Categories
Economics Leadership

Japan GDP growth first quarter 2017 – Gerhard Fasol interviewed by Rico Hizon on BBC TV

Japan’s economy grows five quarters in a row, and Japan Post books losses of YEN 400.33 billion (US$ 3.6 billion) for an acquisition in Australia

by Gerhard Fasol

Japan GDP growth first quarter 2017, growth of 2%/year. Still, Japan’s economy is the same size as in 2000, while countries like France, Germany, UK today are double the size as in the year 2000

Japan GDP growth first quarter 2017: We have seen 5 quarters of economic growth in Japan, for the January-March 2017 quarter the consensus is that the Japanese Government is likely to announce economic growth corresponding to an annual growth rate of around 2%/year (update: Japan’s Government announced an annual growth rate of 2.2%/year).

Generally the business mood in Japan is optimistic now, personal consumption and industrial orders are growing. We see investments in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. Venture start-ups and venture investments are growing, while still at a low level, we see venture businesses developing not only in Tokyo, but also in regional centers around Japan.

One mid-term risk to Japan GDP growth is the potential implementation of the postponed consumption tax rate increase.

The big picture however is, Japan’s economy today is approximately the same size as 17 years ago in 2000. During the same 17 years most major economies, e.g. France, Germany, UK have doubled in size. France, Germany, UK’s economies today are about twice the size as in 2000, while Japan’s economy today is about the same size as in 2000. Quarterly GDP figures just measure the short term fluctuations of this long term behavior.

Rico Hizon: so what would Japan have to do to restart long term growth?

Gerhard Fasol’s answer

Japan would have to do three things to restart economic growth long term:

  1. Population: Implement policies to make it easier for families to have children, shift spending from the aged to children, improve eduction, shorter work hours, build children’s day care centers, gender equality
  2. Implement Prime Minister Abe’s “third arrow”, the reforms. Deregulation not just in a few “special zones” but nation wide.
  3. Improve corporate governance to improve company’s growth, globalization and management.

Japan Post trips up on globalization: books YEN 400.33 (US$ 3.6 billion) losses due to an acquisition in Australia – with a Toshiba connection

Japan Post announced a loss of YEN 400.33 (US$ 3.6 billion), and a resulting net loss of YEN 28.98 billion (US$ 260 million) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.

Japan Post Holdings was launched on the Tokyo Stock Exchange with the IPO on Nov 4, 2015.

Investors expect major growth of Japan Post Holdings into a global business, such as Deutsche Post has with privatization and later the acquisition and merger with the global logistics group DH about 20 years ago.

Around the time of the IPO Japan Post announced the acquisition of the Australian logistics group Toll for about YEN 620 billion (US$ 5.5 billion), while Toll’s market cap previous to the acquisition was about YEN 410 billion (US$ 3.7 billion).

Japan Post’s recent write-down at Toll is about equal its pre-acquisition market cap, or about 65% of the acquisition prize.

The deep problem of Japan Post’s steep write-downs at the Australian acquisition Toll, is that this casts doubts on Japan Post’s developments into a global business.

The Toshiba connection: Japan Post’s former CEO, Taizo Nishimuro (西室 泰三), previously served as CEO and Chairman of Toshiba

CEO of Japan Post at the time of the questionable Toll acquisition was no other than Mr Taizo Nishimuro (西室 泰三), former CEO and Chairman of Toshiba, now honorary advisor of Toshiba, who spent all his career at Toshiba, working at Toshiba since 1961. Toshiba is currently in severe difficulties caused primarily by Toshiba’s acquisitions of US nuclear construction firms, however Toshiba’s fundamental problems go back much much longer.

Japan Post Holding [6178]

Japan Post Holdings was founded on 23 January 2006, following the path to privatization initiated by Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan’s national Post Office.

