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Driven by the challenges ahead

Published on Friday, 18 Feb 2011
Hidemitsu Otsuka, executive officer and regional head for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in Hong Kong.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

Hidemitsu Otsuka, executive officer and regional head for Hong Kong Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ has spent the last 29 years working within the same bank in different departments. Having attended the prestigious Keio University where he graduated with a bachelor degree in Economics, Otsuka at one time considered a career in journalism, before joining the banking industry. Before taking up his current position in June last year, he has served and managed various divisions in corporate banking and finance including assignments in California and in Singapore as deputy general manage. An optimist by nature, Otsuka believes there are positive benefits to be gained from different career experiences. He also enjoys being part of the banking industry at a time when Asia is playing a bigger leadership role in the world economy.

Tell us about your career

From the outside, the banking industry can seem very straightforward but, in reality, it is a complex and exciting industry that evolves with the needs of society. When I began my career, there were at least 13 large banking organisations in Japan. Through mergers, three mega-organisations remain. Within these mergers, but always with the same bank, I have worked in cash, treasury and credit departments, which have enabled me to gain a good overview of the business.

Can you name a challenge that you once faced at work and share with us how you tackled it?

I recall when I was working in the treasury division where I was responsible for exploring the feasibility of introducing a new market risk framework system that was not entirely welcomed by the experienced dealers. To overcome the problem I spoke to the various involved parties to design amendments to achieve the desired outcome.

What do you feel is the most exciting part of your job?

The banking industry offers so many different opportunities and experiences. In Hong Kong, there is the vibrancy of the business community that operates in an international, multicultural environment. There is no crystal ball giving us insights as to what might happen, as we have seen over the past couple of years. Therefore, I am always excited by what the next challenge or experience might be.

What are the keys to being an effective leader and building a strong team?

I believe several factors contribute to ensuring effective leadership and strong teambuilding. Constancy

and reliability are two important strengths. Recognising that people are individuals is another important factor. To make appropriate decisions, it is important to have access to timely and accurate information. As a practical person, I believe leadership decisions must also be practical and easy to interpret by those who need to put them into action. It is also important to build good interpersonal relationships and a strong rapport among colleagues.

What is needed to train the next generation?

We should be mindful of the different career aspirations of young people compared with the current generation of managers, and provide them with flexibility to achieve their goals. At the same time, we should encourage young people not to be in a rush to achieve their ambitions and miss out on learning the skills that are developed through experience.

Which books have most influenced your outlook on life?

I found Ray Bradbury’s 1950’s Fahrenheit 451, fictional novel, which depicts a hedonistic society where reading is outlawed a very powerful book. It made me think what would our world be like without books and the ability to seek out new ideas. Another book I found incredibly insightful is a diary written in Japanese which gives an account of the governor of the central bank of Rwanda in the late 1960’s and the difficulties of trying to balance a budget. Many of the same challenges and principles apply to our business today.

What advice do you have for young people interested in the field?

Emphasis needs to be placed on the idea that not everything can be accomplished in a short time. We should encourage young people to commit to learning their skills effectively, which includes looking at challenges from many angles. We should also find ways of helping them accept that three years working in one department learning a particular skill is not a long time in terms of building a fulfilling career.

What are the bank's corporate targets in the next few years?

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is well known in banking circles, however, I would like to see us become better known in a wider context. Acknowledgment from the wider market takes time. I don’t believes that success can necessarily be linked to growth, but through the quality of partnerships, the services and products we offer and the relationships we build with our clients.

Personal time

Otsuka says he avoids taking work pressures home

Swimming is his main way of exercising and unwinding

He finds the sound of water moving past his ears relaxing

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