The Revolut Women Steering Japan’s Financial Landscape

Rosie Blow

 · 09/09/2020  · 09/09/2020

The Japanese financial industry is among the most traditional in the world, where customers often need to visit banks or broker branches in person and use rubber stamps for many financial chores. Global trading volumes are at an historical high, but Japan’s Nikkei Index is way below its record set during the bubble economy. According to Japan Exchange market statistics , less than 20% of the daily turnover on the Japan Exchange is coming from retail investors, and less than 10% of those retail investors come from people under the age of 30, making the market stagnant.

The Japanese government has  been striving to stimulate the market, and one of the key initiatives supported by the Metropolis Government of Tokyo and the Financial Services Agency is to encourage foreign Fintech companies to set up in Tokyo. Revolut received invaluable advice and was awarded the set up award in 2019, helping to establish Revolut Technologies Japan, Inc. in 2018 and Revolut Securities Japan, Inc in 2019.

At Revolut, we needed a pioneer to recognise and capitalise on the opportunity latent in Japan. Enter Yoko Christina Makiguchi, Representative Executive Director of Revolut Securities Japan, Inc.. After 20+ years’ experience in investment banking, Yoko was tired of traditional financial markets, and the now commonplace risk mitigation and cost cutting. When first approached by Revolut, Yoko was only familiar with the product through her college-age son.

She was immediately inspired by our ambition, “It was extremely exciting to think about what can happen to the financial world when you look at it from a pure technology point of view. People’s financial experiences right now are so fragmented, and the potential of having access to everything in one place is immense.”

One of Yoko’s first tasks was to hire a Head of Regulatory Compliance. While navigating the recruitment process, Mika Hisayama was surprised to receive a home task, so unfamiliar this step was in the Japanese jobs market, and even wondered if she had applied for the wrong role. But with some reassurance and encouragement from Yoko, she was ready to take it on and prove herself. This was Mika’s first clue that at Revolut, we do things a little differently.

Since working together, these women have taken enormous strides in inspiring and educating regulators on how FinTech is transforming the financial industry globally, whilst simultaneously ensuring Revolut is at the forefront of this change in Japan.

One of the most exciting prospects they’re tackling alongside Japan Exchange and the regulators is how to attract younger people to participate in the Japanese financial market, and this is where Revolut shines. Yoko is particularly dedicated to seeing change here, “We want to inspire young people to participate in the Japanese financial market. I see it first hand with my son; how Revolut will evolve alongside his needs, as he grows in wealth and starts trading stocks and investing. We’re here to ensure that Revolut can anticipate that future for our customers.”

To match Japan’s unique market opportunities, Revolut has to be equally unique. Mika is confident that although we don’t have it all figured out just yet, we’ve got a good approach: “No matter how smart the technology, it’s still a human business, and we need to find the sweet spot between how we do things, and the conservative market. At that point, we can truly gain the trust of the regulators.”

With many Japanese professionals having life-long careers at one company, we wondered how they’re both feeling after taking the leap of faith. Yoko, for one, wishes she had joined sooner: “It’s made me look at my career and my family life from a totally different perspective. Because we’re so selective, the people we hire are top quality and join for a dream: to make Revolut our future - the next-generation financial group.”

For Mika, it’s been incredibly refreshing to work with so many senior women for the first time in her impressive career. Seventy percent of the team are women, and we have a woman (Yoko) as our Representative, both of which are highly unusual in Japan. When paired with our flexible working policies, and working from home being the norm, she hasn’t thought to look back.
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