Aberdeen Standard Investments, an Edinburgh-based fund manager and one of the UK's largest asset managers, has used its London office to help spearhead growth in the Japanese market.
We spoke to Neil Slater, CEO & Representative Director, Aberdeen Standard Investments (Japan) Limited at Standard Life Aberdeen, about how the company’s London base has enabled it to expand its operations in Japan
What does your company do?
“Aberdeen Standard Investments is a global asset management firm. We operate in many markets and here in Tokyo we employ circa 50 people across our investments, distribution, product, operations and other related functions. Whilst we have had a small presence here for a number of years, our focus on expanding that presence to create a sustainably profitable, long term business in the Japanese market is relatively new. Our Japanese clients tend to be large financial institutions, pension funds and wholesale distributors.”
When did Aberdeen Standard first move to Japan?
“Before the merger between Aberdeen and Standard Life, the two legacy entities had offices in Tokyo (set up in 2006 and 2015 respectively). The merger provided us with a wonderful opportunity to scale our growth in what is – as the world’s fourth largest economy – an important market for us.”
“Having a base in London has made our business uniquely positioned to operate into Japan. As you start to build into a market you need backing and credence and our London base has, first and foremost, given us the credibility that has opened many doors.”
How has your London base helped you expand your Japanese business?
“Having a base in London has made our business uniquely positioned to operate into Japan. As you start to build into a market you need backing and credence and our London base has, first and foremost, given us the credibility that has opened many doors. Japanese businesses and institutions have an affinity and long history with the UK and there is a definite sense of connectivity between the two nations. There is an embedded history of trade between Japan and the UK which is very helpful. Japanese firms have always appreciated the transparency in the UK, where clear regulatory rules and an accommodating regulator are highly respected – the Japanese Stewardship Code, for example, is based somewhat on the FCA model. This is not limited to asset management, but is true of many sectors ranging from fintech to pharmaceuticals. This shared history of creates a sense of trust which is crucial for doing business with Japanese companies.
Having a base in London has also given us close connections with key institutions that have aided our growth in Japan. Take our marketing efforts: the British Embassy allows us to host events in its prestigious venue and recently we hosted an asset management event sponsored by the Embassy and the Department of International Trade (DIT). Over 110 Japanese financial services guests attended. Such connectivity and support has opened up countless opportunities.”
Does having expertise based in London make a difference in Japan?
“Yes. London is a one-stop shop for professional and financial services and most of our key Japanese clients have offices there too. Thus, having a London base has meant we have been able to give our clients direct access to our expertise – be it the manufacturing capabilities of our asset managers or through to the know-how of our own technical specialists. This is important, given that the Japanese market is technical and Japanese businesses expect access to specialists.
Unless you are big in Tokyo, you don’t have that luxury.
Japanese firms have a respect for the innovation developments coming out of London, where such a concentration of talent makes it a well-known hub for financial innovation. Having a base in the City has certainly enabled us to access the right people to grow our own Japanese business. This does not only mean the skillset of our existing operational London employees, but being a global, London-based asset manager means that talent is also attracted to us. Plus, it enables us to provide talent opportunities to move globally – e.g. to London to gain exposure or to Tokyo.”
“Japanese businesses and institutions have an affinity and long history with the UK. There is a definite sense of connectivity between the two nations.”