Nikko puts Brit in charge of international business

Appointment of Westerner follows gangster scandal, writes Liza Roberts

When Nikko Securities appointed British-born Michel de Carvalho head of all international operations and moved the division's headquarters from Tokyo to London last week, several Nikko employees were "surprised, to say the least," he said.

Coming as it did after Nikko's president, chairman, and six other executives resigned for alleged involvement in a gangster pay-off scandal, the appointment of a "foreigner" represented new thinking at one of Japan's so-called Big Four brokerages, Mr De Carvalho said.

Nikko's new president, Masashi Kaneko, said last week Mr De Carvalho will probably join Nikko's board. The British executive is likely to shake things up.

"Promoting a non-Japanese to head up international operations will bring them into the 21st Century," said John Langton, chief executive of the International Securities Market Association in Zurich.

Mr De Carvalho is the highest-ranking European ever at a Japanese financial institution, and one of only a few non-Japanese to hold such a lofty post. He's bringing some decidedly Western ideas to the job.

In one of his first moves, Mr De Carvalho sent a memo to his colleagues in other regional offices.

"Let's work towards a common bottom line, with a partnership spirit," Mr De Carvalho recalled dictating. The memo prompted a call from an employee in Nikko's New York office, who said he was pleased to be working under his first non-Japanese boss. "I said, no, I'm your first non-Japanese partner."

A team approach has been absent from Japanese firms, Mr De Carvalho said.

"They're very hierarchical. We have to get everyone thinking that we are working together. We cannot have an island mentality. That has to stop."

Nikko should also become a meritocracy, he said. "The top quality Nikkko employees need to have the same benefits they would at a Merrill Lynch." He explained that meant commensurate remuneration, "job satis- faction", and the ability to "jump ahead" of their peer group when they had earned it.

Still, that is not going to go down easily with the raft of middle managers who have spent their lifetimes in a more regimented culture, according to Sadao Sasaki, manager of Japan Export and Trade Consultants, a US consulting firm that advises Western business people on working in Japan.

"If he insists on using European or Western-style business practices, friction will definitely occur," he said.

While Mr De Carvalho and Mr Kaneko see Nikko's future in new ideas and international standards, the success of those changes will rely to some degree on employee acceptance. Mr De Carvalho wants to "replace size with smart", and emphasizes that no "planeloads" of people are coming to join him in London as it forms Nikko's new international base.

"Probably for the next five, 10, 15 years, investment banking is an Anglo- Saxon business," he said. "It's in the culture, and London has attracted some of the best people in the business."

Mr De Carvalho has worked in the City for almost 25 years, 15 of which were spent at Credit Suisse First Boston, where he worked on Eurobonds. From April 1995 until last week, he served as co-chairman of Nikko Europe, together with Mr Kaneko, and as global head of Nikko's capital markets outside Japan.

Mr De Carvalho does not speak Japanese, does not plan to learn it, and tells his colleagues not to bother trying. It just takes too long for an adult to learn to speak it well, he says.

A father of five, 53-year-old Mr De Carvalho is a former member of the British Olympic luge and ski teams - he competed in the 1968 Grenoble games, the 1972 Sapporo games, and the 1976 Innsbruck games. He still bikes up to 4,000 miles a year in preparation for races like the Tour de France one-day amateur competition.

"Smart" will be an important factor as Nikko works to surmount this year's gangster-scandal and tomorrow's structural changes. Japan's so-called "Big Bang" - which will open the domestic financial services industry to unprecedented foreign competition - is four years off, and it means Nikko's international operations need to add value.

Nikko's new president gives Mr De Carvalho his full support for importing Western ideas and a global perspective to the business. "We have much to learn from the opinions of US and European corporate managers," Mr Kaneko said last week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine