During the heydays of the 80’s and the first half of 90’s, like rest of its economy, Japan’s insurance industry was growing as a juggernaut. The sheer volume of premium income and asset formation, sometimes comparable with even the mightiest You. S. A. and the issue of domestic investment opportunity, led Japanese people insurance firms to look outwards for investment. The industry’s position as a major international investor from the 1980’s brought it under the protection of analysts around the world.
The global insurance the big players tried to annuities create a foothold in the market, eyeing the gargantuan size of the market. But the hard to follow nature of Japanese people insurance laws led to intense, sometimes acrimonious, discussions between Wa and Tokyo in the mid-1990s. The bilateral and multilateral agreements that lead coincided with Japan’s Big Hammer financial reforms and deregulation.
Building on the results of the 1994 US-Japan insurance speaks, a series of liberalization and deregulation measures has since been implemented. But the deregulation process was very slow, and more often than not, very selective in protecting the domestic companies interest and market share. Although the Japanese people economy was comparable with its counterpart in USA in size, the very basis of efficient financial markets — the sound rules and regulations for a competitive economic environment — were conspicuously absent. And its institutional structure was different, too, from all of those other developed countries.
The kieretsu structure — the corporate group with cross holdings in large number of companies in numerous industries — was a unique phenomenon in The japanese. As a result, the required shareholder activism to force the companies to take optimal business strategy for the company was absent. Although initially touted as a model one in the days of Japan’s prosperity, the vulnerability of this system became too evident when the bubble of the economic thrive went burst in the nineties. Also working against The japanese was its inability to keep pace with the software development elsewhere in the world. Software was the engine of growth in the world economy within the last decade, and countries lagging in this field faced the drooping economies of the nineties.
The japanese, the world leader in the “brick and mortar” industries, surprisingly lagged far behind in the “New World” economy after the Internet wave. Now The japanese is calling the nineties a “lost decade” for its economy, which lost its sheen following 3 recessions within the last decade. Interest rates nose-dived to historic lows, to ward off the falling economy — in vain. For insurers, whoever lifeline is the interest spread in their investment, this wreaked mayhem. Quite a few large insurance companies went insolvent facing “negative spread” and rising volume of non-performing assets. While Japanese people insurers largely have escaped the scandals afflicting their brethren in the banking and sec industries, they are currently enduring freakish financial difficulties, including catastrophic bankruptcies.
The japanese market is a enormous one, yet it is made up of only a few companies. Unlike its USA counterpart, in which around two thousand companies are very competing in the life message, Japan’s market is made up of only twenty-nine companies classified as domestic and a handful of foreign entities. The same situation won in the non-life sector with twenty-six domestic companies and thirty-one foreign firms offering their products. So, consumers have far fewer choices than their American counterparts in choosing their carrier. There is less variety also on the product side. The life and non-life insurers in The japanese are seen as an “plain vanilla” offerings. This is more apparent in auto insurance, where, until recently premiums just weren’t permitted to reflect differential risk, such as, by gender, driving record etc. Drivers were classified in three age brackets only for purposes of premium determination, whereas US rates long have resembled all these factors yet others as well.
The demand varies for different types of products, too. Japanese people insurance products are more savings-oriented. Similarly, although some Japanese people life insurance companies provide a few limited kinds of variable life policies (in which benefits reflect the value of the underlying financial assets held by the insurance company, thereby disclosing the insured to market risk), there are few takers for such policies. At ¥100=$1. 00, Japanese people variable life policies in force as of 03 31, 1996 had a value of only $7. 5 thousand, which represents a scant 0. 08 percent of all life insurance. By comparison, American variable life policies in force as of 1995 were worth $2. 7 trillion, roughly 5 percent of the total, with several choices, such as variable general life, available.
Japanese people insurance companies in both parts of the have competed less than their American counterparts. In an environment where a few firms provide a limited number of products to a market in which new entry is closely regulated, play acted price coordination to restrain competition would be expected. However, factors unusual to The japanese further reduce rivalry.
A lack of both price competition and product differentiation means an insurance company can grab a business’s business and then keep it almost forever. American analysts sometimes have noted that keiretsu (corporate group) ties are just this justification. A member of the Mitsubishi Group of companies, for example, in most cases might shop around for the best deal on the hundreds or thousands of goods and services it buys. But in the case of non-life insurance, such comparative pricing would be ineffective, since all companies would offer in the same product at the same price. As a result, a Mitsubishi Group company, more often than not, gives business to Tokio Underwater & Fire Insurance Company., Ltd., a member of the Mitsubishi keiretsu for decades.
In writing, life insurance premiums have been more flexible. However, the government’s role looms large in this the main industry as well — and in a manner that affects the pricing of insurance products. The nation’s postal system operates, in addition to its enormous savings system, the postal life insurance system popularly known as Kampo. Transactions for Kampo are conducted at the windows of thousands of post offices. As of 03 1995, Kampo had 84. 1 million policies outstanding, or roughly one per household, and nearly 10 % of the life insurance market, as measured by policies in force.
Funds committed to Kampo mostly go into a huge fund called the Trust Fund, which, in turn, invests in several government financial institutions as well as numerous semipublic units that engage in a number of activities associated with government, such as ports and motorways. Although the Ministry of Posts and Telecoms (MPT) has direct responsibility for Kampo, the Ministry of Finance runs the Trust Fund. Hence, theoretically MOF can have to put out influence over the returns Kampo is able to earn and, by off shoot, the premiums it’s probably to charge.
Kampo has a number of characteristics that influence its interaction with the private sector. As a government-run institution, it inarguably is less efficient, raising its costs, making it noncompetitive, and implying a heading downward market share over time. However, since Kampo cannot fail, it has a high risk-tolerance that ultimately could be borne by taxpayers. This means an growing market share to the extent that this postal life insurance system is able to underprice its products. While the growth scenario presumably is what MPT favors, MOF relatively is just as interested in protecting the insurance companies under its mentorship from “excessive” competition.
The internet effect of these conflicting rewards is that Kampo appears to restrain the premiums charged by insurers. If their prices increase excessively, then Kampo will capture additional share. In response, insurers may roll back premiums. On the other hand, if returns on investments or greater efficiency reduce private-sector premiums relative to the underlying insurance, Kampo will lose market share unless it tunes its.
Japan’s life insurance sector also lags behind its American counterpart in forming inter-company cooperative approaches contrary to the dangers of anti-selection and deceptive activities by individuals. Although the number of companies is cheaper in The japanese, distrust and disunity among them resulted in singled out approaches in working with these dangers. In USA, the existence of sector sponsored entities like Medical Information Agency (MIB) acts as a first brand of defense against scams and in turn saves the around $1 Thousand a year in terms protective value and sentinel effect. Off late, major Japanese people carriers are beginning approaches similar to formation of common data warehousing and data sharing.
Analysts often complain against insurance companies for their unwillingness to adhere to prudent international norms regarding disclosure of their financial data to the investment community and their policyholders. This is particularly true because of the mutual characteristic of the companies in comparison with their “public” counterpart in US. For example, Nissan Mutual Life insurance Company., failed in 1997, generally reported net assets and profits in recent years, even though you’re able to send us president conceded after its failure that the firm had been insolvent for years.