saleswomen across its 110 sales offices in India, and the Japanese insurer is thinking of launching the strategy in its Thailand venture.

Meanwhile, Dai-ichi Life’s Vietnam operations also adopted a musical approach in boosting morale.

“We were going through tough times. Morale among local employees was low and our product line was grossly insufficient,” said Akihiko Tanaka, former deputy general director of Dai-ichi Life Vietnam.

Aside from improving business infrastructure, the insurer also applied a number of Japanese-style management techniques to strengthen morale and reduce employee attrition. One such measure was to introduce a Vietnamese corporate song, which employees would sing during meetings and training activities. 

The company also organises annual company resort vacations to boost team spirit among employees.

Last year, Dai-ichi Life Vietnam partnered with the state-owned Vietnam Post. The tie-up leveraged Vietnam’s honorary postmasters, which are local celebrities, a practice that was also done in Japan recently.

This will have a “great impact” on Dai-ichi Vietnam’s name recognition, Tanaka told Nikkei.

Related stories:
Japanese life insurers’ revenue hit by sharp drop
Nippon Life sets sights on insurance brokerage
All-women agency: breaking down boundaries

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