Q&A: Big 4 Valuations in Tokyo

Jodiggaman's picture
Rank: Baboon | 115

My (quick) background: I graduated from a regional target school and I speak fluent Japanese and German (I went to high school in Germany). I have been working in the Valuations & Business Modeling division of a Big 4 firm in Tokyo for about one year.

Feel free to ask questions about the type of work we do, how relatable it is to IB, exit opps, or any other Japan specific questions. I have good connections with people in my office and other offices abroad, so I would be able to answer questions about positions above the Consultant level (even if I dont have personal experience).

Hope this will be helpful to some of you!

Comments (16)

Feb 18, 2014

how much do you use japanese?
is it still possible to find jobs in japan (not necessarily related to consulting) which don't require a high ability in the language?
thinking of exploring opportunities in the east at some point (HK/tokyo)

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Feb 18, 2014

I use almost exclusively Japanese in the office, however the majority of my engagements are in English. It is actually pretty difficult to get a job in Japan if you don't speak Japanese. It is near impossible at a Japanese company, but doable at a foreign company operating in Japan. I have seen a lot of openings for Markets positions (trading/Asset Management) for non-Japanese speakers, but that is about the extent of it in finance. Otherwise your options may be limited to Recruiting firms, or English teacher positions.

I believe Rakuten (Japanese Amazon) is an exception to the rule however, I heard their corporate language restricted to English.

As far as other Asian countries, many of the people I speak to in HK say that Mandarin and/or Cantonese is a requirement, whereas many in Singapore say that they have zero problems working with only English. I would say Singapore is the way to go for a non-Asian language speaker.

One thing that may be worth considering, a lot of people come to Japan using a work Visa acquired from an English teaching gig, and spend six months or so teaching English and adventuring while looking for a job. Japanese companies are a lot more receptive to applicants who are already in Japan, and having the initial work Visa also helps.

Feb 18, 2014

what do you think of japan?
does it have a future?

specifically, i was wondering about your thoughts on the economy, such as

-concept of lifetime employment
-debt to GDP ratio
-how the consumption tax will impact the economy
-whether or not abe will be successful overall in jumpstarting xyz list of things

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Feb 19, 2014

Hey thanks for making this AMA...been lurking these forums for a while but this will be my first post - pretty relevant to my situation. Currently at Big 4 audit in U.S. (been here for roughly 1.5 years) and considering making a push for our V&BM group.

-What was your path into this division? Have you ever seen anyone make the jump directly from audit? I've been getting high performer ratings for whatever internal leverage that is worth..so I'm hoping that + a little self-teaching will make this a realistic move.

-What's your favorite part of doing V&BM work? If you only read this forum, you would assume V&BM is 100% goodwill impairment and PPA. I understand that might not be far from the truth, but even so, is that not at least one big piece of the M&A puzzle?

-How much of what you're learning do you think is relevant to ER? Do you know of anyone in your group that is using this experience as a stepping stone for it?

I realize some aspects may not apply to the U.S., but regardless, I would very much value your thoughts!

Feb 22, 2014

Actually I got hired into VBM straight from undergrad; this is not typical. I was just lucky enough to be a bi-lingual with finance background in the right place at the right time.

As far as making the jump from audit, yes there are several people in our division who have come from audit. In short, it is totally possible to make the jump from audit, but networking is key. Just send an email to a couple people in transactions and see if you can meet for a chat.

On a side note, while VBM may only have a small percentage of people coming from audit, the Transaction Services group has well over 50% of their people coming from audit. They mostly perform transaction DD and is somewhat similar to audit, only deal based. I would say you have the best shot of getting into this group.

I agree that VBM may have a reputation for doing valuations mainly for accounting purposes, but I haven't seen this to be true. At least in Japan, we are primarily advisers on TOB acquisitions. Our M&A department works with clients to find potential targets, then we do the valuations/technical analysis including a range of sensitivity scenarios to assist in the negotiations. While we may not be DOING deals like investment bankers, we are highly involved in at the technical analysis that an investment banker would know. I would argue that we do it better, because that is our specialty, we dont have to spend time writing pitch books etc. and just focus on modeling. Several of my managers are regularly involved in putting on technical seminars for new recruits are JP/MS/Citi in Tokyo.

