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Phone: (808) 536-1933

Our History

Who We Are

Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii was established in 1933 by the late Lawrence Takeo “L.T.” Kagawa. He saw considerable price inequality for minorities in the 1930’s in the life insurance industry. L.T. Kagawa wanted to change that. With the help of A.P. Giannini of Bank of America, L.T. Kagawa kick-started his business and achieved equal pricing and equal access to life insurance for all U.S. residents. The business started out of a small office in the Dillingham Transportation Building in downtown Honolulu with a staff of three people.

In 1951, Occidental Underwriters moved into their own building on the corner of South Beretania and Piikoi streets. The building was designed by Lemmon, Freeth & Haines. The control tower-like penthouse was added in 1967. With the natural stone, angled windows, and a touch of mid-century modern appeal, the Occidental building is somewhat of a local landmark that stands out in the heart of Honolulu, Hawaii.

History in Motion

A timeline of Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii’s Evolution
More information coming soon!
  • Early 1930's

    The Insurance Study

    In the early 1930’s, L.T. is a young and hungry businessman. He’s a Japanese-American who was born and educated in Hawaii, and the assistant insurance officer of a Honolulu trust company. 

    L.T. Kagawa noticed that non-Caucasian life insurance premiums were significantly higher than Caucasians at the time, particularly Japanese, Chinese, multi-racial persons, and native Hawaiians. Non-Caucasians were characteristically written for limited amounts at a higher premium rate and only on limited pay and endowment plans. Term life and Straight life were strictly off-limits.

    L.T. conducts a study and found that non-Caucasians had excellent mortality.

  • 1932

    A Trip to San Francisco

    In pursuit of his vision, L.T. Kagawa travels to San Francisco to meet with A.P. Giannini, the founder of Bank of America and Transamerica. Despite not having an appointment, L.T. patiently waits in the lobby until he’s able to secure a meeting with Giannini. Transamerica at the time was the holding company for Occidental Life Insurance Company of California, which later became Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Company.

    It was through this meeting that L.T. was able to present his findings on non-Caucasian life insurance premiums and mortality rates. This ultimately led to Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii becoming the first company in Hawaii to offer non-Caucasians life insurance policies at regular premium rates and without restrictions, marking a significant milestone in the history of the industry, and community of Hawaii.

  • February 1, 1933

    Opening Doors

    Occidental History

    After L.T. Kagawa’s groundbreaking work in establishing fair and accessible life insurance policies for non-Caucasians, he went on to open Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii. The agency quickly gained recognition for its innovative approach to underwriting policies and its commitment to providing a level playing field for all individuals, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii was highly successful and went on to become one of Transamerica’s top producers.

    This success was due in no small part to L.T.’s pioneering work, which challenged the norms of the industry and helped to pave the way for greater equality and fairness in life insurance policies. The legacy of L.T. Kagawa and Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii lives on to this day, as the company continues to champion the values of diversity, inclusivity, and fairness.

  • 1936

    Hawaii's First Woman In Insurance

    In 1936, Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii made history by employing Hawaii’s first woman insurance agent, Chiyeko Takushi. This was a significant achievement at the time, as the insurance industry was largely dominated by men. Takushi’s appointment represented a breakthrough for women seeking professional opportunities in the field of insurance. Her success also paved the way for future generations of women in the industry, inspiring them to pursue their goals and break down barriers. 

    Takushi’s pioneering work and achievements were recently celebrated in a featured article in The Hawaii Herald, which highlighted her contributions to the industry and to the broader community. The legacy of Chiyeko Takushi lives on as an inspiration to women in Hawaii and beyond, demonstrating the power of determination, perseverance, and breaking down barriers.

  • 1942

    Life in Internment Camps

    Due to the widespread fear and uncertainty among the general population after the commencement of World War II, L.T., along with his family and approximately 120,000 other individuals of Japanese-American descent, were required to relocate to government-administered internment camps.

    The Kagawa family returned to Hawaii in 1945 and reestablished their business. Thankfully, Transamerica, acknowledging L.T.’s significant contributions to both the company and the insurance sector, provided assistance in safeguarding the agency’s assets and licenses.

  • 1948

    Unlocking Homeownership

    L.T. successfully convinces A.P. Giannini and Transamerica behind his vision to provide extended access to FHA-guaranteed home loans for lower and middle-income Asian Americans in Hawaii. This collaborative effort yields remarkable results, generating a ripple effect of newfound wealth and long-term financial security for countless individuals who had previously been denied the opportunity of homeownership.

  • 1971

    2nd Generation: "Sig" Kagawa

    Siegfred “Sig” Kagawa, the son of L.T., takes on the role of President at Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii. With a remarkable commitment to humanitarian causes, Sig diligently combines his efforts in expanding the prosperous enterprise established by his father while also devoting himself to serving the community.

    (Pictured are Sig & Betsy Kagawa)

  • 1972

    Recognition in Japanese Community

    In recognition of his groundbreaking contributions to the Japanese community in America, L.T. is honored with the prestigious Third Order of the Rising Sun by Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Subsequently, Yoshinobu, L.T.’s younger brother, is bestowed with the esteemed Second Order of the Rising Sun for his instrumental role in facilitating international expansion for Japanese corporations.

  • 1989

    3rd Generation: Gordon Kagawa

    At Occidental Underwriters, the legacy of the Kagawa family continues to thrive with Gordon Kagawa, the grandson of L.T. Kagawa, leading the charge as a prominent figure within the company. As a third-generation member, Gordon brings a deep-rooted understanding of the company’s values and a wealth of experience in the insurance industry. Drawing from his family’s rich heritage, Gordon exemplifies the spirit of excellence and dedication that has been a hallmark of the Kagawa lineage, ensuring that Occidental Underwriters remains at the forefront of the industry for generations to come.

Lawrence Takeo "L.T." Kagawa, Founder
Lawrence Takeo “L.T.” Kagawa, Founder

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide financial peace of mind through experienced and highly qualified staff and advisors using the best financial products and services the industry has to offer.

Our Services

Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii is a brokerage, carrying a variety of products including:

  • Life Insurance
  • Annuities
  • Long-Term Care
  • Critical Illness Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • & More

You have the option to choose from a list of producers who are available to offer consultation to bring peace of mind to you and your family. Our producers have years of experience and hold designations to show their dedication to the insurance and retirement services industry.

Contact us for more information on our list of available insurance agents and retirement advisors.

c. 1950’s
c. 1950’s
c. 1970's
c. 1970’s

Our Expertise

  • Local Knowledge: We understand the unique risks and challenges faced by Hawaii residents and businesses and tailor our insurance solutions accordingly.
  • Personalized Service: Our team takes the time to get to know our clients and build lasting relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
  • Legacy: With nearly a century of experience in the insurance industry, we have the knowledge and skills needed to provide our clients with the best possible coverage options.
  • Competitive Rates: We work with multiple insurance carriers to provide our clients with the most competitive rates and comprehensive coverage options.

At Occidental Underwriters of Hawaii, we are committed to providing our clients with the highest level of service and protection. Contact us today to learn more about our insurance products and how we can help protect you and your assets.