Japan Post Holdings is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (No. 6178), IPO was on 4 November 2015, and has five divisions:

  1. Japan Post Service (日本郵便株式会社): mail delivery
  2. Japan Post Network (郵便局株式会社): Post Offices = retail and real estate
  3. Japan Post Bank (株式会社ゆうちょ銀行): Tokyo Stock Exchange No. 7182
  4. Japan Post Insurance (株式会社かんぽ生命保険): life insurance. Tokyo Stock Exchange No. 7181
  5. Toll Holdings: logistics

Copyright (c) 2017 by Eurotechnology Japan. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Economics Leadership

Women determine Japan’s future – Bill Emmott and Gerhard Fasol discuss Japan’s future

Bill Emmott and Gerhard Fasol about the future of Japan and the power of Japanese women

Bill Emmott is an independent writer and consultant on international affairs, board director, and from 1993 until 2006 was editor of The Economist. http://www.billemmott.com

Gerhard Fasol is physicist, board director, entrepreneur, M&A advisor in Tokyo. http://fasol.com/

women determine Japan’s future: A conversation about Japan’s future

Bill Emmott:

I came first to Japan in 1983 as Economist Tokyo Bureau Chief, staying until 1986. Then in 1988 I came back on sabbatical leave and wrote “The sun also sets: why Japan will not be number one”, which against my expectation when it was published in 1989 found big resonance in Japan. The stock market was plunging, and mine was the most immediately available explanation. Ever since, journalists have constantly asked me what the sun is doing now! It also meant that even when I became editor in chief of The Economist in 1993 I spent much more time focused on Japan than I had expected, visiting as often as I could to keep track of the post-bubble developments, and wrote a book that appeared only in Japanese translation called “Kanrio no Taizai”, or the bureaucrats’ deadly sins. But later, with Prime Minister Koizumi consolidating reforms, and the banking system at last getting cleared up, I sent myself back in 2005 to research and wrote a much more optimistic special supplement for The Economist which became a book, “The sun also rises”.

Throughout the 35 years since I first came to Japan, I have both been fascinated and struck by the fact that although this is in so many ways an inward-looking self-contained nation, foreign observers are listened to and even have a chance of having a positive impact.

One element that had featured consistently in my writings ever since the 1980s had been observations and expectations for a growing role for women in employment and power. This seemed logical given that, at least before the bubble burst, Japan was heading for a labour shortage, but also the Equal Employment Law of 1986 had led to more females being recruited by major organisations. Japan’s excellent education surely meant that the underused half (= women) of the adult population would soon be used more productively.

Of course, this has developed a lot more slowly than I expected or hoped, partly for cultural reasons but also because Japan has not in fact had a labour shortage, until now.

I wanted to meet you, Gerhard tonight because we both are fascinated by the role Japanese women have in making Japan such a fascinating country, and how the many really strong Japanese women could have key roles in bringing growth and dynamic change back to Japan.

  • Could Japanese women have bigger roles for the development of Japan?
  • What is holding women back in Japan?
  • Who are the role models?

I am making interviews with high-achieving Japanese women to try to find answers, and plan to compile them into a book later this year. What would you say, Gerhard? And anyway, how did you end up here?

Gerhard Fasol:

My path to Japan is quite different than yours, Bill. I came to Japan first in 1984 as Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, and scientist at the Max-Planck-Institute in Stuttgart, part of a project to build a research cooperation with NTT’s R&D labs. I saw that Japan was very important in technology and weakly linked to the outside – and still is today, I think. So in 1984 I decided to make Japan my second professional focus in addition to physics and electronics. Like you – the deeper I get into Japan, the more I learn about Japan, the greater my fascination, and my motivation to contribute.

Now I am working on many different projects, working on international technology M&A projects, and I am also one of a microscopic number of foreigners on the Board of Directors of a stock market listed Japanese corporation – reforming Japanese corporate governance hands-on.

Could Japanese women have bigger roles for the development of Japan?

Gerhard Fasol:

I think that the equal participation of women in leadership is directly linked to the population issue, ie the number of children born.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2016 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS

  • in Japan 10% of Members of Parliament were women,
  • while in Sweden 44% of Members of Parliament are women,
  • 37% in Germany and
  • 26% in France –
  • the world average is 23% women in Parliaments.

In Japan the ratio of women in Parliament has increased from 1% in 1990 to 10% in 2016, so there is progress. If we extrapolate, and if the trend continues, then it might take another 30 years or so until Japan reaches world average in terms of women bringing women’s views into Parliament, and taking part in making the laws. And it might take Japan 100 years to reach Scandinavian standards of women’s participation in making the laws of the land – unless there is some acceleration in Japan.

Japan’s most powerful Ministry, the Ministry of Finance, did not hire any women into career positions for a period of about 10 years!

At the 2015 New Year event of Kyoto Bank, Keidanren Chairman Mr Sadayuki Sakakibara showed that Japan’s spending on aged people is dramatically higher than spending on children, and that this ratio is increasing with time, Japan spends more and more on aged people and less and less on children. There are two ways to look at this situation:

  • one way is to say: we have an aging society, therefore its only natural to spend more on
    the aged, and less for children
  • the opposite way to look at the same situation is to say: we are spending less and less for children, no wonder we have fewer and fewer children. If we did more for young people, maybe people will have more children….