I think it is somewhat relevant to ER, however we are completely focused on corporate finance and only work with Markets data to a limited extent. I have never seen anyone go into ER after VBM, mostly IB or PE in Japan, sometimes Singapore.

Feb 23, 2014

What kind of positions are you seeing others in your team exiting to? I'm heading into a similar team from audit in the next few months and would be interested to see what could be on the horizon.

Mar 3, 2014

Honestly most people transfer to other Big 4 firms, in either a similar valuations position or else to the M&A advisory or management consulting divisions.

I feel like if you stay in Big 4 for too long, it can brand you too strongly to escape. Some people who were smart enough to do their 2~3 years time in valuations to learn the hard technical skills have transferred to BB IB, middle market IB, Corporate Development type corporate role, or Real Estate funds (just to include people I know). Not many people do an MBA in Japan, it has a very minimal value added here.

I would say VBM gives you excellent skills transferable to most work in the M&A market, but you dont want to stay too long and end up getting branded as an "accountant" or even a "consultant" if you ever plan to make a switch.

    • 1
Mar 4, 2014

Thanks for the reply, good to hear people are managing to move to some interesting areas. Have people generally moved straight into IB without much trouble or do people generally try and move into the internal M&A teams first before jumping off?

Mar 14, 2014

Actually, I only know one person who has gone to an internal M&A team (I think internal M&A functions are much more rare/small in Japan as opposed to those abroad).

Most people can jump straight into a BB/MM IBD position without too much trouble. But then again, demand is pretty hot for bi-linguals with valuation skills in Tokyo these days so I am not sure about the situation elsewhere.

Mar 15, 2014

Great AMA.
Do you think japanese MBA is good enough to land a job in Big 4 for a foreigner without relevant finance experience and undergrad? Even for entry-level jobs. Considering fluent Japanese/Russian.

Nov 23, 2016

MBA is not very valuable in Japan. You need to get experience and know the language. I got the job straight out of undergrad - and from a non-target. Bi-linguals are really valuable in Japan these days.

Mar 22, 2014

Thanks for making this AMA.

I am going for a 2nd round interview for a Big 4 VBM group next week, and I am trying to get a better feel for job. How would break down your typical work day e.g. 50 % PPA, 30 % Going through a model from a client, etc.

And how often do you assist the CF people with the deals compared to doing valuations for tax purposes?

I would personally love to get the financial modelling skills from the job, but I really hope the job comes with some deal exposure on a regular basis. I wouldnt like being labelled an "accountant" and getting a purely technical profile.

Feb 11, 2015

Could you go into detail about Singapore as an exit opp? My Japanese is fluent enough to land the job but I am definitely more comfortable in English, so SG as a geographical exit target sounds very appealing.

Also, I was wondering if you had any advice on prepping myself for the actual VBM job (modeling, accounting knowledge, etc.)? I am confident in building the core valuation models (e.g. dcf, lbo, nav for reits), but I have a feeling that I should prepare more?

Thank you!

Nov 23, 2016

Sorry for the late reply, actually I exited to management consulting in Singapore and I have been really enjoying my job and location over the past 2+ years :) There are a LOT of interesting engagements here - the type of stuff you work on in developing markets is way more appealing than cost cutting etc. stuff you see in developed markets.

As far as prep for VBM I would recommend that you are really comfortable explaining the concepts to people, as that seems to be half our job. In meetings its clear that most clients are not too familiar with the intricacies of valuation so we have to be able to explain the concepts very simply and accurately. Sometimes they ask really simple and obvious questions that are surprisingly difficult to explain.

Hope this helps!

    • 1
Nov 24, 2016