Mike Kinoshita (right) and Doug Aihara at Aihara & Associates Insurance Services in Little Tokyo. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Senior Editor

“Insurance is in my blood,” said Mike Kinoshita, new executive vice president of Aihara & Associates Insurance Services.

He was recently appointed and will succeed agency principal Doug Aihara with guidance from Aihara agency principal Robert Todd Uyemura in the transition. Prior to his new position, Kinoshita worked as a senior client advisor at The J. Morey Company, an Ori-gen Family Company.

Kinoshita has always known he wanted to be in insurance and follow in the footsteps of his father Craig Kinoshita and grandfather Mas, who ran an insurance firm in Gardena. He endured hardship at a young age with the passing of his dad in 1998 and grandpa in 2010.
“Growing up, those two were my biggest role models and best friends,” said Kinoshita. “I lost both of them at a pretty young age. Since they were my biggest role models, they cemented my goal to have a career in this industry.”

Mom Noel Kinoshita also worked in insurance as a production underwriter at Arrowood Insurance Services. She recalled that both Craig and Mas encouraged him to follow them, especially going to USC. Both pitched for the USC baseball team, and Mas was coached by legendary head coach Rod Dedeaux.

“Both graduated with business administration degrees from USC and told Mikey, ‘You are going to USC too!’”

Mike Kinoshita at three years old with parents Noel and Craig Kinoshita, grandpa Mas Kinoshita and dog Riley at home in South Pasadena in April 1992.

Sixty years after his grandpa, Kinoshita graduated from USC Marshall School of Business and started work at J. Morey Co. in Little Tokyo.

“Family and legacy have always been Mikey’s motivation in life,” Noel said.

By joining Aihara and Associates, Kinoshita represents the future of another legacy business. Aihara, whose father Luis founded the business 75 years ago, said there is a comfort level knowing that the Aihara name and business will continue and is in good hands.

“That was all by design mostly, because nothing really changed,” said Aihara. “Almost all the clients didn’t see a change in terms of personnel.

“Mike represents our core vision of honoring legacy. I am thrilled to welcome a trustworthy next-generation leader like him who I know will bring vibrancy and new ideas, not only to Aihara & Associates, but to the Little Tokyo community as well. I am proud to say that our agency and family legacy will be carried on in this way, and I know my father would feel the same way.”

Josh Morey, chairperson of Ori-gen, added, “I couldn’t think of a better way to honor the Aihara and Kinoshita legacies in our community than to have Mike Kinoshita lead Aihara & Associates into the future. Ori-gen’s vision is rooted deeply in the communities we serve, and this is a great example of our mission: Remember where you come from…create a new future.”

Aihara & Associates is one of the companies under the umbrella of Ori-gen, which is itself a partnership between Alliance 360° Insurance Solutions and The J. Morey Company. The Ori-gen Family of Companies currently has 11 office locations with 16 legacy partners to date.

Ori-gen has focused on a growth strategy that the two insurance executives said is important during difficult times for the industry as a whole.

An advantage of a larger agency is the ability to write more contracts. Aihara explained that the industry is in what is called a “hard market,” where there is a high demand for insurance coverage but reduced supply.

In May, State Farm and All State announced that they would no longer sell new home insurance policies in California, citing wildfires and high cost of construction. California still has about 115 companies offering home insurance, according to Michael Soller, a deputy commissioner for the state’s insurance department.

The strategy for Ori-Gen of expansion is a way for smaller agencies to better respond to difficult circumstances and also sustain smaller legacy insurance agencies such as Aihara & Associates.

“It was a win-win for someone who was in my position,” said Aihara. “A win for me given my dad’s legacy will continue and a win for Ori-gen as acquisitions such as mine add to their total premiums in force. For ‘independent insurance agencies,’ the more total premiums an agency has the better. In ‘hard markets,’ the more carriers an agency has, the more options it can provide for it’s clients. So it follows, an agency that has $100 million in premiums vs. an agency that has only $25 million will have more carriers that it can offer and therefore more options for its clients. So having Aihara become part of a much larger entity will give it a competitive advantage that it would not have had otherwise.”

Kinoshita added: “I agree with what Doug said. Ori-gen is a resource to carry on the Aihara name, but Aihara being part of the Ori-gen team also gives the team access to more markets that we would not otherwise have access to. This gives us more options for our clients. As we grow, we will not only have a wider range of companies we can access but this opens the door for specialty exclusive programs that independent insurance agencies most likely cannot access as well.”

Aihara is still active in the community, serving on the boards of Visual Communications, Keiro, Little Tokyo Community Council and Senshin Buddhist Temple. But for the most he has stepped away from the business and is enjoying retirement.

Kinoshita has long been part of the basketball community, playing with FOR and VFW.
Although he lost both his father and grandfather at an early age, they instilled the values of hard work, dedication and perseverance, as well as a competitive spirit honed on the USC baseball field.

“My grandpa and dad led by example. They were two of the hardest-working people I knew but always made time for family,” Kinoshita said. “Family first. Family is everything, remember where you came from, and take care of those close to you.”

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