Neil Riley

Senior Director

Europe Corporate Banking

Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Years in the industry: 20 years

Japanese Corporate Banking

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and career journey?

I studied Japanese for an undergraduate degree at university, and have been influenced by Japan ever since. I have spent most of my adult life either undertaking work or study related to Japan - in total, I have lived in the country for nearly 10 years; studying in the south in Fukuoka, building a start-up company in the mountains of Niigata, and working in the banking industry in Tokyo. Usually, I go back to Japan to travel with my family at least once a year.

For most of my career, I have worked in Japanese corporate banking; starting at MUFG, then Deutsche Bank London/Tokyo, and for eight years I ran the EMEA Corporate Japan Desk at Barclays, before joining Mizuho in the summer of 2020. I’ve also worked at HSBC’s Wealth Management division in Tokyo and Moscow, and spent three years during the mid-2000’s setting up and building a ski-related travel business based in Echigo-Yuzawa, Japan.

I now run the EMEA Promotion Desk in the Europe Corporate Banking Department at Mizuho – based in London but representing the region.

You joined Mizuho during the pandemic; tell us more about this experience.

The process of building an internal network probably took longer, given that there hasn’t been the opportunity for business trips or coincidental meetings in the office. In the first eight months as an employee, I’d only been to the office around five times. Video calls and remote access, and other IT provisions have been very useful, although in some cases, for me personally there isn’t a substitute for face-to-face meetings, particularly with clients, and that is something I’m looking forward to returning to.

You have an interesting background: you've lived in Japan, in Moscow, and now in the UK. How have you successfully worked across different cultures and languages?

The main focus is to communicate as well as possible, often over-communicating to avoid any misunderstandings. I think to maintain empathy, and trying to understand the position of others is also important.

Describe your job in three words.

Multi-cultural, Connection, Innovation.

What’s your advice for others interested in starting a career in your business area?

Look after your clients first, and think about any performance-related targets second. If your clients are satisfied and happy, the rest will follow.

What do you think sets Mizuho apart from its competitors?

Taking a traditional ‘Japanese’ long-term client relationship management approach, but coupling this with a flexible and innovative mind set.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I once earned a Guinness World Record! This was for riding the most different ski lifts in 24 hours (44), and it helped earn some free PR for the ski company I was running at the time.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of work?

When time allows I like to stay active, mostly gym fitness & running, although I recently started trying to play golf. I’m looking forward to being able to travel again with my family.

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