An Interview with Outside Directors (Sawako Nohara)

Sawako Nohara

Leverage Digital Technology to Initiate Reform and Build a "Theme Park for the Security, Health, and Wellbeing of Customers"

Sawako Nohara

President of IPSe Marketing, Inc.

Project Professor of the Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University

- What is your evaluation of the Sompo Holdings Group’s governance?

Beyond being systemically progressive-with outside directors accounting for one-third of directors and a Nomination and Compensation Committee that comprises the Group CEO and outside directors-the Group’s actual administration of in-house systems is excellent. Outside directors can speak without restraint, and discussions at Board of Directors’ meetings are always lively.
My impression is that officers take our statements on board. Rather than just allowing outside directors to make statements, the officers responsible for operational execution are clearly keen to work with us in building a new governance system.

- What impression of the Group have you formed in the four years since becoming a director?

I feel that the Group has evolved steadily. Four years ago, I got the strong impression that the management team wanted change.
At that point, however, the Group was only halfway through the process. The Group is following the “theme park for the security, health, and wellbeing of customers” vision. In accordance with this vision, instead of pursuing P&C insurance with other services attached, the Group has clearly identified four mainstays: domestic P&C insurance, domestic life insurance, nursing care & healthcare, and overseas insurance. I sense the determination of the Group CEO and the rest of the management team to evolve governance in step with the major transformation that business strategy is currently undergoing. I think that this determination makes the role of outside director rewarding as well as a great responsibility.

- As a specialist in the digital field, what do you think of the Group’s initiatives in this regard?

In my opinion, the pivotal measures have been to establish a department dedicated to digital strategy in the holding Company and to appoint from outside of the Group a chief digital officer with significant authority and freedom. Efforts to realize innovations in organizations sometimes cause friction with existing business divisions and do not succeed as a result. With this in mind, I think it was very wise for Sompo Holdings to establish a system in which it seeks beneficial new approaches and spreads them throughout the Group in collaboration with operating companies. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit SOMPO Digital Lab in Silicon Valley. I was able to hear firsthand from personnel in the vanguard of development about the types of new approaches they are looking for, and I found their replies reassuring. I look forward to the future.

- What are the Group’s tasks, and what are your expectations of the Group?

I look forward to digital technology and the theme park vision. “Digital transformation” is a phrase that has emerged recently.
Of course, digital technology can add value to existing services.
In addition, however, its potential to change an entire array of practices is very important. Such change is sure to benefit this vision. The insurance industry has not needed that much innovation, partly because insurers have competed within premium scopes that are to some extent fixed. However, we are now in a period of transformation.
Ideas about the importance of keeping the profile of the Group consistent with the one it had 10 years ago should be forgotten. I would like to see changes in the mind-sets of all employees create an innovative atmosphere in the whole Group that enables significant transformation. I think digital technology will play a significant part in facilitating this process.