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Docomo shops to sell Nippon Life's policies

Docomo stores will add life insurance to their product mix.

TOKYO -- NTT Docomo will offer life insurance policies at its 2,400 or so mobile phone stores across Japan in collaboration with Nippon Life Insurance.

     The major mobile carrier intends to effectively cut rates by offering bundles and the convenience of paying phone bills and insurance premiums together. The partnership will be announced this week.

     A few dozen Docomo stores will start selling insurance products next summer, with plans to gradually expand the operation.

     Dedicated counters will be set up at the shops. Since a special license is required to sell insurance products, Nippon Life will dispatch staffers to educate Docomo employees.

     Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank Group unit SoftBank are the nation's three major mobile carriers. They have sold insurance online before, mainly nonlife policies, but have never offered life insurance at mobile phone stores here.

     Docomo and Nippon Life will consider linking insurance and the mobile carrier's health management app. Customers may get discounts based on how much they walk and how many calories they burn, for instance.

     Insurance products must be certified by Financial Services Agency and cannot be discounted freely. The duo may develop special insurance plans to offer bargains in bundles with mobile plans.

     Docomo's domestic market share in mobile phone services has shrunk from 60% to about 40% over the past decade. As different carriers offer increasingly similar services and devices, Docomo seeks to cultivate insurance sales as a new source of earnings. It plans to sell life insurance from other companies as well, having sounded out multiple insurers.

     The government is trying to lower mobile phone charges. An expert panel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications met on Monday, reviewing incentives and ways of rewarding long-term users.

     As pressure grows to lower mobile rates, subscriber retention will be key for carriers. A life insurer, which by its nature serves customers over the long term, is a suitable partner to offer bundle deals with.

     Nippon Life, for its part, is expanding its sales network to bank counters and agents that offer insurance from multiple providers. It acquired midtier insurance agency operator Life Salon in May and has partnered with furniture seller Nitori Holdings, which has begun selling insurance.

     The Docomo tie-up forms part of such expansion efforts. By gauging the needs of younger consumers, Nippon Life hopes to develop new products.

     The traditional marketing tactic of visiting customers has grown more difficult to sustain in recent years as offices and residential buildings have beefed up security. As a result, insurance agents selling products from multiple insurers are gaining momentum.

(Nikkei)

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