The M&A job market in Japan seems strong in the long term

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cross border M&A

The M&A outlook seems positive in Japan as local businesses are expected to take advantage of an appreciating yen by acquiring more companies overseas.

There were 800 cross-border takeovers in Japan last year, valued at US$89bn – the highest number of these transactions since 2000, according to Bloomberg. Its report last month also cited both Citigroup and Nomura as being eager to boost their cross-border M&A teams, although no further details were given.

While that’s potentially good news for recruitment in the longer term, difficulties remain – chief among them the dismal economic climate. Samuel Griffiths, associate director, front office and operations, Robert Walters Japan, says: “While we expect cross-border deals to continue, the current financial uncertainty has meant many of them have been temporarily put on hold along with hiring plans.” That said, he anticipate M&A to be one of the first sectors to rebound once the market picks up.

Expat bankers will not have much luck

Given that the bulk of M&A transactions stem from Japanese companies looking to expand regionally, the ability to have both English and Japanese language skills is “absolutely essential”, says Griffiths. Translation: It’s pretty tough for foreigners to move into these roles.

Correspondingly, the need for specialised and bilingual investment bankers makes recruitment especially competitive because firms are constantly drawing from the same undersized candidate pool.

However, if you are at the lower end of the spectrum, it is possible to land yourself a role. “At the junior level many firms are willing to consider people coming from diverse backgrounds such as the financial advisory departments of big four accounting firms, or related analytical roles within the financial industry, such as structured finance, commercial banking or research,” he adds. However, direct experience remains indispensable for positions at associate level and above.