Career Advice Mizuho

Mizuho Bank committed to nurturing top HK talent

In April this year, Mizuho Bank appointed Richard Ho to general manager of Corporate Banking Division II. Ho is the first ever non-Japanese executive to be named in a top management position in the bank’s Hong Kong office. “I think my appointment shows that Mizuho has a strong localisation policy by employing local talent as top management,” he says.

Ho leads a department of 70 people, who serve non-Japanese corporations. “With a strong global connection, Mizuho Bank is able to help corporates in Hong Kong expand their business worldwide and to Japan. Our clients include local blue-chip companies, large local corporations, financial institutions and multinational corporations and mainland businesses,” he says.

As a leading financial group in Asia, Mizuho Bank has a long-term commitment to the Hong Kong market. “Throughout the 35-plus years that we have been in Hong Kong, the bank has employed a consistent business policy towards the city. The revenue from non-Japanese companies accounts for 75 per cent of the bank’s business in the city. Hong Kong is a huge part of our business, it is the top branch in Asia in terms of revenue contribution,” Ho says.  
He added that in the banking industry, it is important to be customer-oriented. “I think the key to success in banking is to think from the customer’s point of view. We serve the needs of customers, not pushing the services that we want to promote. Speed is also very important, as we need to give clients feedbacks as soon as possible so they can make better decisions,” Ho says.  

Managing a team of 70, Ho believes in management by result. He sets targets and gives directions to staff, giving them the freedom to work on their own. “Some managers like to do microscopic management; they look closely at the execution of staff. But I don’t like it, because I think staff will have more satisfaction if they are given more freedom to achieve on their own. I help staff set a target and reward them by looking at the results,” he says.  

To inspire staff to work hard, Ho thinks a fair and motivating reward system needs to be in place. “In the bank, the reward system is performance-based. High-flying staff can have a much more handsome bonus than other staff, so that the high achievers are inspired to keep working hard. Everybody understands the reward system. It is also important to give timely responses to staff achievements so that they feel appreciated,” he says.  

To further motivate staff, Ho set up a general manager award as an extra bonus to individuals who make great contributions to the bank. “There are a handful of winners for the award this year. Staff who have done great in business promotion, or who have come up with a solution to improve the credit process, or those who had closed a great deal with our business partners, have the chance to win the award,” he says.  

With a booming mainland market, Ho anticipates huge growth in the corporate banking sector. “Local blue chips and mainland firms are looking to expand overseas, bringing in huge opportunities for the corporate banking sector. The competition for talents will be keen. In banking, it is never easy to look for talent, so we decided to introduce a graduate trainee programme to enhance our talent pool,” he says.  

Last year, Mizuho Bank recruited four university graduates from thousands of applicants for its graduate trainee programme. “The four of them spent one year rotating to different departments within Corporate Banking Division II and also got a chance to work in Corporate Banking Division I, which serves Japanese corporate clients, and the East Asia Division, in the compliance and back office departments. I am sure it will be a fruitful experience for these young people,” says Ho.  

The graduate trainees will get the chance to meet clients with experienced staff to enhance their exposure. “They will have the chance to go on business trips. I think learning from the experienced managers on how to handle different clients is a great experience for them,” says Ho.  

Every graduate trainee will be assigned a mentor who is an experienced staff member. “The mentor will meet with the trainee regularly and report directly to me about the performance of the graduate trainees. The graduate trainees also have to hand in a monthly report about what they have learnt,” Ho says.

According to Ho, the graduate trainees have a bright future ahead of them. “Mizuho Bank is one of the biggest financial institutions in the world; we have a diverse client base and branches worldwide. With 40 branches in Asia and branches in more than 80 locations worldwide, staff will have plenty of opportunity to work on overseas assignments and with clients from different sectors.” 

Ho says the success of the first batch of graduate trainees has boosted his confidence to continue the programme. “I think the graduate trainee programme has been a success so far. After a year, all four trainees have decided that they would like to continue to serve at Mizuho Bank,” he says.  

Many may think that not knowing Japanese is an obstacle for promotion in a Japanese firm, but this is not the case with Mizuho. “I have been with the bank since 1987 and not knowing Japanese was never a problem in my career. We are looking to recruit people with outgoing personalities, who are customer-oriented, and who know how to be part of a team. As for language requirement, fluency in English and Mandarin will be important since we are serving non-Japanese clients in the division,” Ho says.