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Independent research comes to Japan

Japan seems a strange place to start an independent research firm. Costs are high, and the market, although large, is dominated by domestic mega banks and the international bulge bracket. For Rupert Eastwood, CEO and co-founder of Japaninvest Group, that is precisely the point.

“Big banks and brokers are looking for capital markets business,” says Eastwood. “They’re not interested in research per se. They just want analysts so they can wheel them in to see clients.”

Broking commission earned by peddling investment ideas to institutional clients is the only way Japaninvest earns its crust. That concentrates the mind.

“We’ve taken the intelligent capital out of the broking model – the research and salesmen,” says Eastwood. “We’ve got rid of what’s become a commodity and leave that to banks that have the platform. We have high-quality people in a low-cost business. You can make a lot of money out of that.”

The firm has certainly prospered so far, reporting profits of $2.6 million on revenues of $13 million. In July 2006, the firm listed on the Mothers Global board, Japan’s second market for international issues.

The numbers are still small but the firm has ambitious expansion plans. It has a market share of just 0.5% of Japanese equity broking commissions but Eastwood reckons he can push that to 2% and is already laying plans to expand regionally, with an office in Hong Kong likely to open this year. Other key markets targeted are Taiwan and Korea.

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