Japanese company beneficiary, witness, participant, and advocate of China's opening-up
Keiko Fujita, executive director and president of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Company (China). [Photo/shobserver.com]
"Over the past 30 years, we have benefited from China's reform and opening-up policy, witnessed the development of an international financial center, and actively participated in and promoted its development. We are deeply honored by this," said Keiko Fujita, executive director and president of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Company (China), who recently received the 2023 Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award.
Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance (China) was the first foreign property insurance company to enter China. It has been operating in the country and been actively involved in China's economic development for 29 years.
More than 20 years ago, Fujita visited the Chinese mainland twice and worked and lived in Beijing and Shanghai. In April 2021, she returned to Shanghai to work as an executive director and president of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Company (China), and the company will soon celebrate its 30th year of development in China.
Established in 1879, Tokio Marine is Japan's oldest insurance company and had already established business ties with China before entering the country.
As early as 1972, Tokio Marine began cooperating with Chinese insurance companies in reinsurance and marine cargo insurance, resolving claims issues faced by Japanese insurance companies providing insurance policies for Japanese exports to China.
In 1980, Tokio Marine established a representative office in Beijing, becoming the first foreign insurance company to do so. In 1992, Shanghai was designated by the State Council as the first pilot city for opening up the insurance sector in China. In 1993, Tokio Marine established its representative office in Shanghai. In 1994, it established its Shanghai branch, which became the first foreign-invested property insurance company approved to operate in China.
Fujita still remembers that the first policy issued by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Shanghai Branch was signed on Sept 27, 1994.
The entry of foreign-funded insurance companies, including Tokio Marine, into Shanghai led to a rapid increase in the overall market share of foreign-funded insurance companies.
The market share grew from 0.51 percent in 1993 to 9.35 percent by the end of 1995. Shanghai's insurance market became diversified and multi-level, making it the city with the largest number of insurance companies in China at that time. By the end of 2000, the premium income of the Shanghai insurance market had reached 12.72 billion yuan, with an average annual growth rate of 38.7 percent.
Fujita recalls that finding an office location was challenging when she first arrived in Shanghai. Before the mid-1980s, if a company needed to establish an office in Shanghai, it could only rent a suite in a high-end hotel. It was not until 1985 that the first foreign office building in Shanghai, the Union Building, was completed. The construction period for office buildings was usually around three years. Therefore, when preparing to establish a branch in Shanghai, finding an office building was a complicated process, which was eventually resolved through coordination and cooperation among the parent company and other parties.
Fujita reflects on the significant changes in Shanghai's landscape, particularly in the Lujiazui Financial City, which has transformed into a forest of high-rise buildings.
Since 2017, China has become the world's second-largest insurance market. The development of Tokio Marine in the country is a microcosm of the gradual opening up of the Chinese insurance industry.