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Nomura in Tokyo: infighting or ironing out?

Since its acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ Asian and European arms in 2008, Nomura has been keen to push its global credentials, and this is having a huge impact on its HR policies.

Ex-Lehman people, for example, have taken on many top positions at the firm: out of 23 senior managing directors appointed in November, only four were Japanese.

But how are these changes going down with employees in Tokyo? The simple answer seems to be that some long-severing Nomura staff resent the more aggressive working environment recently adopted by their merged firm. But any immediate damage to morale might not be enough to dent the bank’s longer-term ambitions of creating a cohesive company culture.

Short-term pain

One Tokyo headhunter with knowledge of the bank, who asked not to be named, says there is enough unrest at Nomura HQ to generate quite a bit of staff movement now that markets are improving. “There are lots of people, on both the Japanese and non-Japanese sides, looking to get out,” he adds.

One Japanese executive, quoted recently in the Financial Times, says Nomura’s culture has been “destroyed” by bringing on board former Lehman businesses. The FT article says some Japanese staff are unhappy that foreign managers put profits before traditional Nomura values such as knowledge, experience and customer service.

Will it work out in the end?

Warwick Pearmund, a consultant at recruitment firm Slate Consulting, agrees there is still some dissatisfaction in Nomura Tokyo, but says overall the integration has gone far better than expected. “Given how different Nomura and Lehman were, everyone knew it would be lengthy and not without some pain,” he says.

Pearmund adds that teams from both sides are beginning to work together. “Globally, Nomura’s business is doing very well as a result.”

And despite the grumblings of some within Nomura, it is unlikely that life in its headquarters will mirror that of a Wall Street firm any time soon. “The culture of the Tokyo operations is still very much Japanese,” comments the anonymous recruiter.

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