Case Study

Orbis | bringing new ideas and the UK expertise to Japanese investors

Orbis Investments is a specialist manager that provides clients with performance-oriented asset management services on global equities. Headquartered in Bermuda, Orbis has a global footprint with its largest office in London. Its London operation accounts for 40% of the company’s global headcount with comprehensive functions including investment research and support, portfolio management, trading and fund operations, and legal and regulatory operations. The company offers a wide range of products, including its flagship global equity funds, country-specific funds as well as multi-asset funds. Besides serving institutional investors, Orbis also has a growing retail presence in the UK and Australia.

Evolving investment demand in Japan: a window of opportunity

Japan houses some of the largest institutional investors in the world. Its pension market ranks third largest globally, holding close to US$3tn of assets. Japanese institutional investors are often stereotyped as conservative and risk-averse, but they are changing. To cope with the challenges brought by the aging population, climate transition and meeting local investment needs, Japanese institutional investors are increasingly diversifying their investment in search of higher yields. They are open to new investment opportunities offered by foreign asset managers.

Educated and worked in both the UK and Japan, Mr. Tsukasa Tokikuni, Representative Director and President of Japan office of Orbis Investments, feels that Orbis has exciting potential in introducing different investment approaches from the UK to Japan. He believes their services could bring new dynamics to the Japanese asset management landscape. We spoke to Mr. Tokikuni about their journey in entering the Japanese market.

Can you tell us more about Orbis’ operation in Japan?

Orbis expanded its physical footprint to Japan in 2016. Our Tokyo office has grown into a team of over ten staff that covers regional investment advisory and operations. The assets under management (AUM) from the Japanese investors have increased rapidly in the last few years since we started to operate here. We have become one of the largest specialist managers of some of the leading Japanese pension funds.

As a new player in Japan, how did Orbis tap into this market?

Japanese institutional investors have a long-term horizon, they intend to build long-term relationships with trusted partners. It is important for them to understand our firm, hence we focus on communicating our company structure and investment approaches instead of selling our products. Building profile and relationships through professional introductions and non-commercial networking events are helpful – for example, the British Embassy in Tokyo connected us with Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which allowed us to meet many local investors.

How does Orbis’ UK expertise contribute to your success in Japan?

Our UK office is an important part of our brand. The UK asset management industry is highly competitive in terms of investment approach and returns. It is always at the forefront of generating innovative ideas with a strong focus on yields.

Thanks to its long history of development, UK asset managers can win new clients by demonstrating a strong track record of generating returns. The UK expertise helps our profiling in Japan – we are seen as a capable player that operates at the highest standard. Sometimes our major institutional clients visit our UK office as part of the assessment and relationship management exercise.

The UK asset management industry offers a large pool of international talent. Such diversity in skillsets is hard to find in Japan. For instance, I was recruited to Orbis in London even though I am from Asia.

Our Japan office works closely with the UK office. A substantial part of the investment research for the funds we offer in Japan is conducted in London. The London office also supports some operational functions of the Japan office. For example, our Japan-based investment advisory team works with the UK team on regular client reporting. Our fund operations team and compliance team also liaise with the respective UK teams daily to ensure that our Japanese clients are serviced at the highest standards.

What are the biggest challenges you faced when establishing the new office in Japan? How did you overcome them?

Recruitment. Japanese work culture and practices in asset management are quite different from that of the UK. To build long-term relationships with clients, speaking Japanese is almost mandatory. It is not easy to recruit bilingual talent that can fit into our corporate culture, and the language barrier makes staff relocation difficult.

Talent is at the heart of our offer. We took our time to hire locally instead of compromising.

We expanded our team only when we found the right person, even though it might mean slowing down the effort. We have a few recruits who were educated in the UK. Again, this highlights the UK’s status as a talent hub for asset management.

Read this case study in Japanese.

Image ©Yota Suzuki


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