Actually most Japanese women I talk to want 2-3 children, but many cannot for financial reasons.

By nature, women give birth to children, not men, so more women in decision making positions including Government and Parliament will bring children’s issues into decision making.

As an example, child birth costs in Japan are not covered by health insurance, while they are everywhere in Europe. There are many other open and hidden costs of having children in Japan compared to Europe.

We discussed some of these issues at the recent Ludwig Boltzmann Forum on women’s development and leadership, which I organized here in Tokyo http://www.boltzmann.com/forum/2016-womens-leadership/

What is holding women back in Japan?

Gerhard Fasol:

The most important factor are mindsets. The key to give more power to women in Japan is to change mindsets, to change the way of thinking.

As an example, the Prefecture of Kanagawa in 2015 created the “woman act” committee, under the slogan “women, step by step, take more responsibility”, however this committee both in 2015 and also in 2016 consisted of 11 men – not one single woman leader: http://www.pref.kanagawa.jp/osirase/0050/womanact/
Why not create a committee of 11 women leaders to lead efforts on gender equality in Kanagawa Prefecture? Why not promote women to leadership positions in Kanagawa Prefecture?

Another factor holding women back are the very long working hours common in Japan. As an example, at a recent EU-Japan gender equality conference, the Danish polician Astrid Krag, who was Minister for Health and Prevention at the age of 29 – 32 years, and who has two children, explaned that in the Parliament of Denmark the decision was taken not to take any vote after 4pm, so that Members of Parliament can be back home by 5pm, collect children from daycare centers in time etc. So in the Parliament of Denmark it is guaranteed that Members of Parliament can leave at 4pm. In today’s Japan such action is unthinkable, age 29 – with young children – would be unbelievably young for a Government Minister in Japan. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrid_Krag

Late-night or overnight sessions at work, including Parliament, makes life incredibly difficult in Japan for parents with young children, doubtlessly contributing to the small number of women in top positions in Japan.

Who are the role models?

Gerhard Fasol:

Despite these difficulties, there is a substantial number of very strong women in Japan, who have worked their way up into leadership positions.

Examples are the Mayor of Yokohama, Ms Fumiko Hayashi, who succeeded in a very distinguished business career, and the Mayor of Tokyo, Ms Yuriko Koike, who won the election on her own as an independent candidate, because she did not receive the backing of her party.

Bill Emmott:

That is great, as I have now interviewed Koike-san and plan to interview Hayashi-san during my next visit. Personally, as well as admiring women who have made it to the top in the tough political world I also admire and am interested in women succeeding as entrepreneurs and as executives in entrepreneurial companies. By starting and building their own companies, women can really create new realities, showing that new organisational cultures are possible in a Japanese context. Do you agree?

Gerhard Fasol:

Japan has quite a number of women entrepreneurs and business leaders, Ms Tomoko Namba, Founder of Japan’s Internet company DeNA come to mind,
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/南場智子
as well as Ms Fujiyo Ishiguro, Founder and CEO of the NetYear Group:
http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=867078&privcapId=717286

Science is also an interesting area. We have women leaders in Japanese medicine, I invited some for the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum on women’s development and leadership http://www.boltzmann.com/forum/2016-womens-leadership/

Kyushu University has one single full Professor of Medicine Professor Kiyoko Kato, she explains the situation of women in Japanese Obstetrics and Gynecology here http://www.boltzmann.com/forum/2016-womens-leadership/kiyoko-kato-obstetrics-gynecology/
while Professor Kyoko Nomura has built a center to support women medical doctors and women medical researchers at Teikyo University. She spoke about the situation facing women in medicine in Japan here: http://www.boltzmann.com/forum/2016-2/kyoko-nomura/

Towards the future

Gerhard Fasol:

The tantalizing issue is that the key is to change mindsets, and thats at the same time superficially easy, but at the same time incredibly hard. Thus outstanding strong Japanese women – and there are many of them – have a choice either to work their way up to the top in Japan, start their own company in Japan, or on the other hand to move to Europe, elsewhere in Asia, or to the USA – I know several strong Japanese women, including several Japanese medical doctors, who have moved to Europe or USA. They might of course come back to Japan at a later stage bringing global views and experiences to leadership positions in Japan in the future. I am very optimistic for the future of Japan – sometimes I wish things were moving faster.

