The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2022 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

Asia: Is Japan still a tough nut to crack?

The expulsion of Citigroup Private Bank from Japan in 2004 was merely the most dramatic of a string of failures among foreign firms that have too often misread the attitudes of investors and regulators. Now, as Japan’s economic recovery creates new millionaires and wealthy baby boomers prepare to retire, several foreign firms are trying again to crack this difficult but lucrative market. Lawrence White went to Tokyo to ask their CEOs what it takes to succeed in private banking in Japan.

SG conducts a sophisticated repertoire


THE CREATION OF a joint venture by Merrill Lynch and Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group came as something of a shock to many participants in the Japanese wealth management market, including Junji Okabayashi, Merrill Lynch’s head of global private client Japan and chief executive of the new venture.

“I was surprised but very positive when I heard the news,” he says. “Just over two years ago we in Japan were asked to make a growth plan: business was steady, but global leadership asked us how we could achieve steeper growth. I said that the key would be to get closer relationships with Japanese banks, partly because Japanese people store such a high proportion of their assets with these institutions. There was at the time a developing sense of urgency in the private banking market here, since the baby boomer generation are retiring and many of them will qualify as high-net-worth individuals given their huge pension deposits. Merrill Lynch and MTFG happened to share views on the wealth management business in Japan, found common ground, and that was a trigger to form our business alliance.

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree