Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) is part of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, the Tokyo-based bank holding company and among the world's largest banks by assets under management. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe Limited (SMBCE), established in 2003, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SMBC and carries out the majority of the group's activities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
We spoke to Tetsuro Imaeda, CEO of SMBCE and Head of EMEA of SMBC about how 100 years in the City has shaped the bank’s client base, his unwavering commitment to the City, and its faith in the capital’s future.
What does your company do?
“SMBC Group is a Japanese financial institution with a number of entities here in the UK. The main entity is our banking subsidiary, SMBCE, which stands alongside our group securities company, SMBC Nikko Capital Market Limited. From our London offices we offer a wide range of wholesale banking products, from bilateral and syndicated loans to project finance.”
Why did SMBC Group initially move to London?
“The SMBC Group’s relationship with London goes back many years. Last year, we celebrated our 100th year anniversary in the City, having initially moved here in 1918 to support Japanese corporates as they expanded to the UK, and as part of the growing bilateral relationship between Japan and the UK. London was the centre of international business then, as it is today.”
“Last year we celebrated our 100th year anniversary in the City – London was the centre of international business back in 1918, and it still is.”
How else has 100 years in London shaped your client portfolio?
“Many Japanese corporates have had bases here and we initially came to London to support them. Today, our client base has grown significantly, and over half of our customers are international. We run our entire EMEA operations from our London headquarters, which now serves 22 offices in 18 countries. We also support international customers on their expansion into Asia. Overall, the City of London has one of the most sophisticated financial infrastructures in the world.”
What is it about the infrastructure in London that attracts you?
“It is best to break this down into three key areas.
In infrastructure projects, Japanese corporates have significant interests in the City of London (and the UK more generally). For instance, we provide finance for Japanese firms that are partnering and sponsoring UK infrastructure projects such as railways, wind farms, hospitals and schools. The long-term nature of these projects highlights the potential for sustainable business to be conducted as a by-product of the bilateral economic interests between the two nations. In conjunction with our Japanese corporate clients, we are continuously contributing to the UK’s infrastructure.
Human resources are also an absolutely critical asset in the financial markets. For SMBC Group, accessing the right talent is very important for our future strategy. The City has access to a wide range of skilled and experienced individuals and we believe we can source the best combination of aptitude and expertise to drive our future innovations. This is facilitated by the quality of students graduating from respected educational institutions, such as the reputable, domestic business schools.
And in terms of regulation, SMBCE is regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority. Given the diverse range of firms that they supervise, we review their respective approaches to specific risk or regulatory matters in anticipation that these approaches will be adopted by regulators in other jurisdictions. In this sense, having a base in London gives us a head start for activity in other markets.”
“Having a base in London gives us a head start for activity in other markets”
How do you see your presence in the City of London evolving?
“Our commitment to the City is unwavering. We have just invested in a new office at Liverpool Street, which will be available for occupation in 2021. With over 1,500 employees in the UK, we have outgrown our existing premises and want to bring all of our employees together in one place. Despite speculation surrounding Brexit, we have total faith that London will continue to be a leading financial centre and that the right talent will remain. London offers a sophisticated infrastructure for financial firms. In line with this, and with its history of innovation, SMBC Group is able to continue to develop new financial products and develop a strong product line up.”