October 16, 3pm on Zoom
One of the challenges for foreign CEOs in Japan is dealing with Japanese companies. The consequences of getting the relationship wrong are severe: suppliers stop supplying, buyers stop buying, distributors stop distributing. If the situation deteriorates badly enough, foreign companies might get a visit from the Fair Trade Commision or the tax authorities. Japanese business is an ecosystem, and issues with one important player can ripple over into other relationships.
Our speaker this week is Yumesaku Ishigaki, a former senior executive and current adviser at one of Japan’s most successful joint ventures: Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. From his time signing painfully large bonus checks for London traders during his stint in the UK (on a considerably more modest Japanese-style ‘package’), he has gained an appreciation of the different priorities driving Japanese versus foreign companies.
Originally from Bank of Tokyo, he was himself on the ‘losing’ side of the takeover from Mitsubishi. Yet, despite BoT being bailed out by a larger player, Japanese corporate dynamics meant that BoT executives demanded, and were given, important roles in the new entity.
Indeed, Japanese HR structures give Japanese companies a very specific flavour. Given the lack of a secondary market in executive talent, large Japanese companies can be quite dysfunctional: cliques that hate each other don’t have the easy option of simply finding new employment. Instead, feuds of a Sicilian savagery can linger for decades. Not knowing which leader in which clique is in the ascendant at a particular time can lead to negotiations stalling for no rational reason.
Because it’s not as if a bigger title equates to more authority. Ishigaki san will explain how much of the animating spirit of a Japanese company flows from below, rather than being delivered from the top. The person you might expect to resolve a blockage in the negotiations may be unable or unwilling to fly in the face of the consensus of the mass of the employees.
Any CEO interested in how to flourish in the Japanese eco-system is advised to attend this Salon.