Thinking Out of the Box to Explore New Possibilities in Financial Service.
PRESIDENT and CEO J Trust Co., Ltd.
J Trust is a holding company with businesses centering in financial services on a global scale. The company is especially well known for skillfully reviving failed financial institutions and establishing community based operations. J Trust’s investment strategy is sometimes referred to as being “contrarian” from how they choose to invest in deals that seem to involve high risks. However, this approach has fueled the group’s rapid growth where its total asset skyrocketed to 42 times the size of eight years ago, and its operating revenue to 24 times of the same. We have interviewed Mr. Nobuyoshi Fujisawa, President of the company, on his management philosophy and aspirations for the company’s expansion into the global market.
Nobuyoshi Fujisawa became the largest shareholder of the predecessor organization in 2008 and changed the company’s trade name to J Trust Co., Ltd. in 2009. The company has focused on its holdings company function since 2010 and supervises group companies. Business arms include Financial business in Southeast Asia, Financial business in South Korea, Domestic finance business, Investment business, and Non-financial business.
In J Trust’s early days, we worked on reviving many consumer finance companies that faced severe difficulties from the amended Money Lending Act lowering the maximum interest rate and reimbursements of overcharged interest. A general view at the time was that “acquisitions of consumer finance companies involve too much risk as the total sum of overcharged interest to be reimbursed is yet to be known”. However, J Trust turned this into the driving force of our rapid growth. I recall this was when we were first referred to as being “contrarian”. But let me tell you, we had no intention of deliberately doing something different or forcing ourselves to do something new.
At that time, I already had broad experience in the loan business, and knew that once new loans were suspended, a substantially large sum of cash will be flowing back each month. Of course, while taking risk is a must in pursuing returns, I did not feel the potential risk to expect was too large compared to the buyout price. This is an example of how J Trust has expanded its business through sensible and reasonable investment decisions and this has continued to date.
Yes, I do try to challenge what is conventionally regarded as the norm and to meticulously think out of the box. I have experienced the extreme ups and downs of investment from the early stage of my career. This, I think, has developed my ability to take a multilateral view.
Large mistakes should never be repeated. Meanwhile, small mistakes are not to be feared and challenges should not be stopped. This essentially means, “Invest in businesses you are highly familiar with”, which is my conclusion through the broad range of investments I have engaged in. It is only when you are highly familiar with the business that you can effectively piece together various ideas and digest risk. Using this formula, we have turned what people look at as risk into the driving force of our company, and that is probably what people find as a surprise.
Speedy decision making on the spot in Singapore by the president
In 2012, J Trust decided to invest in South Korea’s savings bank business. This, too, was because we thought our experience in Japan could be effectively applied in acquisitions and revivals of savings banks, whose business centers on personal finance. As a matter of fact, our South Korea business is doing very well, and the operating profit may even surpass that of our domestic operation this year.
In 2013, we also started J Trust Asia in Singapore, which functions as the base of our Southeast Asia operation. Shortly before this, I had met with a top executive of a Chinese conglomerate who said “Japanese companies are slow in making business decisions. Sometimes they keep us waiting for two or three months and come back with a no”. Having heard that, I started up J Trust Asia with a 10 billion yen capital the week after the meeting with him. Now the capital has been increased to about 30 billion yen. I don’t think anybody, including large corporations, would have the enthusiasm to do this. This was, in part, an action to showcase the way in which J Trust wishes to engage in business to the global business community.
The advantage of having a local business center is definitely the speed at which information can be captured. For example, information on failed financial institutions up for revival in Southeast Asia first comes to Singapore. It may be as slow as half a year later that you hear about it in Japan. That is the reason I am stationed in Singapore myself from day one of J Trust Asia. Another reason I, the president, physically ventured out into Singapore was to escalate the level of seriousness of the entire group on our global operations. Nobuiku Chiba, J Trust’s Representative Director and Senior Managing Executive Officer, is also stationed in South Korea. The top two executives are overseas. How better could we show that we are serious about overseas markets?
One thing about Singapore is that even young businesses are given full respect as a business counterpart. To state that differently, you need to present concrete benefits, or you will be ignored. And one week is too long to keep people waiting, let alone two or three months. The fact that I am right there to make decisions on the spot enables us to work at the speed of Asian markets and to gain and build trust there. Being Japanese, I can more than understand the characteristics of the Japanese people as well as the time frame in which Japanese companies work. However, it is a fact that the Japanese lack speed in decision making. Working abroad has substantially changed my values and perceptions pertaining to business.
Contribute to enhancing quality of life through financial services
The Indonesian bank that we are reviving was a case offered to us in Singapore. This was based on the recognition of our experience with revival businesses in the financial field in Japan and South Korea, and we have been able to mark a new start of the bank as Bank J Trust Indonesia in late 2014. I am determined to make this a success and to actively engage in the revival of more financial institutions, mainly in Asia. I am also looking into creating companies of various industries within our holding company. This should enable us to fuse finance with different businesses to launch new services in the future. In Southeast Asia, partnerships with Japanese financial institutions are an option, and I would love to create services combining our strengths with them to contribute to enhancing the quality of life in countries of the area.
As stated in J Trust’s large shareholding report (change report), a company I personally own has recently increased its stake in J Trust by acquiring J Trust stocks. This is to bolster my commitment to the management of the company. At the same time, the investment is a result of my evaluation of the company as a personal investor.
Looking at the entire group, the seeds we planted in South Korea and Indonesia have sprouted, grown into trees and have started to bloom. Needless to say, we will always strive to meet the expectation of our investors, and at the same time, we wish to contribute to the businesses and lives of all stakeholders in various counties.