01 Apr 2001


Tatsuyuki Saeki: Putting Stock in New Options at Nasdaq Japan

by Alejandro Reyes

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After 35 years with IBM, Tatsuyuki Saeki could have chosen to put his feet up and relax — perhaps after a few rounds of golf. But that just isn’t Ted Saeki’s style. Instead, the feisty 60-year-old veteran executive has started a second career as president and CEO of Nasdaq Japan, Inc., an offshoot of the wildly successful American technology stock market. Launched last year as a joint venture between the U.S. Nasdaq, Japan’s Softbank Corporation, and thirteen leading Japanese and foreign brokerages, Nasdaq Japan aims to break the stranglehold of the dominant financial market in Tokyo by providing new opportunities for Japanese investors and wider access to equity capital for emerging Japanese companies.

In short, Saeki is challenging the old-boy network and forcing Japan’s button-down business culture to change. “My real purpose is not to harm or destroy the securities industry in this country but to encourage it to be more competitive,” he explains. What Saeki is bringing to Japan is Nasdaq’s emphasis on good governance and transparency. “We force issuers to disclose accurate information quarterly,” he explains. Many established corporations have been lukewarm to Saeki’s message, but some young entrepreneurs are picking up on it — Nasdaq Japan listed forty companies last year.

With only 10 percent of private investors participating in the securities market, Saeki sees enormous room for growth. “This country still has a lot of traditional rules” that discourage individuals from buying stocks, he notes. Minimum prices for shares, for example, put equities out of the reach of many. But by convincing the government to liberalize regulations, Saeki hopes to win public confidence and pull in more players. The Internet, which allows investors greater access to corporate information and forces companies to be more open, will help.

Still, Saeki knows he has his work cut out for him. “Nasdaq has been very successful in the United States and is now eyeing global trading,” he notes. “It’s a great strategy that will fly. But changing the securities industry in Japan and negotiating with the government here is a nightmare.” So much for a peaceful retirement.

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