Leaders Voice; Words to Inspire | Nikkei special edition

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Kentaro Kiso(Barclays Securities Japan Ltd.)

*Information accurate as of time of publication.

Grabbing My Chance

Kentaro Kiso,
Barclays Securities Japan Ltd.

Embracing Change and Gaining Experience

When I was at elementary school, my father's work took us to a suburban area in Michigan of the US for three years, which gave me my first taste of life overseas. During my junior high and high school years in Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, I played tennis, and at university I got hooked on stage design. Wanting to head overseas again after graduation, my job hunt focused on foreign financial institutions.

I joined JPMorgan, which was a great environment where young employees were free to say what they wanted to do. The other side of the coin was that responsibility was piled onto me, and I made plenty of gut-wrenching mistakes.

Fortunately that gave me courage, and I learned my own weaknesses and limits. Once I had gained a certain amount of experience, overseas branches placed their trust in me as the go-to guy on Japanese matters.

Around that time, the chance of a London posting came along. People around me were against it, saying that I would be throwing away everything I had worked for and that staying in Tokyo would be safer, but I wanted to grab my chance while I was still young, so I headed to the UK when I was 32.

I was engaged in the establishment of the Japan desk in London, and became responsible for public-sector business throughout Europe. Since this work could not be done alone, I depended on teamwork, and my only option was to steadily accumulate results that would build relationships of trust with others. It was a question of give and take, but I went about things so that I gave about five times for every take.

After working at JPMorgan for more than a decade, I heard about Barclays Securities. It was making waves as a dynamic, up-and-coming financial institution. Wanting to put my successes to use in a new environment, I decided to move to its London headquarters.

At the time, crises were sweeping through Greece, Ireland, and the EU, and even now I think it was an amazing experience to be in the midst of that turmoil, working with financial authorities and institutions in those countries to respond to the crises.

I was once asked why a Japanese person would be involved in European finances. I think it's because people from non-European countries can bring an outsider's perspective. I had been involved with the Asian currency crisis, so I felt that the crises arising in Europe were rooted in the same issues, and I think I was able to assess the situation objectively, from a standpoint different from that of the parties actually involved.

Kentaro Kiso(Barclays Securities Japan Ltd.)

Empathy Works Everywhere

I was appointed as president of Barclays Securities Japan in 2016. Since the company recognized the experience and insights I had amassed over many years working abroad, I tried to emphasize communication, both domestically and internationally, and internally and externally.

Rather than feeling like staff in an outlying branch in the Far East, I would like employees in Japan to feel like members of a global enterprise with a good grasp of management intent. To this end, it is important that they don't shut themselves away in Tokyo, but rather stay in constant touch with the London headquarters, always consulting and discussing.

When you are young, you grow by eagerly repeating the process of getting involved in projects and seeing them through to implementation. It's a series of struggles, but I really want young people to savor the sense of achievement that comes in the end. My role is to give people such opportunities and provide support.

It may be comfortable to live in the familiar environment of Japan, but people should take off overseas while they are young. They will frequently experience situations where they can't communicate as intended, and where they are not understood. They will often think things are unfair or feel frustrated, but I want them to experience overcoming these barriers while they are young.

Life overseas taught me the importance of empathy. Since people have all kinds of ideas and values, in talking with them it is vital to put yourself in their shoes and empathize. If you can do this, you will be able to make friends and exercise leadership no matter where you go.

Kentaro Kiso(Barclays Securities Japan Ltd.)

Studiousness is the Key to Growth

Artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies are being introduced to the financial sector, and the number of tasks that only humans can perform is shrinking. Things that used to take us 10 years can now be accomplished by young people in just two or three.

I have now turned 50, and to survive in this industry I always think that I need to humbly keep studying without hindering young people. Without humility, you cannot advance. If you stand in one place, you may not be needed tomorrow.

To make yourself necessary, it is important to keep tackling new challenges. I believe that people can grow no matter how old they are.