IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 27



01 Early Days in01Asia
Early
| Attention
Days in Asia
to Detail
| A Great
in Japan
Idea
Major Milestone
Attention to Detail in Japan
The development of our Japanese business was
entirely different from our approach in other
countries. This time we were not responding to
client needs but were proactively seeking business.
This was a decision made by Arnaud very early on
as Japan had become the giant of Asia; it was clear
to him that being able to build a business in Japan
would drive global credibility around the world.
He was right.
In the 1980s we were not big enough to be known
by Japanese companies outside Japan so we had
to go there and make ourselves known. Arnaud
and Sandy Johnson spent a lot of time building
relationships with Japanese companies, explaining
our proposition to them. It was both exciting and
challenging and Sandy fondly remembers how
isolated she sometimes felt as the only Western
female in this very different cultural environment.
The hard work paid off and a breakthrough came in
1988 when AIU Insurance, part of the AIG Group,
appointed us to be their assistance company for
Asia Pacific. This meant our services were at the
disposal of their policy holders when travelling in
that region, for assistance or medical treatment –
subject of course to the terms of their insurance
policies. In 1992 we reached another milestone
when Tokio Marine, another insurance company,
chose us as their appointed assistance company
for Asia Pacific. Between them, AIU and Tokio
Marine covered half of all Japanese travellers.
Before appointing us, Tokio Marine sent teams to
Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Brisbane to
audit our operations. We were able to demonstrate
both our consistency of approach and our
knowledge and understanding of Asia, in particular,
Ginza District, Tokyo, Japan.
of the Japanese market. We also showed our ability
to pay attention to detail, which is fundamental
when doing business with the Japanese.
Lisa Tan, a fluent Japanese speaker with special
responsibilities for the Japanese business,
understood this perfectly. When Tokio Marine
visited Jakarta, Lisa went to the hotel where they
were staying and checked every aspect of each
room they were going to be in. She provided
additional ashtrays for these notoriously heavy
smokers. She was on hand throughout their visit,
ensuring rooms were at just the right temperature
and everything was clean and in perfect working
order. It paid off: We got the contract to service
Tokio Marine in Asia Pacific. Today, we provide
services to Tokio Marine on a global basis.
As Lisa says:
“These wins made other insurance companies see
us differently and helped our business grow.”
Another key event was setting up of a subsidiary
in Japan to manage our business there. This took
the form of a joint venture with C-ITOH, which was
finalised on 11 December, 1989. C-ITOH, known today
as ITOCHU, was the largest trading company in
Japan at the time and, in sales terms, the largest
in the world. Arnaud worked closely with the senior
managing director of the company at the time.
It was an enlightening experience as he recalls:
Arnaud Vaissié: “It was quite extraordinary to match
what was still a start-up company with the largest
company in the world.”
19

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