Celebrating 150 years of Swiss Re: Japan highlights

A lot has happened in the 150 years since Swiss Re was established in Zurich, Switzerland. We have reinsured some largest historic events, including the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks in 2001 and Japan's Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Swiss Re Group is now one of the leading wholesale providers of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer. Deploying our capital strength, expertise and innovation to enable the risk taking upon which enterprise and society depends.

This year, we also celebrate our 100 year anniversary of business partnership in Japan, as we signed our first reinsurance contract in Tokyo in 1913.  We opened our first representative office in Tokyo in 1972 and obtained our full reinsurance branch status in 2004. Over the years, we have demonstrated our strong commitment to the Japanese market and contributed significantly to the industry's development. Through our strong partnerships with insurance companies and industry bodies, we have contributed to make our local industry one of the most successful, innovative and robust in the world.

Today, our reinsurance business based in Tokyo, provides Property & Casualty (P&C) and Life & Health (L&H) reinsurance solutions, as well as structured solutions and specialty services.

Here are some key highlights since we entered the Japanese market 100 years ago:


Swiss Re underwrites its first fire reinsurance contract in Tokyo, establishing its business relationship with the Japanese insurance market



Swiss Re manager Paul Alther tours Japan, visiting insurers, promoting the Swiss Re brand and learning more about the market



The Great Kanto Earthquake strikes, causing some 105,000 deaths and extensive damage to Tokyo and surrounding areas. Despite the earthquake exclusion clause in Japan following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many foreign insurers and reinsurers agree to contribute towards compensation, with Swiss Re voluntarily paying one year's premium on affected cessions



Swiss Re begins its long-standing business relationship with Tokio Marine



The market share of foreign life insurers in Japan drops to just 1% of premium revenues after the introduction of a stronger regulatory framework for insurers

Swiss Re manager William Habicht reports that Japanese fire and marine insurers are loosening ties with brokers and reinsurers in London in response to anti-British feeling and war rates charged by British insurers during the 1937 war with China



Many British and US insurers re-establish their positions in the Japanese market, initially providing insurance to occupational forces before being allowed to offer reinsurance to Japanese companies the following year



Swiss Re underwrites fire insurance with Chiyoda and Nichido, as well as small treaties with Toa Re and Sumitomo



Swiss Re considers establishing a Japan office, after serving Japan from an office in Hong Kong during the turbulent post-war years



Following a period of rapid growth, the Japanese non-life insurance market grows considerably



Swiss Re opens its first representative office in the Dowa Building in Tokyo to perform service and information functions



Swiss Re underwrites its first Japanese life reinsurance treaty with Nippon Life, followed by another with Mitsui Life



The representative office, established with the help of Dowa Fire, is renamed Swiss Reinsurance Company Representative Office Tokyo



The engine fuelling Japan's economic miracle stalls as stock and property markets overheat, leading to a restructuring of the Japanese insurance industry into a smaller number of powerful players over the next two decades



Typhoon Mireille costs Japanese insurers substantial loss of which just a fraction is recoverable from overseas reinsurers, including Swiss Re



The Insurance Business Act introduces a more principles-led approach to regulation, leading to the increased presence of foreign life insurers and sparking a period of massive consolidation and restructuring of the non-life market

Swiss Re moves to larger premises at Otemachi First Square Building, in response to growing business volumes and staff numbers in Japan



Swiss Re strengthens its leading position in Japan when it acquires London-based, The Mercantile and General Reinsurance Company


Swiss Re arranges the first insurance-linked securities in Asia with Tokio Marine and Goldman Sachs, covering indexed losses from Tokyo earthquakes



Swiss Re sets up a Japanese-registered service company in Tokyo called Swiss Re Services Company, demonstrating its commitment to Japan.



Further stock market volatility causes the bankruptcy of several life insurance companies. In May, the first Japanese non-life insurer becomes bankrupt since World War Two



Swiss Re and Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Company arrange a USD 450 million catastrophe risk swap to cover losses from three natural perils



Swiss Re Services Company in Tokyo is upgraded to branch status, making Swiss Re the first major reinsurer to receive a branch licence in Japan



The Tohoku earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan, and its resulting tsunami cause extensive loss of life and property damage

Swiss Re receives a direct licence for its Corporate Solutions business in Japan



Swiss Re celebrates its 150 year anniversary, as well as its 100 year anniversary for its first reinsurance contract in Japan.

Published July 2013