Shinsei Bank has been serving both Japanese and expat retail banking customers since 2001, offering a whole range of bilingual services. Sanjeev Gupta has been with the company for nine years, and currently serves as a senior managing executive officer and head of the Individual Group, which serves six million retail banking and consumer finance customers in Japan.
How long have you been in Japan?
My first visit to Japan was for five months back in 1980. I returned in June 1984 to take up my first job and have been living here ever since. How time flies!
What is your background and how did you arrive at your current position?
I am originally from New Delhi, India but have now spent 29 years overseas, of which almost 26 have been in Tokyo. My background is in finance and I have studied both in India and in the US, where I obtained my Certified Public Accountant license. I started my career in 1984 with Coopers and Lybrand, and then moved to Citibank in 1989. I joined Shinsei Bank in 2000.
Can you tell us a bit about your company?
Shinsei Bank is a diversified financial institution that offers a full range of financial products and services to institutional and individual customers in Japan. We pride ourselves on being a truly different kind of Japanese bank, more global than our local peers and more local than the foreign financial institutions in Japan.
Our institutional business serves a broad cross-section of Japanese corporates, financial institutions and the public sector, with core competencies in real estate finance, corporate advisory and principal transactions. My responsibility is for our individual businesses: our retail bank and consumer finance services. Despite its relatively short history and a smaller branch network than megabank competitors, Shinsei’s retail bank has attracted over 2.4 million customers to date and was named best retail bank in Japan by The Asian Banker for the third time in 2008. I think this success reflects the innovations we have brought to the industry, which include eliminating charges for services such as ATMs and fund transfers, building a highly secure, low-cost IT infrastructure that empowers customers to manage their money 24/7, and offering an array of innovative products to meet customers’ ever-diversifying needs. Leveraging our experience and the IT infrastructure we have developed in retail banking, we are now building a new model for responsible consumer lending in Japan centered around our leading franchises (Lake, No Loan and APLUS).
Can you describe your business philosophy for us?
When Shinsei launched its retail banking services in 2001, we aimed to differentiate ourselves by offering Japanese customers a new level of empowerment. Whether it’s our bilingual telephone and internet banking services, our speedy account opening process, or free ATM withdrawals, I think this commitment to customer empowerment is still a key differentiator for Shinsei.
What are the Japan-specific challenges your business faces here?
Our Japanese customers tend to be risk-averse and the recent economic uncertainty has strengthened that tendency. However, we are seeing renewed interest in investment products and our challenge is to meet that demand. One way we’re doing this is by opening new Shinsei Consulting Spots that specialize in asset management products. Most recently, we opened our Kamakura Consulting Spot on September 1. On the consumer finance front, regulatory changes remain the single biggest challenge. But we are well-positioned to compete thanks to our inexpensive, stable funding through retail deposits, strong risk management, and leading franchises.
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring professionals?
I find that people tend to make simple things complicated. My advice is to keep things simple, focus on your customers and their needs, develop your inter-personal skills, and execute tenaciously on your responsibilities.
What do you do in your spare time?
Weekdays are extremely busy so I try to spend my weekends and holidays with family. I enjoy going out to eat, meeting up with friends, and watching television, especially sports.
Photo courtesy of Sanjeev Gupta