Japan’s financial sector is experiencing something of a slump. Despite the country’s prominence in other industries—from robotics to light industry—things are slowing down in this important region.
Since the 1990s, Japan’s GDP per capita has been on a slow downward trajectory, while fintech innovations such as cashless payment go largely unimplemented.
Nearby, though, China’s financial sector is experiencing rapid growth. Currently valued at $44 trillion, the market has benefitted from increased overseas investment, along with the quick uptake of new technologies.
In this shifting financial landscape, how do Japanese executives keep up?
Hoping to update their industry knowledge, Minoru Kosaka and Sosuke Ishida left Japan to undertake the Master of Science in Global Finance from HKUST and NYU Stern (MSGF).
With forward-looking modules, including fintech and behavioral finance, taught in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York, the MSGF program aims to equip students with the skills they need to make the most of new developments in the industry.
Minoru Kosaka (pictured below) had 17 years’ experience in asset management when he chose to undertake the post-experience master in finance program.
In his early career, Minoru worked in New York, re-entering Japan after a decade. Since his return, Minoru has worked for a US-based asset management firm in the heart of Tokyo, rising to the position of business developer.
Over the course of his career, Minoru came to recognize major shifts in the industry.
“The global financial market is going through major shifts, including the growing presence of Asia, particularly in Shenzhen and Shanghai. These cities are expected to be key financial centers globally as China’s local share markets open up for non-local investors,” he explains.
“I want to stay on the forefront of those changes to ensure I can remain flexible, adaptable, and competitive.”
For financial professionals in Japan, being competitive will likely mean embracing fintech—a subject which the MSGF program embraces.
Japan has been relatively slow on the uptake of new financial technologies. Its major banks have retained most of their brick-and-mortar branches, even though internet banking use has shot up by 40% in the last five years.
Mobile payments will be another tricky area for Japan to navigate. China’s Alipay is set to enter Japan’s mobile payments market before local developers can get their own platforms off the ground.
“As Japanese, we will have to seriously think about how to invest in the Chinese market given its long term potential,” Minoru notes.
Sosuke Ishida (pictured below) selected the HKUST-NYU Stern Program to bolster his technical knowledge.
Sosuke began his career as an IT engineer, but realized after just two years that his interests lay elsewhere. In 2003, he embarked on an MBA and found a new role in Tokyo’s financial sector as an equity derivatives broker.
After 13 years in this role, however, Sosuke was ready to update and expand on his expertise.
“I was only using a limited area of my knowledge in the course of my daily duties,” he recalls. “I felt it necessary to reorganize my financial knowledge, and observe market movements from a broader perspective.”
As Sosuke selected his master’s program, location was key. With its focus on Asia, the HKUST-Stern collaboration fit the bill perfectly.
“As Asian markets get more and more seamless, it’s useful to learn from local specialists throughout Asia,” Sosuke observes.
With this new-found market fluidity, some Japanese banks are expanding their reach to elsewhere in Asia, with the hope of overcoming a drop in profits.
Japan’s largest bank, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, has certainly used this strategy, acquiring shares in prominent banks across Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia since 2013.
By obtaining local knowledge from experts around Asia, Japanese professionals undertaking the MSGF program can put themselves in a better position to keep up with this trend for expansion.
A global network
For both Minoru and Sosuke, building a global network is vital for Japan’s financial professionals.
With an average of 18 nationalities per cohort, the MSGF program connects financial professionals from around the globe. Since the class has an average of 12 years of experience between them, they are able to draw on each other’s expertize.
“What is so unique about the MSGF program is that you get access to a faculty and alumni network from both schools,” Minoru explains. “Your classmates each have their own local knowledge to share.”
Sosuke agrees: “Since graduating, I have a network including financial practitioners from all over the world,” he says.
If Japan’s financial industry is to keep apace of new and disruptive trends, these connections may prove vital. Both alumni say that with their updated knowledge and expansive network, they are better prepared for the future.
“I strongly recommend this MSGF program especially to financial professionals in Japan,” Sosuke concludes.