Breaking into IBD Tokyo

Hey guys,

I'm currently interning at a BB in Amsterdam (regional coverage) and I'm aiming for a FT offer in London.

However, I've always had an interest in Asia and Japan in particular. Therefore, I was wondering how hard it is for a non-Japanese person to land a FT offer at a BB in Tokyo? As I understood, they strictly hire locals. I do speak some Japanese, but only very limited. Would be highly appreciated if some of you who actually work in Tokyo could give me some tips on how to break in.

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Comments (12)

May 23, 2013

Bulge bracket IBD in Tokyo is going to be very tough without native or near-native Japanese. If you are open/interested in areas other than IBD (e.g. Sales & Trading, though this is getting tougher as well, even for native Japanese speakers) you will stand a better chance.

If you absolutely want to work in Tokyo and it must be in IBD, the best option is to take a longer term view by first getting a job at a BB in London, working there for a few years and then doing an internal transfer to the Tokyo office. There is a precedence for this (I have seen relatively junior people - associate-level, VP-level transfer to Tokyo without speaking a word of Japanese), so that would probably be the way to go.

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May 23, 2013

I've talked to multiple headhunters/recruiters/industry people in Tokyo who specialize in overseas transfers/talent.

Basically:

It will be near-impossible to transfer to Japan due to the fact that you cannot interview in-person and you do not speak the language. It is also against a lot of business practices to provide visas due to the simple fact that it is extra work (though the process is relatively painless and costs next to nothing).

The only way you CAN break into IBD in Japan is if you have JLPT 1 or 2 (most need level 1) qualifications, you're based in Japan, and/or you have a very specific and in-demand skillset.

Finally, what a lot of companies look for in Japan is staying ability/dedication; if you're thinking of only dedicating two to three years to a career in Tokyo IBD, FORGET ABOUT IT. They want to see dedication/commitment of at least 5-10 years. Think of this as their commitment as well; if they spend a crapload of time and effort to bring you over, get you acclimated to the culture/workforce, and sponsor your visa, they'll want a lot of commitment.

I would also advise you to think of your situation as well; living/working in Tokyo is not all about meeting cute Japanese women/taking advantage of the culture - you'll stick out like a sore thumb, there will be little advancement opportunity because you're not Japanese, and your language skills will never be as good as a native. Lastly, you'll work sweatshop hours, guaranteed, due to the work culture there.

May 23, 2013

Thanks for the replies guys. I already thought it would be extremely hard to break in, but this confirms it. My plan has always been to go to London first and work there for several years and that won't change. Might the possibility arise (which I doubt now), I'll definitely take it.

May 23, 2013

Since you're still interning.. have you thought about a semester abroad in Japan or an english Master's degree in Japan (if there are any..)? Maybe you can try to interview there when living in Japan for a few months. You obviously have to brush up your Japanese. However, I don't have any experience with Japan, so this is just a thought..

May 23, 2013

If the timing works with your schedule and you can afford the international airfare, another option is to fly to Boston for a weekend to attend the Boston Career Forum. All the major BB investment banks come there to recruit and I personally know a number of non-Japanese people who were able to secure offers for Tokyo in the one or two days that they spent there.

May 23, 2013
Deo et Patriae:

If the timing works with your schedule and you can afford the international airfare, another option is to fly to Boston for a weekend to attend the Boston Career Forum. All the major BB investment banks come there to recruit and I personally know a number of non-Japanese people who were able to secure offers for Tokyo in the one or two days that they spent there.

Knew someone who went there and secured an offer just because she was Japanese. Fcking awesome.

Jun 2, 2013

check out boston career forum

Jun 2, 2013

BB in Amsterdam...? That must be fun

Jun 2, 2013

Having been to Japan, I'll say (unfortunately) probably not.

Thing is, Japan's population is very homogenous. It's all Japanese people, and they all speak Japanese. When I was there, people looked at you weird just for speaking English. So you might luck out and get a spot, but I wouldn't count on it.

To put this in perspective, Shanghai and Hong Kong are somewhat less homogenous and English is much more widely accepted. Even little kids tend to speak English aside from Mandarin and Cantonese.

I've never been to Singapore, but English is a legally accepted language there.

Happy hunting.

Jun 2, 2013

what FSC said
all the big deals will soon be in hk/sh rather than tokyo, so might as well get started there now

Jun 2, 2013

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