Magellan is one of Japan’s first financial planning companies to specifically target expats living in Japan. Founder and president Alison Pockett’s extensive experience in the field of international finance prepared her for the challenges of establishing and growing a business, and her efforts paid off. Magellan is now one of Tokyo’s most well-respected and well-established financial advisory firms.
How long have you been in Japan?
I have been in Japan for 15 years and consider it my home. I have spent more time here than anywhere else, which almost includes my own country—the UK.
Please tell us a bit about your company.
Magellan was formed back in May 1995 as a financial advisory company almost a year after I arrived here. There were notably no well-established companies at that time that were particularly active in the financial advisory market for foreigners residing in Japan. There were many ‘fly-ins’ so to speak, but no real presence. Today, Magellan’s market has widened considerably and focuses on personal financial planning and investment advisory for both foreigners and Japanese, whether they reside in Japan or elsewhere. We have a full team of both foreign and Japanese private client managers. We are licensed with the FSA here and we also have a license in the USA so that we can deal with US citizens residing overseas.
What is your background, and how did you start your business?
I am British and was educated in the UK. I have a masters degree in business administration. I am also an accountant, and am a fully certified financial planner. I left the UK in my early 20s and have therefore spent most of my working life abroad in the field of international finance. Up until 1989 this was mostly on the commercial side of trade finance, working for multi-nationals in Bermuda, the US, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, and a short spell of four years back in the UK, before relocating to Japan. I actually came here to assist in the set-up of a Hong Kong broker that wanted an operation in Tokyo, which led me to set up Magellan shortly thereafter. The company has grown and flourished ever since.
What are the Japan-specific challenges your business faces here?
I have watched my industry sector grow and fragment right before my eyes. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time in the early 90s when Magellan was established. The company really had a head start on its market share and reputation, and we have an enviable client base and a very strong team of people working with us with a vast number of years of experience. Our industry is rife with bad pennies and companies that come and go and then form again under another name. This isn’t good for the industry’s image. Competition is good, it keeps you on your toes, keeps you alive, and helps you to think of fresh, creative ideas. But bad completion is not good. I am sure everyone suffers from this, but it seems to happen regularly in our sector.
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring professionals?
Act smart and start building your wealth early on. Too many people leave it too late, and from experience I can tell you that it hurts when you do that. If you are already 30 then you must take action now because you are on the border line of leaving things too late—especially if you want to reach a degree of financial independence before your parents did. The other issue is school fees. There are too many people who wait until their first child comes along. That’s far too late. If for some reason you don’t have children, the money you have saved can be used for something else! My dad told me to start saving when I was 18 and I thought he was nuts! It turns out that fathers are always right.
What do you do in your spare time?
I am an avid scuba diver (nothing else matters apart from family, friends, and Magellan of course). My husband is a course director for PADI, and we met while scuba diving in the Philippines. He runs his own scuba diving and CPR company here. We are lucky enough to have dived some of the best and most famous dive sites in the world, including the Galapagos and Cocos more than once. I also love the undersea world that goes with it. It’s the only time when my mind is completely empty of anything other than what I am seeing. Wildlife and photography are my other interests, and at some point I intend to pursue these interests full time. When that will be, who knows!