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2009 Smallbiz Success Awards

2009 Smallbiz Success Awards

(page 9 of 11)

Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii


Local businesses still going strong after 75 years are increasingly rare in the Islands. Even rarer – less than 15 percent nationwide — are family-owned companies surviving into the third generation. Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii, founded in 1933 by Japanese immigrant pioneer Lawrence T. (L.T.) Kagawa, is among the few that have bucked the trends.

"The key to our longevity, hands down, is that we are blessed with good people – our excellent staff, our carriers and underwriters, and our producers, the independent agents," says president and CEO Gordon Kagawa, who heads the 77-year-old company with executive vice president Kathy Tawata. The two are L.T.’s grandchildren.

Kathy Tawata and Gordon Kagawa:
Doing good for the community
is good for business.

Photo: Olivier Koning

Offering life, business and property casualty insurances and financial investments, Occidental focuses on providing financial advisory services that can span a client’s lifetime. "This is a relationship business and we are about building relationships that, without our people, we could not carry through," explains Kagawa. The company is one of Hawaii’s largest volume insurance producers.

As a young man in the 1930s, his grandfather, together with just three employees, boldly offered immigrants fair and equitable insurance premiums at a time when no local insurers would. Today, Occidental has 39 employees, 28 in-house producers and more than 200 external brokers at offices on Maui and Hawaii Island, in Japan, and at its distinctive Piikoi Street headquarters in Honolulu.

"My grandfather’s spirit of extending help to different sectors of the community continues in our company. He always said doing good for the community will do good for your business," says Kagawa.

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