Can Japan’s megabanks ignore the devil's whisper?
As their peers in Europe and the US struggle to adjust to the world post sub-prime, Japan’s megabanks find themselves in the glow of unaccustomed financial health. But how do they put their new-found advantage to best use? And can they ignore the demons that caused such huge mistakes in the past?
|Teisuke Kitayama SMBC,
Terunobu Maeda Mizuho and
Nobuo Kuroyanagi MUFG
YASUMASA GOMI, CHAIRMAN and chief executive of Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, shares a laugh with colleague Tsutomu "Tom" Tanaka, a senior managing director graciously on translation duties for his boss, when Euromoney visits. They have a reason to be upbeat, despite the fact that the Japanese megabank they work for has once again missed out on the latest market fad by being too cautious. In a meeting room situated high in the Maronouchi building, itself perched between Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace on some of the city’s most expensive real estate, Gomi sits back expectantly. Tanaka translates: "Suddenly the whole world seems to be having a party, and Japan was the only country not invited."
For once this lack of involvement is cause for celebration: it might be more through conservative management than brilliant foresight that the Japanese banks have escaped the worst of the sub-prime crisis but they nonetheless find themselves in a strong position for the first time in more than a decade.