Bill Emmott:

I agree entirely. I see Japanese women as both victims of the slow speed of change and as solutions to it. They really could make the Japan of 2030 look quite different, in all sorts of ways. It will be fascinating to watch.

Bill Emmott and Gerhard Fasol met at the restaurant MusMus in Tokyo

left to right: Gerhard Fasol, Ms Atsuko Konta (Manager of the restaurant MusMus), Bill Emmott
left to right: Gerhard Fasol, Ms Atsuko Konta (Manager of the restaurant MusMus), Bill Emmott

Copyright (c) 2017 by Bill Emmott and Gerhard Fasol. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Japan Market Entry Leadership M&A

Volkswagen Suzuki divorce – lessons for partnership strategies in Japan

“Mr Suzuki didn’t want to be a VW employee” (Prof. Dudenhoeffer via Bloomberg)

Partnerships in Japan without meeting of minds, trust, and communication don’t work

by Gerhard Fasol, All Rights Reserved. 18 September 2015

On 9 December 2009, Volkswagen-CEO Mr Martin Winterkorn and Suzuki-CEO Mr Osamu Suzuki at a press conference in Tokyo announced a “comprehensive partnership”.

A Reuters photograph shows a beaming and smiling Mr Winterkorn, while Mr Suzuki looks the other way, avoiding Mr Winterkorn’s eyes. Mr Winterkorn and Mr Suzuki don’t seem to have any language in common, therefore can’t talk to each other. Wall Street Journal writes that details of their “comprehensive partnership” will be negotiated later, in weeks or in months. Looking back it is obvious that these negotiations never were successful.

The Volkswagen-Suzuki partnership soon lead to publicly discussed disputes between both partners, culminating in Osamu Suzuki” blog post “Suzuki and Wagen now and the way forward” (スズキとワーゲンの今とこれから) which sealed the fate of the partnership in the most public way possible.

Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, Director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University Duisburg-Essen according to Bloomberg, summarized: “Mr Suzuki didn’t want to be a Volkswagen employee, and that’s understandable”.

Read a detailed account and analysis of the Suzuki-Volkswagen partnership, its divorce, and the financial details here.

Lessons to learn from the Suzuki Volkswagen divorce: communication & respect

  • “Comprehensive partnership” without meeting of minds does not work
  • Partnerships are hard when CEOs on both sides don’t have any language in common, thus can’t talk to each other
  • Hidden agendas destroy trust
  • Without trust partnerships don’t work
  • Processes and methods (e.g. acquisitions of minor players all over Europe) successful in Europe often don’t work in Japan
  • Partnerships without respect both ways don’t work
  • Renault and Carlos Ghosn (at least before the 2018/2019 scandals), and Daimler with Mitsubishi-Fuso-Trucks show us how to build an Japanese-European car company alliance, Daimler (with Mitsubishi Motors) and Volkswagen (with Suzuki) show us how it does not work

Read our analysis in detail here: Suzuki Volkswagen “Wagen-san” divorce: how not to partner & lessons to learn.

Copyright 2015 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Economics Leadership

Japanese management – why is it not global? What should we do? asks Masamoto Yashiro

Masamoto Yashiro: Japan leader and Chairman emeritus of Esso, Exxon, Citibank, Shinsei Bank

Masamoto Yashiro at brainstorming by President of Tokyo University

Masamoto Yashiro’s talk notes by Gerhard Fasol

Masamoto Yashiro is a legend in Japan’s banking and energy industry. He built Shinsei Bank from the ashes of the bankrupt Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, and served in leadership positions (Chairman, CEO, Board Member) in Esso, Exxon, Citibank, Shinsei Bank, and the China Construction Bank.

Tonight a small group of about 60 people were invited to join Masamoto Yashiro and the President of The University of Tokyo, Professor Junichi Hamada, for an evening workshop and brainstorming event about globalization of Japanese corporations at The University of Tokyo. Participating were a selected group of The University of Tokyo graduates, faculty, and selected alumni from several elite Universities associated with The University of Tokyo, and currently working at major Japanese trading companies, Ministry of Finance, financial firms, global consulting firms and other global firms.

After The University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada’s introductory words, we heard Masamoto Yashiro’s fantastic overview of how he thinks Japanese companies need to change and why, followed by Q&A, then by a brainstorming session in the format of changing groups of four on about 15 separate tables between the participants, and then followed by buffet and drinks reception.

