How did your career path take you from financial advising to operations?
It was an evolution that took place over a number of years. I worked at Goldman Sachs in Japan as co-head of their financial institutions group. At that time I was advising clients on M&A and raising capital. Then I joined Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, where I was in charge of investments in and strategic acquisitions of banks in Southeast Asia. While working with these banks on synergy and value-creation initiatives, I also took on a financial operations leadership role for corporate banking operations in the Asia Pacific region. I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to running complex operations.
As an operating partner, how do you approach your partnership with founders?
It’s all about being able to establish trust. That starts with listening and getting very clear on a founder’s vision, their strengths, and the places where they need support. Next, we collaborate with founders on specific projects where we can add value. I think it's important to start small, because trust takes time to build, and we need to establish credibility with founders before tackling bigger issues with them. It’s also important to spend time with their business to gain the kinds of insights that only come through working with not just the founder but the whole team.
Real, effective teamwork requires time and effort, so I pay attention to the way the whole team is working together.
Do you have a particular philosophy that guides your work?
Yes, it’s about teamwork, which gets a lot of lip service as something that's nice in a “feel good” way. When you think about teamwork like that, you miss how essential it is to business success. Real, effective teamwork requires time and effort, so I pay attention to the way the whole team is working together. I look for ways to tap into people's individual strengths—because that’s how you get the most out of each of them and how you get incredible things out of the group as a whole. I've seen performance improve dramatically in companies that can get that right.
You’re focused a lot on financial technology right now. What excites you about what you’re seeing in the space?
I believe fintech has the potential to leapfrog over a generation of infrastructure, especially in places like Southeast Asia where you have large unbanked populations. It's like how cellular service brought telephones to regions that had never built phone lines. Now digital technology is reaching communities that have been out of reach of traditional banks. There's a huge opportunity for disruptors to get significant market share and to deliver a service that can improve a lot of lives.
Your work brings you all over the world. What do you do to relax when you're away from home?
When I travel—and especially when I’m in Southeast Asia—I make a point of going out with colleagues to sing karaoke. We don’t just sing in karaoke booths, though. They have a lot of big events where you have to get up and perform in front of large groups. That can take courage if you have stage fright! It's always worth it, though. I've found that singing with people is a great way to get to know them and become friends. It's also introduced me to local music in Indonesia and Thailand, and I've come to really love it.
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