An international insurance expert said the Guam market is ripe for expansion again after nearly a decade of recession.

Tadashi Kodama is president of Aioi Insurance Co. Ltd. Japan’s fourth largest non-life insurance company with assets of $22.7 billion. He is also vice chairman of the general insurance association of Japan.

He was on Guam from Aug. 21 to 24 to congratulate H. “George” Takagi president of Takagi & Associates Inc. on the company’s expansion and move to the Flame Tree Plaza in Tumon.

Aioi Insurance Co. Ltd. was formed in April 2001 from the merger of two long-established non-life insurance companies: The Dai-Tokyo Fire & Marine Insurance Co. Ltd. and the Chiyoda Fire & Marine Co. Ltd. The new company name means “working together” in Japanese. Making up the remaining share ownership of Aioi Insurance is Namura Security Group and the UFJ Banking Group. The bank was formed Jan. 15 2002 when the Tokai and the Sanwana Bank merged to form the First Bank of Japan FBJ Bank.

Kodama together with Yohei Tanno associate director and general manager of the international department; and Kenjo Furuhara team leader and global operations team for the international department; were also on Guam to expand Aioi’s finance and insurance business.

The company is furthering its strategy of leveraging the Toyota car sales market by enabling car dealers to increase revenue from insurance services.

Toyota Asset Management Co. Ltd. owns one third of Aioi.

“The key for us to developing new products is now following Toyota ” Furuhara said.

Kodama said training in the Marianas Island for its Toyota dealers — Atkins Kroll Toyota in Guam and Microl Corp. in Saipan will begin in September.

“This opportunity is new here but Aioi had been marketing automobile insurance through auto dealers for some time in Europe ” Kodama said. “We have an exclusive arrangement with ServCo Inc. in Hawaii to offer auto insurance products and one day hope to market insurance services in the mainland.”

Furuhara said it was now Aioi’s marketing strategy to follow Toyota into markets and offer its services.

“Besides expansion into the U.S. market our other focus is on expansion into mainland China and developing Asian markets because they are in the modernization mode ” Tanno said. “We have to set up as soon as possible — Toyota is planning to sell 10 million automobiles in China by 2010.”

Aioi has adopted a strategy to come closer to communities and customers than any other insurance company Kodama said. The company develops regional markets by forging alliances with local financial institutions and creates links with companies that are involved in and use motor networks.

Aioi has stayed in the Micronesia market place despite earthquakes and numerous damaging typhoons Kodama said because it believes in Takagi Insurance’s efforts and strength in managing risk. He said Takagi has an ability to establish a sales office management system that is tied to profitability.

The growth of an insurance company boils down to effective risk management Kodama said. “It is now even more important that risks are precisely identified and their potential impact properly analyzed and managed to ensure a sound financial position and boost profitability.”

While visiting Guam Kodama Tanno and Furuhara stayed at LeoPalace Resort. They had a first taste of a possibly damaging typhoon when Typhoon Chaba swept through the Mariana Islands on Aug. 22.

“It was really quite exciting ” Kodama said through an interpreter. “We certainly approved of the [typhoon] shutters that were installed at the hotel.”

Aioi underwrites insurance to the LeoPalace Resort and the Westin Resort Guam. “We are happy in so many ways that the damage was minimal but it was important for us to see how prepared Guam is for storms that we insure against ” Kodama told the Journal.

Kodama said the key to Aioi success is its ability to build on established relationships with its Japanese customers. This allowed them opportunities to leverage those ties and establish larger local networks.

Takagi’s list of insured customers includes nearly every Japanese-owned hotel and golf course on Guam and several properties in Saipan.

H. “George” Takagi president of Takagi said the Japanese economy is on a rebound and new opportunities exist for local growth for his company and global growth for Aioi.

He said Aioi has the largest capacity for insuring of any of the carriers in the Marianas market.

“The time is finally here for people to begin thinking expansion and improvement. We will be here to help our customers every day as well as establish new ties with new products delivered in new and exciting ways ” Takagi said.

Takagi has moved its offices from the GCIC Building in Hagatna to the Flame Tree Plaza in Tumon which housed the Guam Museum and the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency gallery during the first two years of the Gutierrez/Bordallo administration. Takagi bought the building in 2002 from a Japanese corporation and started renovations which are now nearly complete. The three-story building was empty for nearly eight years. MBJ