The challenges surrounding the newly launched AXA Nichidan Life Insurance Co. and Japan's insurance industry do not elude Hisashi Ohgaki, the firm's executive director and chief products and marketing officer.

Ohgaki said he believes Japanese insurers have a strong customer base and have done business based on the assumption that whatever they sell is best for customers. On the other hand, according to the executive, while foreign firms have done well as niche-fillers, the niches will not be there forever.

His candor might come from his past experience in the midst of an industry facing deregulation. Prior to assuming his current post in April, he spent 18 years at Industrial Bank of Japan and its subsidiary, IBJ DL Financial Technology, mostly as a derivatives and securitization expert.