“Monster of an opportunity” in the market, says Garrard

Adam Garrard

Willis has big expansion plans for the Japanese market, according to its Asia chief executive Adam Garrard.

“From a broking perspective, the big opportunity in Asia is penetration into Japan,” Garrard told GR. “It’s the biggest market in Asia by a country mile, but we’re hardly touching it. The retail broker plays a small part in that economy at the moment; we would like to play a much larger part.”

“There are not too many industries in the world sitting there looking at this huge monster of an opportunity which, if they can penetrate it, will provide significant growth.”

Garrard, who joined Willis in 1994 and was managing director of Willis Asia Pacific from 2001 to 2005, said that the broker’s Japanese business was already “growing very nicely”. “We are investing in Japan because we don’t want to wake up 30 years from now and realise that we’ve missed the boat,” he said. “There are not too many industries in the world sitting there looking at this huge monster of an opportunity which, if they can penetrate it, will provide significant growth.”

Slow burn

Garrard believes that brokers will play more of a role in the massive Japanese market in the future. “It’s a slow burn in Japan, but I think the broking proposition is compelling. We do something that the insurers can’t do,” he said. “We provide independent advice, and sometimes that advice is ‘don’t buy’.”

Pointing out that large domestic insurance companies dominated the Japanese landscape on a direct basis, Garrard said brokers could help companies approach insurance differently. “The companies that we work with are the pioneering companies,” he said. “They are interested in the full risk spectrum of ‘identify, analyse, control and transfer’. They are breaking out of the traditional Japanese way of insurance purchasing.”

Long road

After predicting that the Japanese market would be “the gift that keeps on giving in years to come”, Garrard added: “It’s a long road, but it is a road, and it’s a road that we’re driving on.

“Our proposition has proved to be attractive to clients across the world. I see no reason why retail broking will not eventually be a significant part of the Japanese landscape. It is inevitable.

“We need to be cognisant of that because if we’re not in there being part of it and shaping it, it will be difficult to jump on half way down the road.”