Fumiro Suzuki is the CEO for Mizuho EMEA. He joined Mizuho as an associate in 1991 and has held several leadership positions within Europe and Asia. We spoke with him about his career to date and the importance of Mizuho EMEA as part of Mizuho Financial Group.
Suzuki-san graduated from Tokyo University with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1991 and followed this with a Master of Laws degree from The New York University School of Law in 2003, followed by a Master of Business Administrations degree from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business in 2004.
“After graduation I made a conscious decision to start my career in a broader business role and gain a better understanding of how things work from a wider perspective. It’s one of the main reasons that I decided to start my career at Mizuho,” explains Suzuki-san.
After speaking with a contact that worked at the Industrial Bank of Japan (now known as Mizuho), Suzuki-san met with the recruitment team and senior members of the bank.
“It felt like a good fit for me from a cultural perspective. The bank was wholesale focused at the time and I wanted to support the business activity of corporates,” he explains. “The culture and atmosphere I got from the senior members of staff was very good.”
To this day, Suzuki-san still believes that cultivating a good working culture is good for business. “If our colleagues are doing well and feeling good, then our business performance is good,” he summarises.
Climbing the ladder
Suzuki-san started his career at Mizuho in 1991 as an associate for a corporate banking team in charge of real estate, which at the time was an industry in trouble following the burst of the Japanese asset price bubble in Japan.
As real estate developers tried cutting distressed assets, a senior banker and mentor to Suzuki-san at the time asked about his law degree and whether he could work with the bank’s legal team to draft new collateral agreements for the bank, involving different types of properties and combining them together to create loans.
“This was a completely new concept at the time, but the atmosphere and openness of the company allowed me to try anything, even though I had only been there maybe three months.”
“This was an unfortunate time for the Japanese economy and it was a steep learning curve for me,” explains Suzuki-san. “I feel fortunate to have gone through that experience. It didn’t get me an immediate promotion or help me climb the ladder at the time, but it gave me invaluable experience during a unique time and I learned a lot,” he says.
After his steep learning curve, Suzuki-san went on to hold roles as a relationship manager, before becoming an Executive Director in Equity Capital Markets and climbing the ladder as a General Manager across the Technology, Media and Telecom sector. Here he provided commercial and investment banking solutions to Japanese large corporations.
A day in the life of a CEO
As CEO for Mizuho EMEA, Suzuki-san is responsible for everything across the region, however he says that doesn’t necessarily mean handling everything on a day-to-day basis.
“I like to think that I am the last man, the last line of defence,” he explains. “Whilst I don’t necessarily deal with everything directly. If there is an issue or something that needs changing, then everybody looks to me for how we should handle it. A lot of my role is waiting for, and anticipating those moments, so that I can advise, whether that’s strongly pushing for change or making the decision for no change,” he says.
Suzuki-san explains that a lot of work has gone into building a strong team across EMEA.
“We have built a very good team in EMEA that consists of different talents, cultures and strengths that work as one – not individually siloed team members,”
As part of Mizuho Financial Group, Suzuki-san continues to emphasise the importance of thinking globally when it comes to servicing clients.
“We are trying to create a global culture, with the very strong leadership of Tokyo's executives, but each region will understandably have its own culture or uniqueness.”
The importance of EMEA in the Mizuho Financial Group story
Headquartered in London, and with a strong presence across EMEA, Mizuho EMEA represents an important pillar to Mizuho Financial Group’s global credentials.
“You have to be where your clients are. Without a presence in EMEA, Mizuho cannot say that it is a global bank, providing global services,” says Suzuki-san who relocated to the London office in 2020, initially as Deputy Head of EMEA - where he was responsible initially for client facing business, and from 2022 for the region's Strategic Planning function.
Originally set up to service Japanese corporates in the region, Mizuho EMEA has grown as its link to Japanese and Asian capital are seen as highly desirable by its growing EMEA client base.
“Our global network in general appeals to our core client base - and Asia is one of the most attractive new markets to capture opportunities to grow.”
CEO for Mizuho EMEA
“Our global network in general appeals to our core client base - and Asia is one of the most attractive new markets to capture opportunities to grow,” maintains Suzuki-san. “We are defining ourselves in the region as not only a Japanese bank, but as a franchise and network in broader Asia. Our connectivity and knowledge in that region is our strong point.”
As well as Asia, Suzuki-san explains that whilst the European continent, including the UK is a mature market, emerging regions like the Middle East and Africa have good potential for growth.
“Our clients want to explore these growth opportunities. Even when we are facing clients in the European continent, we should always think globally about where the best opportunity for growth is for them.”
“Anyone coming to us, living anywhere is our client. Our purpose is to support the business activity of our clients,” he explains.
“Ultimately, our function as a financial institution is to serve or facilitate business and purpose for our clients. Sometimes people restrict their vision. We are a bank, not an investor, and we can support all types of business activity.” he summarises.
Advice for future talent
With over 30 years’ experience in financial services, Suzuki-san boils it all down to one word when it comes to what he would say to his younger-self at the beginning of his career, ‘flexibility’.
“Be open to run or challenge anything, because when you are younger you have broader opportunities. So be flexible to learn and flexible to challenge and your potential will keep growing and your capability will follow on from that.”
When asked if he still has a mentor, Suzuki-san laughs and quickly follows up with “everybody can be my mentor.”
“Nobody is perfect, we all have missing parts. If you exchange different opinions and views, you will continue to grow and keep learning – and ultimately this enables us all to work together, better, and provide better services, solutions, and outcomes for our clients.”
One piece of advice that has stuck with Suzuki-san since starting his career at Mizuho in 1991 is that “you should already be wearing a larger suit and doing the job that you want to be in next,” he explains.
“Be conscious of how you conduct yourself, and how you behave with clients,” he continues. “Senior members of staff always told me to act as a senior member of staff, or even act as the CEO. Of course, my position was much lower, but you should always think in their shoes and be asking questions and looking for opportunities,” he summarises.