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Can you escape the credit crunch by working at a J-bank?

Japanese banks have felt less of the credit crunch fallout than their foreign counterparts, but does that make them a more desirable place to ride out the sub-prime storm? Recruiters say the answer to that is yes and no.

Kyoungjin Lim at Pinnacle Consulting says one negative of life at a Japanese bank is the traditionally lower compensation. Richard Fukuda at Hays adds that this is especially true in the back and middle office, but says Japanese banks are more flexible when it comes to compensating front-office roles such as sales traders.

Alan Graves, division manager at Robert Half financial services group, says local banks still struggle to attract talent away from foreign firms due to generally lower compensation packages. “Also, culturally many Japanese staff who have worked in foreign investment firms know that they would not be able to accomplish what they want to achieve in their career by working in a very structured Japanese management style,” he adds

However, Fukuda believes Japanese firms have become much more international in recent years by hiring a greater number of Japanese employees with international experience. He says a J-bank job puts you in the decision-making centre of the firm’s business, rather than in a subsidiary waiting for approvals from overseas.

Keiichi Morita at Hays says domestic banks are more reluctant than the foreign banks to lay off people. He adds that there is more flexibility regarding career specialisation within Japanese banks, meaning when a business line is struggling employees are often reassigned elsewhere instead of being let go.

Lim believes time at a Japanese bank will strengthen a candidate’s CV. “Many foreign banks welcome people who work successfully at J-banks, especially for sales types of roles in sell-side firms. It proves you can do more than only speak the language,” she says.

What are the chances of landing a job at a local bank? Morita says although hiring has been generally cautious since the Japanese financial year started in April, there are still many opportunities available and banks are also keen to hire non-Japanese bankers if they have a strong skill set.

But be warned, they want more than just language skills: “Inevitably they prefer fluent Japanese skills and an awareness of Japanese office culture,” Morita says.

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