Topic of the evening was the globalization issues of Japanese corporations, also discussed in our work about Japan’s Galapagos issues:

About Masamoto Yashiro (八城政基)

Wikipedia pages:

Masamoto Yashiro graduated from Kyoto University (Law Faculty) in 1954 and The University of Tokyo Graduate School in 1958, and entered Standard Vacuum Oil Company. In 1964 he became Director of Esso, and later Special Assistant to the Chairman of Standard Oil New Jersey, and in 1986 President of Esso Sekyu KK.
In 1989, Masamoto Yashiro moved to become Japan representative of Citibank NA, and Chairman of Citicorp Japan in 1997.
IN 1999, Masamoto Yashiro became CEO of New LTCB Partners CV, the company emerging from the bankruptcy proceedings of the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, and was in charge of the revival of LTCB as Chairman and CEO, with investment from Ripplewood Investment Fund, creating today’s Shinsei Bank.
He resigned as CEO of Shinsei Bank in 2005, but returned as Chairman and CEO in 2008, from which he retired in 2010.
In 2004, he was appointed Director of the China Construction Bank.

Masamoto Yashiro
Masamoto Yashiro (former Chairman of Shinsei Bank, Chairman of Citicorp Japan and President of Esso Japan, Director of China Construction Bank)

Japanese management – why is it not global? What should we do? asks Masamoto Yashiro

Note: this record was reviewed personally by Masamoto Yashiro, who made some corrections.

Japanese management – why is it not global? Outline:

  • Some people may argue that Japanese companies need not be global. Why?
  • We must accept that English is an essential tool for international communication.
  • Some impediments that Japanese companies face:
    1. The traditional approach is not effective in developing future leaders.
    2. The Japanese-style board structure is not appropriate to ensure sound corporate governance.
    3. Management structure needs to be changed to suit a global business.
    4. The current limited role of foreign nationals in the management and board structure
  • What should be the most important corporate objective?
  • Concluding remarks
Masamoto Yashiro (right hand side) presenting and President of Tokyo University Junichi Hamada (sitting on the left) listening
Masamoto Yashiro (standing at the podium on the right hand side) presenting and President of Tokyo University Junichi Hamada (sitting on the left) listening

Summary of Masamoto Yashiro’s talk:

Some people may argue that Japanese companies need not be global. Why?

Some superficial discussions about “Japanese companies” contrast “permanent employment” and excellent pensions in Japanese companies with job-hopping and bad pensions in other countries, however, Masamoto Yashiro points out that during his time at Esso and later Exxon, most employees stayed 20-30 years at Exxon, and received excellent pensions, so “permanent longterm employment” or pension system has nothing to do with globalization, and Japanese leading companies are no different than leading companies in other countries in these respects. We have to search elsewhere for the causes of current problems most Japanese companies are facing.

Around 1990, about 20 years ago, Japan was extremely self-satisfied by the successful reconstruction after the war and economic growth and success, and Japan felt that Japan does not have anything to learn from others. This time is now over, Japan is in stagnation, and many Japanese companies are not globally competitive, and Japan and Japanese companies must change to become competitive again.

We must accept that English is an essential tool for international communication.

Masamoto Yashiro is convinced that Japanese companies must globalize, and must make English a business tool. He feels it is a great disadvantage that Japanese political and corporate leaders, when participating in international conference, such as Davos, mostly need to use interpreters, and this reduces their global impact and exchange of ideas dramatically.

Some impediments that Japanese companies face:

1. The traditional approach is not effective in developing future leaders.

The traditional approach in Japan is to rotate career employees every two years between totally different functions, in order to “develop well-rounded managers”. The result of this process are non-experts, which are not expert in anything.

As an example, during his leadership at Shinsei Bank, Masamoto Yashiro once requested a meeting with the IT Department leadership. To his great surprise 60 people turned up for the meeting (he had expected 2 or 3). He asked the Department Chief for particular information, and he could not understand the question and could not answer, same result one management lower. Only at the third layer from the top, Masamoto Yashiro could get his question answered – the top two management layers could not answer his questions about the work of the IT Department.
Quite generally there often far too many people at meetings at Japanese companies.

