Profile: Shigeru 'Sugar' Myojin - As sweet as it comes

David Callaway looks at the post-Travelers future for Salomon's richest trader. Below, Michael Lewis on great characters from the past

When Travelers Group completes its $9bn (pounds 6.3bn) purchase of Salomon later this year, Shigeru "Sugar" Myojin will receive Travelers shares worth $11.4m. But that won't be his biggest payment, even in the last 12 months.

Myojin, a trading legend from the City to Wall Street to Tokyo's Otemachi district, made $31.45m last year, including a $10m bonus and almost $19m in deferred pay-ments for his work as the point man for Salomon's mammoth proprietary trading business.

Now that Salomon will be merged with Travelers' Smith Barney into a global investment banking network, all eyes will be on Myojin to see if he can continue to work his high-wire trading magic under the sober regime of an insurance company.

"The worry people have is that he will be somehow forced to report to a risk-averse chief executive officer who may give him a hard time about some of the positions he wants to take," said Roy Smith, professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business. "I'm not so sure this is true. Why would they want to disturb him?"

Myojin, nicknamed "Sugar" by a colleague from Texas who couldn't pronounce "Shigeru", is no stranger to big money. As head of a business that risks millions for Salomon every day, betting on bonds and currencies, precious metals and coffee, he is also used to being in control.

He operates from Salomon's cavernous trading floor next to Victoria Station in London, making split-second decisions on whether to buy a load of German bonds or sell Japanese bond futures, and leads a group of some three dozen Salomon proprietary traders worldwide.

The 48-year-old trader, the last of a long line of super-traders that gave Salomon its cowboy reputation in the 1980s and earned then-chairman, John Gutfreund, the title of "King of Wall Street", almost retired two years ago.

Salomon, reluctant to lose its money machine, offered Myojin the position of vice-chairman and head of its proprietary trading business, its most important. He got a salary of $520,000 and an incentive package that tied his bonus to trading profits he generated, which means extra pay in tens of millions in good years.

For Myojin, there have been lots of good years. In 1991, profits from his trading are said to have accounted for almost half of Salomon's $919m in pre-tax profits. He also had big years in 1989 and 1990 and in the last 12 months has helped Salomon earn about $650m in trading for its own account.

While many big investment banks engage in proprietary trading, Salomon is known as the biggest gambler on the block. It takes extraordinary positions, mostly in bonds and bond futures.

Will it change under the leadership of Travelers' boss, Sandy Weill? Early signs suggest it will be business as usual. Under the new management board, Myojin will share responsibilities for global arbitrage with the old Salomon team, including Costas Kaplanis and Robert Stavis.

Analysts and former employees believe Weill will continue to give Myojin a free hand to risk money on big bets. Indeed, Travelers' deep pockets can cushion the blow from any losses that proprietary trading might develop, losses that historically made Salomon's quarterly earnings figures among the hardest to predict on Wall Street.

"He's the most important person to help Sandy Weill control the risk of proprietary trading," said Michael Holland, head of fund manager Holland & Co, who worked with Myojin at Salomon from 1989 to 1992. "They've got to keep him."

Myojin, dogged by the Japanese press for his wealth during his years with Salomon in Japan, doesn't give interviews - declining to talk even through a Salomon spokesman.

But despite a low profile, his eccentricities are legendary. While heading Salomon's Japanese office in the 1980s, he was known to carry a baseball bat and had a US army helmet on his desk. He rode a bicycle through the trading room and threw a cream pie at an employee.

Described as a slight man prone to outbursts of laughter and sudden mood swings, Myojin exerts strong control over his staff and expects the same sort of commitment to the markets from them as he has. Employees in Japan had to attend tennis weekends with him at Tokyo's fashionable Ariake club or parties at his home in the mountains. Staff prayed with him at a Shinto shrine on the day before quarterly expiration of futures contracts, when there is traditionally heavy trading.

Although the pressure of risking millions of dollars takes its toll on many traders, Myojin's staying power is attributed to his ability to keep a golfer's cool. "He is not someone who ignores risk. But he has an enormous amount of confidence in his ability to make money," Mr Holland said.

Myojin, born in Nagoya, Japan, got his first job in 1973 as a salesman for Yamaichi Securities, where he would call on clients by bicycle around Shizouka, west of Tokyo. After a two-year stint, he moved to London for Yamaichi. He transferred to Salomon in 1979 and returned to Tokyo to run the yen bond desk.

In 1985, the Japanese government allowed futures on Japanese bonds to be traded for the first time. Myojin travelled to New York to research how futures trading worked beforepreparing for the new products.

Myojin decided the futures were overpriced. He sold them and bought the underlying bonds, making enormous profits for Salomon and upsetting established Japanese firms such as Yamaichi and Nomura Securities.

He had intended to retire in 1995 to study Western art, but continued with Salomon and moved to London, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

As a member of the management committee of the new Salomon Smith Barney, Myojin will be a key player in making the new company work and making sure that Sandy Weill's biggest bet ever - that Salomon and Smith Barney can work together - doesn't become his most disastrous of all.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
i100
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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention