Postcard from Japan, by Juli McNeely

Japan.JuliJuli Goes to JAIFA!

It has been my privilege to travel to the beautiful country of Japan to attend the JAIFA conference in a few days. What a beautiful country and lovely people here!! Since it is my first visit I have taken the opportunity to soak in the culture and see some of the sights before I travel back to the US.

There are certainly some observations I have been able to make both about the culture and also about the insurance industry here in Japan. First the metropolitan area of Tokyo has the largest population in the world at approximately 39 million people. In my few short days here, I found myself in awe of the fact that although the city is vast and full of never ending buildings, I never felt “crowded.” The city is very well organized and the Japanese people are lovely. There was that one moment while riding on the subway during morning rush hour but even that felt somehow orderly as people filed on and off of the subway at each stop, somehow pressing yet one more person into the car. It is also likely the cleanest large city I’ve ever visited. They have a well thought out system and people respect it.

Secondly, as I learn more about the insurance industry here in Japan, there are a couple of interesting stats I believe U.S. advisors would find worth noting. The Life Insurance Association of Japan (or LIAJ, which is equivalent to ACLI) – indicates 85.8% of all Japanese households have existing life insurance. The Japanese people also greatly prefer permanent insurance to term insurance. Also, according to LIAJ, the number of insurance agents in Japan has increased significantly since 2001. There are over 1 million licensed agents in Japan. That may have something to do with the high market penetration rate for life products in Japan.

Post WWII, the Japanese government approached the Japanese life insurers and asked that they consider hiring females so they could have jobs that could support their families. A significant number of female advisors were hired as “tied agents” who were given territories and sold insurance door to door. Still today, approximately 70% of all licensed agents in Japan are female.

I’m convinced that we can learn a lot from Japan and our friends at JAIFA. I also know they are eager to learn more about how we do business in the United States which is why they send a delegation to our NAIFA conference each year. I’m looking forward to attending their meeting and talking with their Executive Committee in the coming days.

Lastly, a big thank you to Yuka Nakahara Goven, NAIFA member from Dallas, and her husband Art for being my tour guides, interpreters and hosts during my time here in Japan. This trip has been an adventure and rewarding in so many ways. I am truly honored!