When at Exxon in the US as a relatively junior manager, Masamoto Yashiro, was asked about his opinion regarding the termination of a particular joint-venture relationship with a mid-size petroleum refining company in Japan known then as ゼネラル石油精製 who had financial trouble. Exxon had a 50% interest in this company and its relations goes back to very late 1950’s. In late 1985 at the Exxon Management Committee meeting in New York, all other managers favored to terminate the relationship with this joint venture partner in trouble in order to limit financial exposure, while Masamoto Yashiro argued that it was better to support the troubled partner and assist him with Exxon staff and expertise to return to profitability. To his great surprise the Chairman and his superiors at Exxon sided with his recommendation and changed their previous position following his advice. Generally he felt that in the USA his opinion as a Japanese manager was highly valued, because it provided a different view point.

In his experience in Japan the situation is totally opposite: Japanese senior management generally does not listen to junior employees, and particularly not to foreign nationals in the rare cases that there are any in Japanese companies. In fact, the most frequent question senior management at Japanese banks ask, is not for original ideas or creativity from junior staff, but instead: “What do other banks do?”

This deplorable Japanese situation even contrasts strongly with the situation in China, where Masamoto Yashiro was a Director of the China Construction Bank: in China leaders moved from Government agencies and Ministries to Banks, and to private industries and back.

Generally Masamoto Yashiro expressed the view, that the development of leaders is totally inadequate in Japan, and is better in China than in Japan.

In addition to the inadequate development of leaders in Japanese companies, the number of foreign nationals in management, Board and other leadership positions in Japanese companies is minute, there are no programs to attract and develop foreign nationals in leadership positions. On the contrary, when Shinsei Bank showed losses in the aftermath of the Lehman shock, Japan’s Financial Services Agencies ordered that Shinsei Bank must pay all foreign nationals on exactly the same pay levels as Japanese employees. Since foreign nationals typically have much higher schooling and other costs in Japan than Japanese staff, essentially all non-Japanese staff at Shinsei Bank left soon after.

Leaders can make a real difference.

How leaders are selected is of utmost importance.

At Exxon, senior management devote specially reserved time to identify suitable candidates for future leadership positions, “who can potentially be our CEO in the future”. The selected candidates are given special attention and special opportunities to train and develop their leadership abilities. Masamoto Yashiro has never heard about such special leadership development programs at Japanese companies.

2. The Japanese-style board structure is not appropriate to ensure sound corporate governance.

In Japan, Board Members are almost always managing employees of the company, so the question arises who’s interests they represent on the Board. Do they represent the interests of the institution (the company), the employees or the interests of the shareholders.

In Japan often the CEO of the company after his retirement remains as a Chairman for several years, keeps his office, secretary and company car, and creates large other expenses. Why? Probably because Japanese CEO pay is too low, so that the CEO does not wish to retire gracefully.

This is totally different in Western companies where retired CEOs leave the company and have no further role in the company in most cases. Masamoto Yashiro mentioned the retired Chairman of Exxon, who after his retirement naturally travelled by taxi. In Japanese it would be unthinkable according to Masamoto Yashiro that the retired Chairman of a major corporation would travel by ordinary taxi cab like ordinary people (Masamoto Yashiro did not mention subway or bus, or driving his own personal car….)

3. Management structure needs to be changed to suit a global business.

In non-Japanese companies in almost all cases have a thorough performance evaluation system. When performance is evaluated, the resulting distribution must be similar to a normal distribution, i.e. with considerable part of employees at the high end and substantial numbers at the low end of the performance curve. If this is not done, top performers cannot be sufficiently rewarded and will leave the company, while low performers would hold the whole company back.

In most Japanese companies on the other hand, if a thorough performance evaluation is done at all, in most cases a huge proportion of employees are just evaluated as average, satisfying performance, without clear distinctions between top and bottom performance.

Promotion and salary on the other hand in traditional Japanese companies is purely according to age, which leads to many problems, and causes under-performance of the whole company.

These problems are increased by the fact, that Japanese companies typically do not give the same evaluation or opportunities to non-Japanese nationals.

4. The current limited role of foreign nationals in management and board structure.

Even in the rare cases where foreign nationals are employed by Japanese companies in management or leadership positions e.g. in foreign subsidiaries, often junior Japanese employees which much lower rank and local knowledge do not respect and bypass non-Japanese management, and there is typically no fair evaluation system, evaluating Japanese and non-Japanese management according to the same standards of performance.

The change of this mindset (to keep non-Japanese out of management or leadership positions at Japanese corporations) is extremely important.

