CLSA makes a Japanese breakthrough
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CLSA makes a Japanese breakthrough

Asian research brokerage CLSA has not found it easy to move into new markets. But after costly forays into non-Asian countries it has started to expand again. Its decision to open in Tokyo was impeccably timed and well executed.

Rob Morrison

WHEN CLSA CHIEF executive Rob Morrison, clad in a corporate blue yakata, broke the top of the traditional sake barrel at the closing reception of CLSA's inaugural Japan Forum, he looked very happy. Well he might – the dazzling drum displays, sumptuous buffet and free-flowing Asahi beer at Tokyo's Gonpachi restaurant marked not only the end of a successful conference but also a good year in Japan for the French-controlled, locally managed Asian broker. Just when it seemed that everybody else had given up on Japan ever emerging from recovery and with the Nikkei scraping along at some of its lowest ever levels, Morrison (pictured above) and his colleagues quietly slipped into the market, buying a team of 15 from a battle-scarred WestLB. It was not a sudden decision, though.

"We'd been looking at doing something in Japan for a long time," says Morrison, "once we'd decided to focus on Asian markets. The clients are basically the same: we're seeing a growing wave of investment in hedge funds that were long/short Asia including Japan."

The problem for CLSA, says Morrison, was that the traditional investment banking-led model for foreign banks in Japan would never work for CLSA's research-driven product.

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