Career Guide


Building Malaysia as an Islamic finance hub

In 2007, soon after Nomura Asset Management started operations in Malaysia, Toshihiko Matsunaga made his first trip to Malaysia and decided that he liked it. “Compared with Singapore or Hong Kong, I felt more relaxed in Malaysia because of its hospitality, greenery (lots of trees and a golf course in the middle of town), slower-paced life and good food. Since then, I started to think that my next destination should be Malaysia,” says Matsunaga.

So, after spending more than 30 years in Mexico, New York, Tokyo, Bahrain and London, Matsunaga chose to move to Kuala Lumpur.

“Five years after my first trip, my dream came true and I was posted to KL from our London office,” says Matsunaga, now the executive adviser and board member at Nomura Asset Management Malaysia Sdn Bhd and Nomura Islamic Asset Management Sdn Bhd. “As it is the first time my wife and I have lived in the Asean region, we are trying to visit other parts of Malaysia as well as neighbouring countries. Just recently, we visited Kota Kinabalu and climbed Mount Kinabalu with friends from Tokyo. It was much harder a mountain to climb than I expected.”

Regarding his Residence Pass– Talent (RP-T), Matsunaga shared, “I was introduced to TalentCorp by my Malaysian colleague and CEO of Nomura Asset Management Nor Rejina Rahim. The process was amazingly quick, taking only a couple of weeks and before I knew it we had a 10-year visa to work and live in Malaysia.”

The RP-T will help Matsunaga’s role in promoting Malaysia as an Islamic management hub. He replied quite modestly, “My role is quite simple. I have been doing business within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since I was posted in Bahrain in 1999.”

“It was the time when GCC nations were in trouble financially because the oil price was below US$10. People in GCC remember me as I was there when they were having a hard time. People tend to remember you if you help them when they are in trouble.

“As far as Islamic asset management is concerned, however, Malaysia is 10 years ahead of GCC. It makes a huge difference whether you have large institutional investors such as pension funds or not.”

Matsunaga goes on to say that there is huge liquidity in GCC and other Muslim nations in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, and that pensioners there are starving for syariah products.

“We are, at Nomura, having our Islamic asset management hub in Malaysia and have been trying hard to tap into GCC and other Muslim nations in EMEA as Nomura has historically kept very good business relationships with them,” says Matsunaga.

“I am pretty sure that Nomura can contribute further in bridging Malaysia and the Middle East in years to come,” says Matsunaga.

“I look forward to helping market Malaysia as a global Islamic finance hub to investors in the future.”

Living in Malaysia

When Matsunaga and his wife were university students, they used to climb mountains, “In fact,” he confides, “that’s how I met my wife.”

Since moving to Malaysia, they started their plan to climb Mount Kinabalu.

“The first time we saw a photo of it, we were very fascinated with its shape which is unique and somewhat scary.”

Matsunaga believes nature in Malaysia is beautiful and great, and that Malaysians should be proud of it. Husband and wife are already planning to revisit Sabah.

In response to that favourite question Malaysians ask of all visiting friends, “My favourite food is curry mee or laksa. You get addicted to it. I am betting that some Japanese would soon open a curry mee or laksa shop in Tokyo.”

Matsunaga’s message to Malaysians:

“Be proud that you have great nature, live in mixed cultures, have more children and young people, and have many female executives in both public and private sectors. We, Japanese, either do not have them, or are losing them.”

Karen Neoh is the editor of leaderonomics.com and the myStarjob.com career pullout

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