MNC to make its China JV fully licensed brokerage to better serve more clients

This photo taken on Sept 11, 2009 shows the headquarters of Japan's securities giant Nomura Holdings in Tokyo. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO / AFP)

The consistent opening of China's financial markets has consolidated the strategies of international financial institutions in expanding their footprint in the country, serving domestic clients and integrating local businesses into the global market.

The view was from Toshiyasu Iiyama, executive managing director of Nomura Holdings Inc and chairman of Nomura's China Committee, in a virtual interview with China Daily from Tokyo a week earlier as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel.

The pandemic slowed down a little bit the operations of Nomura Orient International Securities, Nomura's joint venture in China established in 2019. It is the first foreign majority-owned securities company with a Japanese background in the Chinese mainland.

Rapid reaction through online technologies helped the new company limit the negative impact of the pandemic and later it opened up new branch offices in Beijing and Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in addition to Shanghai.

"A good thing we have observed is that the Chinese opening-up policy has remained consistent and is not slowing down or backing off at all," said Iiyama, who expected the Chinese government to gradually accelerate the liberalization of cross-border capital movements as well.

Uncertainties from COVID-19 did not stop the Japanese financial group's expansion in China, and from entering the country's fast growing wealth management market "is only the beginning", the executive said.

"In the future, Nomura Orient International will apply for an investment banking license, aiming to become a fully licensed brokerage and provide more diversified and comprehensive services to high-net-worth clients," Iiyama said.

The JV aims to become a comprehensive securities services financial platform, as a core pillar of Nomura Group's strategy in Asia excluding Japan, he said.

While China is gradually becoming an older society, a similar process has happened in Japan, with individuals planning to diversify their investment portfolios and looking for more opportunities in the global market.

Improving the social security system is not only the government's duty, but also needs support from the private sector as well as international professional institutions, so it is important to further free up capital flows going in or out of the country, Iiyama said.

"I have already seen encouraging progress in this regard in China," he said. "And I hope China can open up further as competition can be a source of innovation and new development," said Iiyama.

Nomura first entered China in 1982 by setting up a representative office in Beijing, and then opened its Shanghai representative office in 1986. After four decades, the group has seen opportunities in the changing asset management and banking sectors, which are promoted by the government as well as by the needs of customers.

In 2019, Nomura set up the JV securities company Nomura Orient International in Shanghai when the city adopted more opening measures to promote its status as an international financial hub. The gathering of more foreign capital in the city sped up.

"Shanghai is a symbolic city which represents innovation, trying something new, and people appreciate that," Iiyama said in the interview.

Meanwhile, because of the geographic advantage and similar cultural background, many Japanese companies prefer to develop business in China while enjoying the fruit of China's economic development.

Chinese investors also showed much interest in Japan, such as purchasing property assets. Those business opportunities have been noticed by Nomura, which can act as a bridge linking markets on both sides.

"Now we are thinking about opening more offices in China," said Iiyama. "Of course, Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen are the natural top three choices, but we are preparing to increase our presence in China in other cities as well."

Data from the company showed that by September, Nomura Orient International had 177 employees registered and recorded with the Securities Association of China, an increase of nearly 20 percent compared to the beginning of this year.

The majority of those staff, including general managers and other senior staff, are locally hired. "It is very much localized, which is unique even in Nomura Group," he said.

After two years' operation, the joint venture has opened more than 1,000 customer accounts, overseeing around 2.18 billion yuan ($340.5 million) of client assets. Iiyama rated that performance as "good".

"I think the company is moving in the direction we wanted, given the environment and situation over the last two years, especially the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no question China will continue to play a key role in the global economy, and how China's economy grows and how Chinese businesses expand matters a lot to the rest of the world," he added.

The executive expected more opening-up and reform policies to debut which are good for international players to do business in China.