In 2023, Kenichi Matsumoto celebrated 30 years of working at Mizuho. Over those three decades, Matsumoto-san has seen a great deal of change, as well experiencing work across three continents. We spoke to him about his career journey, life as an expat, and what he is currently focusing on.
Growing up, Matsumoto-san had always shown a keen interest in mathematics. He went on to graduate from the University of Tokyo, Japan with a Major in Economics in March 1993.
“During my second year of university, I also decided to take my qualifications to become a certified public accountant,” says Matsumoto-san. “This is one of the most challenging qualifications to pass in Japan. However, upon graduating I wanted to keep my options open and looked around more broadly for any opportunities.”
In April 1993, Matsumoto-san started as a Graduate Associate in the accounting department at one of Mizuho’s founding banks – The Industrial Bank of Japan (IBJ).
“At that time, IBJ was not only one of the top banks in Japan, but it was also one of the fastest growing banks in the world,” he says. “I was attracted here because it had a smaller employee headcount and because it specialised in long-term relationships with clients to support Japanese industry.”
In an era before Google (founded in 1998), one of Matsumoto-san’s first roles was to manually cut out and provide newspaper clippings to senior management to keep them informed of industry news on a daily basis.
“It was a very simple but important job to give this information to senior management because it was a tough time for a lot of businesses in Japan. The Japanese asset bubble had burst, which meant that a lot of banks faced serious problems,” he explains.
Matsumoto-san says that this was also a period where he learned a lot of the skills he still uses today.
“Be flexible and put in the hard work with integrity, always trying your best and showing agility - adapting to change and taking prompt action.”
Chief Administrative Officer, EMEA
“Looking back on my thirty years of experience, every year I have had faced a different event, and some of them have been very challenging.” When asked what advice he would give to his younger self, he says, “to be flexible and to put in the hard work with integrity, always trying your best and showing agility - adapting to change and taking prompt action.”
The life of an expat
Known as ‘Jinji Ido’, Japanese firms have a culture of re-assigning colleagues to different departments on a regular basis.
“You are able to try new things which means you don’t need to look outside of the business for new opportunities to develop,” Matsumoto-san explains. “It’s good to change your environment, people can lose their excitement if they are in the same role for too long.”
“You are also able to differentiate yourself and build new skillsets, which is not only good for the individual but for the organisation as well,” he summarises.
Since starting his career over three decades ago, Matsumoto-san has spent over half of that time working in different Mizuho offices outside of Japan, including New York and London, building an impressive résumé of activity along the way.
From creating a bank holding company in the US which is known today as Mizuho Americas, to most recently being part of the management team responsible for the integration of Mizuho EMEA, via the establishment of Mizuho EMEA Corporate Services and a Universal Bank in the EU.
“If you have different experiences and opinions at the table when you are having discussions, you will have better outcomes.”
Chief Administrative Officer, EMEA
“It’s because of the rotation system that I have got to experience many different challenges, and I feel that I can manage a wide range of different scenarios and thus support the business going forward.”
After moving to London in 2020, Matsumoto-san has noticed the vast diversity in the region, something which he thinks, similar to Jinji Ido and broader Japanese culture, can only benefit Mizuho, its people and the societies in which they operate.
“In EMEA especially, the level of diversity is a very good fit with Japanese culture as it is very consensus-based,” he explains. “If you have different experiences and opinions at the table when you are having discussions, you will have better outcomes. One culture will only have one understanding and there will be no broader improvement.”
A day in the life
In his current role as Chief Administrative Officer, EMEA, Matsumoto-san is responsible for a wide range of activities across the corporate functions.
“I must be deeply involved in any issue or potential problem, ranging from IT and Operations, to concerns raised by our Risk and Audit departments. I must pick these issues up and remediate them as early as possible to avoid any further/bigger issues developing.”
At present, Matsumoto-san is working on a number of projects that will see the alignment of legal entities, policies and processes across the region, which will enable Mizuho EMEA to better act as a long-term relationship bank for its clients.
“Right now, the projects I am focused on won’t necessarily be noticed by our clients directly. However, internally they will lead to greater efficiency of our operations and how we work together.”
As part of a global financial institution, headquartered in Japan, Mizuho EMEA is an important hub for Mizuho Financial Group, acting as a natural East-West centre, leveraging the geographical advantage and comprehensive client offering.
“In EMEA, we operate in an entity agnostic way and have a good relationship with our Head Office in Tokyo. This way of working makes us much stronger and more resilient, enabling us to better protect and serve our clients throughout the region.”