The change of mindset (to keep non-Japanese out of management or leadership positions at Japanese corporations) is not difficult at all and can be done quickly.

What should be the most important corporate objective?

When considering corporate governance it is important to develop a view on the objectives. When discussing the interest of shareholders, it is important to ask “which shareholders”? The interests of large shareholders who may own 10% or 20% of the corporation, or the interests of individual smaller shareholders? Other stake holders’ interests also need to be taken into account.

In general, Masamoto Yashiro expressed the view that both the institution’s (the company’s) and the shareholders interest are best served by stable long-term growth of the company. He mentioned as an example Exxon which showed triple-A rating and annual rate of growth of 15%-17% for over 100 years.

Concluding remarks.

Around 1990 Japan was self-satisfied with the economic success, and Japanese people thought that they have nothing to learn from anybody. This time is over now, and Japan and Japanese corporations much change to regain growth and to become competitive again.

Professor Junichi Hamada, President of The University of Tokyo, listening to Masamoto Yashiro's talk
Professor Junichi Hamada, President of The University of Tokyo, listening to Masamoto Yashiro’s talk

Japanese management – Q&A with Masamoto Yashiro (selected questions)

Q. You want Japanese companies to change. What are the good things you want Japanese companies to keep?

A. Loyalty. Consideration to stakeholders.

Q. Your work at Shinsei.

A. Communication was most important. When Masamoto Yashiro took over at Shinsei, the Bank has just gone through bankruptcy proceedings, so the moral was extremely low. Masamoto Yashiro had to reestablish optimism and moral. To do so, communication is most important. Masamoto Yashiro held weekly telephone conferences and every employee who wanted to could participate: from top management to cleaning staff/janitors. Everyone could come forward with his concerns.

Another fact was that there were so many traditions which made no sense. For example, female employees with University degrees would wear their own clothes, while female employees without University degrees would need to wear company uniform. There was an issue that lower paid staff had difficulty to afford appropriate clothing for bank work – so Masamoto Yashiro decided to award a clothing allowance to employees so that they could afford appropriate clothing.

Q. Many Japanese companies cannot hire young employees, because they cannot fire/discharge non-performing older employees.

A. Firing/discharge of non-performing employees can be done by paying adequate severance compensation. Considering that a non-performing employee who remains on the payroll for several years in addition to salary also creates a lot of secondary costs, it is typically cheaper to pay an appropriate severance package, and most people are happy to leave with an appropriate severance package, and often move to a more suitable position at a different company – this helps everyone. Of course some companies want to save money at all cost, and fire employees without adequate package and that can lead to problems.

Q. Having worked much of your career at global oil or energy companies, what to you think about Japanese oil companies?

A. Japanese oil companies are not really oil companies, because they do not invest enough upstream.

Q. Leadership?

A. Japanese companies must change. The mindset must change.

Q. University of Tokyo?

A. University of Tokyo at the moment I think is ranked on 30th or 40th position globally in most rankings, maybe top in Japan or in Asia, but that does not count, we need to look at the whole world, not just Japan or Asia. I think University of Tokyo should make the changes necessary be at least in the top ten globally. To get into the top ten globally, University of Tokyo needs to hire outstanding Professors where the best students from the whole world want to come and study. To get the best Researchers and Professors University of Tokyo has to pay what is necessary. Does not matter which language, English or Japanese or any other language. No outstanding student from other parts of the world wants to study Japanese first before studying at University of Tokyo. University of Tokyo should make the necessary changes so that the best students from top Universities globally also want to come to University of Tokyo.

Mr Masamoto Yashiro’s talk and Q&A were followed by a brainstorming session in groups among all participants of four about globalization, and global leadership development.

Read more about Masamoto Yashiro

Copyright 2013-2015 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
energy Japan Market Entry Leadership

Sir Stephen Gomersall on UK-Japan business and globalization

Sir Stephen Gomersall: former British Ambassador to Japan and Chairman of Hitachi Europe

Sir Stephen Gomersall on UK-Japan business and globalization: Globalization and the art of tea

Hitachi – Japan’s most iconic corporation – under the leadership of Chairman & CEO, Hiroaki Nakanishi embarked on the “Smart Transformation Project” to globalize, to face a world where value creation has moved from manufacturing to innovation and solving customer’s problems, and to overcome long years of stagnation and low profits or losses, despite strong technology capabilities.

