Tokyo to Tuscaloosa: Japanese scholar studies life insurance at the Capstone

Tokyo to Tuscaloosa: Japanese scholar studies life insurance at the Capstone

While some students cross the Black Warrior River to get to The University of Alabama, one visiting scholar crossed the Pacific Ocean to do the same. From Tokyo to Tuscaloosa, a rising employee of a prominent Japanese insurance company recently began his scholar in residence program at the University.

Masaki Kishida is an up-and-coming employee of Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., Ltd., which operates out of Tokyo. Dai-ichi and Culverhouse have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the 1980's, when the life insurance company's owner, Tsuneta Yato, contributed towards Alston Hall's Insurance Hall of Fame and Lecture Hall.

This relationship then led to the creation of the scholar in residence program that Kishida began three months ago, as well as the Dai-ichi internship program that accepts two Culverhouse students each year. 

Kishida's research centers around new models in the life insurance industry and is operating under the guidance of the Insurance, Risk Management and Actuarial Science (IRMAS) Program. Kishida is taking classes and conducting his research at Marillyn A. Hewson Data Analytics Lab. He hopes that he can help his company operate at a more efficient level upon his return to Tokyo.

"I want to use my experience here to help with my projects back in Japan," said Kishida. "I want to be able to provide additional value to my company."

Kishida is originally from Sendai of the Miyagi Prefecture and attended college at the University of Tokyo before working in Tokyo with Dai-ichi. 

Traveling from Tokyo to Tuscaloosa, Kishida has been immersed in new lifestyles and cultures, and he admitted that he has needed help along the way. 

Kishida said that the biggest challenge for him since his arrival in Tuscaloosa has been the language barrier. William Rabel, teaching chair of Insurance and Financial Services at the University, and IRMAS coordinator Reginald Allison, have been more than helpful with this adjustment, he said.

Last weekend, Kishida became involved in the most integral part of Tuscaloosa: Alabama football. He attended his first game and said he has never been in a stadium the size of Bryant-Denny.

“[Game day is] like a festival,” Kishida said. 

Although he has only been in America for three months out of the year-long program, Kishida has already taken note of some occupational differences between Tokyo and the South.

"College and work here is very different than in Japan," said Kishida. "The professional culture is more informal at the University of Alabama than in Japan."

Kishida is the second company member to participate in the residence program with Culverhouse. During his time at the University, Rabel said that he has seen members of Dai-ichi fall in love with certain aspects of Tuscaloosa.

"Dai-ichi personnel have become great fans of The University of Alabama," said Rabel. "Frequently when executives come on business from Tokyo they visit the University to see the Insurance Hall of Fame Museum, Mr. Yano’s portrait in the Lecture Hall and tour the campus and Tuscaloosa. It is always an enriching experience for them and for those with whom they interact."

After completing the program, Kishida will return to Tokyo to continue his work for Dai-ichi, although some of its employees work in Alabama. 

Three years ago, Dai-ichi bought their Birmingham subsidiary, Protective Life Insurance Co. 

By doing this, they significantly increased their presence in Alabama and further enhanced the mutually beneficial relationship that exists between them and The University of Alabama. 

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