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Transforming the traditional: the HR evolution of a Japanese insurance company

Conversation with Sompo at Emerge 2021

August 26, 2021

In this Q&A we talk with Sompo about their transformation story and how they are evolving to meet the future of work.
Work Transformation|Employee Experience

On Day 1 of Emerge 2021, Asia Pacific’s virtual conference, Shinichi Hashimoto from Sompo and Hamish Deery from Willis Towers Watson had a conversation on how this 130-year-old Japanese multinational insurance company is approaching the new world of work and transforming itself and its culture.


Shinichi Hashimoto, CHRO, Retail Platform – Sompo International; General Manager, HR Department – Sompo Holdings

Hamish Deery, Regional Leader, Talent, Asia and Australasia, Willis Towers Watson

Hamish Deery (Hamish): Sompo has a rich history and culture. Why are you transforming now? What are the business and people drivers of Sompo’s transformation?

Shinichi Hashimoto (Hashimoto): Sompo has more than 130 years of history and 80,000 employees, and traditionally, our main business has been property and casualty (P&C) insurance.

There are three external forces driving our current transformation.

The first is the external environment: there’s a strong sense of urgency to adapt to the sudden drastic changes that are now accepted as normal. To survive, we must also change, so in addition to our traditional P&C insurance business, we are venturing into the areas of nursing care and developing digital technology applications.

Second is the ageing society in Japan, which is leading to workforce shortages.

And lastly, COVID-19 accelerated changes such as the growth of stakeholder capitalism and an increasing focus on diversity, which are also driving our transformation.

In addition to these external forces, there are also internal drivers, for instance, our organisation’s values and goals — to protect people from risks, to create a healthy and happy society, and to foster the power to change our future society — contributing to the need for transformation.

Hamish: What is the culture you are striving to create through the changes? How are you going about changing the culture?

Hashimoto: We are striving to create a winning corporate culture, which will help us to focus on long-term goals, innovation and collaboration across all of Sompo’s different business groups. Corporate culture is important to us for these key reasons:

  1. There is a high correlation between a strong culture and business performance.
  2. A winning culture will strengthen our competitive advantage in the market.
  3. Aligning our culture with employee values will help improve employee engagement.

We assessed the current corporate culture and the desired culture to identify the gaps. We then conducted several workshops with our top management teams, managers and employees of local entities to decide on an action plan.

We are striving to create a winning corporate culture, which will help us to focus on long-term goals, innovation and collaboration.”

Shinichi Hashimoto | CHRO, Retail Platform – Sompo International; General Manager, HR Department – Sompo Holdings

We recognise that each local entity has a different strategy and different priorities, so the desired culture may be different. As such we encourage local entities to make local decisions and adapt the global corporate culture as needed. This process empowers local entities.

To make sure our employees really understand the culture to achieve our purpose, we use advanced digital technology to measure the penetration degree of culture attributes. This also helps us to visualise the core driving factors to create strong corporate culture.

Hamish: How is the transformation changing the way you think about the design of work and the skills you need?

Hashimoto: In this era, data-driven decision-making has become more important than ever, and we would like to encourage this. We are training not only our IT and digital employees, but all employees who deal with data as part of their daily roles or tasks.

Work style innovation is also critical for transformation. As we navigate the pandemic, while ensuring the safety of our employees, we also need to find ways for our employees to become more productive and find value-added work. One example of how we are managing this is to implement a system that can grasp the productivity of each employee in a remote environment. I believe it is our mission as HR professionals to create a system to achieve this.

Hamish: Thank you for sharing Sompo’s story. It highlights some important reminders and lessons for managing transformation:

  1. It starts with a clear strategy. The vision, mission and values are clear, communicated and lived with a clearly stated organisational purpose. This is something that inspires employees and they are willing to get behind and bring it to life through their own mindset and behaviours.
  2. Effective leadership from top to bottom of the organisation is foundational. Leaders are aligned on the strategy, priorities and cultural enablers. They display the values, competencies and role model the required ways of working.
  3. The organisation has set-up the necessary enablers to execute the strategy. Enabling technology, aligning culture, business processes and structures, talent strategy and employee value proposition (EVP) all work in unison to support the strategy.

Head of Sales, Employee Experience, International
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