One of the most important brains behind Hitachi’s reinvention and globalization is Sir Stephen Gomersall. After a long and successful career as diplomat in the British Foreign Service, culminating in the years as British Ambassador to Japan 1999-2004, Sir Stephen joined Hitachi in 2004 as the first foreigner responsible for proposing and implementing Hitachi’s overseas regional strategy. Later Sir Stephen became responsible for all of Hitachi’s business in Europe as Chairman and Chief Executive of Hitachi Europe, and in addition Sir Stephen also served as Director on the Board of all Hitachi 2011-2014 overseeing all of Hitachi Group’s business as Board Director. With Sir Stephen’s leadership Hitachi achieved major business breakthroughs in Europe.

On March 5, 2015, Sir Stephen gave the “Princess Chichibu Memorial Lecture to the Japan British Society at Ueno Gakuen University in Tokyo with deep insights on Japan-British relations, on comparison of Britain’s and Japan’s position in the world, and on the challenges of globalization facing Japan and Japanese corporations – in particular Hitachi.

Sir Stephen is very clear that there is no alternative to globalization: “Globalisation poses tough challenges for Japanese companies, but is the only way forward”.

Read Sir Stephen’s lecture here:

Sir Stephen Gomersall: “Globalisation and the art of tea” (click the link above to read the full text of Sir Stephen’s Princess Chichibu Memorial Lecture)

Sir Stephen Gomersall

Stephen Gomersall was British Ambassador to Japan from 1999-2004, and Hitachi’s Chief Executive for Europe and subsequently Board Director from 2004-2014. He is now Adviser to the CEO, Hitachi Ltd.

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Economics Japan Market Entry Leadership

High-tech market entry to Japan: new opportunities versus old mistakes (Stanford University lecture)

Success stories vs failure. Why some foreign companies succeed in Japan’s high tech sector, and why others fail.

High-tech market entry to Japan: Stanford University Japan Technology Center lecture by Gerhard Fasol

New opportunities vs old mistakes – foreign companies in Japan’s high-tech markets
Stanford University lecture, given on October 28th, 1999

This lecture was given on October 28th, 1999 to an audience of Stanford University faculty, students, post-docs and alumni working in Silicon Valley firms. Although this lecture is now some time ago, much of what was said still is true today. As an example, our recognition of the interplay of “old Japan” vs “new Japan” is still extremely relevant today, with old traditional corporations coexisting with new venture start-ups, some of which, like SoftBank and Rakuten have grown to very large size even on a global scale.

Stanford University Japan Technology Center lecture: outline

(note that some statistical data have changed since this lecture was given, the main change is the growth of China, for example today Japan is not the second, but the third largest economy after China).

  • Why is Japan important?
    • Japan is the world’s second largest market
    • 60%-70% of Asia’s economy is in Japan
    • 10%-20% of the world’s internet/telecom/e-commerce markets are in Japan
    • Some important recent high-tech breakthroughs come from Japan, e.g. blue LED and lasers)
    • For US corporations Japan is in general the most important/largest foreign market & competitor & partner
  • “Old Japan” versus “New Japan”
    • The “old official Japan” may fade into irrelevance, large sections (60%) of Japanese society were excluded from equal access to the “old Japan”, e.g. women, Korean residents, foreign nationals, “half”-people….
    • A “new Japan” is emerging: e.g. Nichia, SoftBank, Don Quichote, etc
    • Education is a major problem
    • Foreign corporations should tune into the “new Japan” new
  • Opportunities which never existed before
    • Foreign corporations for the first time ever can hire top Japanese performers
    • For the first time ever foreign corporations can acquire Japanese corporations on a meaningful scale
  • Some typical mistakes of foreign companies in Japan
    • Manage Asia from Singapore or Hong-Kong (thats like managing All-Europe operations from Tel-Aviv or Reykjavik)
    • Hire the wrong people (wrong Japan-CEO, wrong peronnel, e.g. too much emphasis on English vs true performance or technical excellence)
    • Partnerships or joint ventures with wrong partners or wrong expectations
    • Enter Japan, build R&D labs etc without first planning strategy and aims
    • Forget to do the homework (there is Gigabytes of information you better learn about Japan before you start, training on the job increases risks)
    • Be too fascinated by cherry blossoms & be too optimistic or too pessimistic about Japan
    • Taking things for granted in Japan, which are not:
      • brand recognition
      • Japanese consumer & customer habits and needs
      • Assume global corporations have the same depth as you are used to elsewhere in the world

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