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MUFG and Morgan Stanley: Inside the special relationship

Cut in the teeth of the financial crisis, MUFG’s stake in Morgan Stanley might well be the best deal of the last 10 years. Much of the success is down to the strong personal relationship between the firms’ leaders.


MUFG board meetings aren’t what they once were. 

“It used to be very different,” says Nobuyuki Hirano, president and group CEO of MUFG, and chairman of MUFG Bank. “Ours was a kind of ceremony. All the seats were assigned and there was very strict and tight control of the agenda and time management. The time was short: two hours.”

MUFG board meetings are one of many things that have changed as a consequence of Hirano’s close involvement with Morgan Stanley. Appointed to the US bank’s board in 2009, he liked much of what he saw and brought it home

“Now we have much longer discussions: six, seven hours,” he says, although in order to accommodate this depth he has shifted board meetings from monthly to quarterly. “We encourage more lively discussion and active engagement between outside and inside direction.” They shifted to a US-style corporate governance system. “So, yes, I learned a lot from them.”

It is 10 years since October 13, 2008 when Takaaki Nakajima, then general manager of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, turned up at the office of lawyers Wachtell Lipton in New York to present a cheque with nine zeroes on it to Rob Kindler, then vice-chairman of Morgan Stanley (John Mack, chief executive at the time, had been summoned to Washington, as was fairly commonplace at the time). 

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