Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) has acquired a 24 per cent share in China Post & Capital Fund Management, and has dispatched a non-executive director to the Chinese company.
Jason Tan, director of financial services and banking, PSD Group, who spent five years in Tokyo doing financial services recruitment, says: “Historically, Japanese financial institutions are renown for being good on their own soil, but in the Asian and global markets, merely bit-part players.”
This is the first time SMBC has invested in a non-Japanese asset management firm, and it was attracted by the growth of this sector in China.
Tan says Japanese firms ideally prefer “candidates with Japanese language ability and adaptability to the bank’s culture”. “When you walk into one of the Japanese offices in Shanghai, you will automatically be taken to a different world. The presentation and etiquette are very much aligned with what you see in Japan.”
This strong culture could actually prevent Chinese executives from working there; it is rare for foreigners to hold senior roles in Japanese financial institutions. “There is a perception of how Japanese banks operate in China. In summary, process and procedure are driven with strict discipline, and there’s minimal staff empowerment, slow career progression and below-market salaries,” says Tan.
There is also a potential additional hiring challenge. “A small percentage of banking candidates would openly say no to Japanese banks for historical reasons,” says Tan.
He adds: “Japanese banks faces a prolonged difficulty in recruitment, especially here in China. We have seen Sony, Olympus and Nissan with foreign executives. Perhaps this is worth thinking about for the Japanese banks, if they really want to take on the world.”