Group News

“Cybercrime is a big risk”

Interview with Uwe Sievers, Managing Director at the branch office of HDI Global SE in Japan, talks about the growing premium volume and the successful market launch of the cyber policy.

During the first half of 2017, HDI Global SE in Japan generated more than 40 percent of additional premium compared with the same point in the previous year. How do you explain this success?

Uwe Sievers: This is partially attributable to the market environment, but our own efforts have also played a significant role. When we started doing business in Japan around 20 years ago, our focus was on our European customers who we accompanied on their journey to Japan. In general this has remained the case until today. However, we more recently started to build up a portfolio of Japanese companies as well. At the same time, our colleagues were achieving success in Europe as they acquired new International Insurance Programmes from customers who too have a large presence in Japan. This contributed further to our premium growth.

What risks currently play the biggest role for HDI customers in Japan?

The risk of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and tropical hurricanes is very great in Japan. Accordingly, Japanese risk managers and insurance purchasers focus on traditional risks such as property damage, business interruptions and the collapse of supply chains. Concerns about disruption in supply chains play a particularly big role in just-in-time production, which many of our Japanese corporate customers have developed to perfection. However, when we ask our customers about how they perceive their biggest risk, loss or damage caused by cybercrime is often close to the top of their list.

Then it's a good fit that HDI has been offering cyber cover in Japan over the past few months. Is it not the case that in such a technologically advanced country the policy ought to develop quickly into a good standard?

We undoubtedly regard this market as being one of the fastest growing insurance segments in Japan. In 2016, the number of cyber-attacks in this country stood at around 128.1 billion attacks and this was more than double the amount in the previous year. Around half of these attacks were directed towards devices in the area of the “Internet of Things”. The attacks ranged from simple pranks to defamation, data theft, blackmail and attempts to exert political influence. Japanese companies are making strenuous efforts to keep cyber risks as low as possible. While the cyber insurance market is still at an infant stage in Japan, we expect risk transfer to play a major role in our client’s risk management.

What success is cyber coverage from HDI having in the marketplace?

Feedback from the media and our brokers is very positive. Our comprehensive insurance cover with significant coverage provides genuine value added for customers. It is perhaps even more important in the area of cyber than in other lines to communicate to customers that we as an insurer have genuine specialists on board who are in a position to assess the new technologies and risks. We recently recruited an expert for cyber security to our team. This highlights the fact that we are prepared to invest in a growing cyber portfolio.

Where do you see other opportunities for future growth?

We are committed to maintaining our dynamic growth or may even accelerate growth by strengthening our sales efforts with regional brokers in cities outside Tokyo. We are also using the capabilities inherent in our International Insurance Programmes to additionally target small and mid-sized multinational companies. Furthermore, we are anticipating growth as a result of new insurance solutions. For example, we have joined forces with others, to develop a very attractive offering for the growing sector of renewable energies. What’s more, we are also entering the area of sports insurance. We started with rugby but we also see opportunities for growth in other forms of sport such as baseball and football. Thus, we are well positioned towards Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Welcome to Japan

Department store Shibuya 109 is a veritable shopping temple, with ten floors that feature Tokyo’s most prestigious boutiques – at least from the perspective of young Japanese women who like to experiment with unusual hairstyles and striking make-up. Directly opposite, nine tracks of the Tokyo suburban subway system merge together at the station. Every day, they bring more than two million people into this area of the city. And one of the most famous road crossings in the world, Shibuya Crossing, lies between these two lively locations. There is so much going on at this point that all the pedestrian lights change to green at the same time to enable the crowds of waiting people to get across the roads.

Shibuya Crossing is a popular subject for photography and this has elevated it to an iconic landmark for the city. Virtually no other place reflects the activity of Tokyo’s residents better than here. The metropolitan region of Tokyo has a population of nearly 38 million people, making it the most densely populated metropolitan region in the world. It is also home to Japan’s biggest industrial area. Heavy industry in particular has settled here, but other sectors have also become established in the region. Today, Tokyo hosts the headquarters of numerous groups that rank among the leaders for their sector in the world: tyre manufacturer Bridgestone, automaker Honda, electronics manufacturer Sony, and camera producers Nikon and Canon.

And these are only the companies based in the metropolitan region of Tokyo. The other Japanese global brands like Toyota, Nintendo and Panasonic further highlight why the Japanese economy is the third largest in the world after the USA and China. Over recent months, some of the country’s top corporate executives have been enjoying the fruits of an economic boom the like of which has not been seen in Japan for many years.

HDI Global SE has also been benefiting from the growth in the economy. At the end of the first half-year 2017, premium income from its Japanese branch office increased by more than 40 percent compared with the same point in the previous year. The 28 HDI employees are based in Chiyoda, a ward in the heart of Tokyo. The location was well chosen – several thousand companies are based in this part of the city. The Chiyoda ward is also a political heavyweight. The district is home to the national Parliament, the official residence of the Prime Minister and the Emperor’s palace.

This market is also attractive because demography in Japan has become a problem that is being taken very seriously. Two trends are going head to head in the country. They will ensure that the society is one of the most elderly in the world: a birth rate that has been falling for decades and a very high life expectancy. Just to be on the safe side, researchers from the University of Tokyo have therefore calculated when the last child in Japan will be born: in the year 3776.

Facts about Japan

  • Ōkunoshima is a magnet for tourism. There are no predators living on the island and the rabbit population has exploded there as a result.
  • The “Tokyo Tower” is the Japanese version of the Eiffel Tower. The building exceeds the height of the original by more than eight metres.
  • Several dozen hospitals have specialised in patients who are at risk of Karōshi – the risk of death as a result of overwork.
  • Japanese growers are cultivating square watermelons because they can be stored more easily.
  • Many manufacturers are launching waterproof smartphones on the market because Japanese customers like to take their mobiles with them under the shower.
  • The Japanese railway company already regards a train as late if it arrives more than one minute after the scheduled arrival time. German Rail only classifies a train as late if it arrives six minutes after its scheduled arrival.
  • In response to the low birth rate, researchers at the University of Tokyo have published a countdown to when the last child in Japan will be born: on 15 August 3776.