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After working as a senior banker at Goldman Sachs Tokyo, Teruko Kyuden (EMBALS2018) left Japan in 2014 in search of a more global career. Today, she explains how the Executive MBA programme helped her grow her network and assist in the development of a new investment arm within Caygan Capital.
I was born and raised in the Greater Tokyo Area. In Japan, a certain uniformity of thinking is down to the fact that the majority of the population were born and grew up there. About 98% of the population is Japanese – so there’s a definite lack of diversity which is reflected in the country’s high context culture. In a work environment, intelligent people are often expected to read between the lines and decipher what’s expected of them. The flip side to this is that people start to think similarly and in a somewhat conservative way.
I began my career as a Debt Capital Markets Analyst at Merrill Lynch Japan and then moved to Goldman Sachs: as the Tokyo office of American companies with ‘global’ strategy, they fostered a mixed culture of Japan and US. This was something I soon realised I liked both personally and professionally. Although there was a certain uniformity as most of my colleagues in my division were Japanese, they had a more open-minded culture than a typical Japanese organisation. There, I was lucky enough to experience an innovative culture while being trusted with a great deal of responsibility and autonomy.
Several of my senior colleagues at Goldman Sachs – including my boss – had MBAs from leading schools in US and Europe, which they credited for helping them build their own networks. I came to feel that own external network might help to develop new business opportunities – but at the time, it didn’t seem logical to leave my job and the country to become an MBA student since I was already working as a vice president, which was senior to the position MBA graduates were placed in.
“One of the biggest things the EMBA changed was my mindset. Before the programme, I was a pretty conservative, stubborn person and tended to think in a more traditional way. LBS changed all that.”
After thirteen years in investment banking, and having spent my entire working life in Tokyo, I decided to pursue a more global career. I secured a role as a Research Analyst with Caygan Capital – a Japanese-owned organisation that was in the process of establishing an office in London to kick-start a global expansion. It was the perfect opportunity for me.
Relocating to London was a culture shock but one I was ready for. It has a similar energy and pace to Tokyo, but is fundamentally different because it’s so international. It was a lot to take in initially, but it’s exactly what I was looking for – however, I realised that just working in London didn’t grow my network enough.
“The part-time element of the programme meant I was immediately able to discuss what I’d learnt with my CIO, share the different perspectives I’d picked up from classmates and professors and instantly apply my learnings within my role.”
The EMBAL programme was the perfect fit for me – it gave me a world-class education without having to quit my job. As a part-time programme, it could fulfil my educational ambitions while continuing to move forward in my career. This helped alleviate the financial pressure as well as the stress of having to find a new position after graduating. When I started at LBS in 2016, I’d already been with Caygan Capital for two years. I was – and still am – committed to the organisation, so having the opportunity to continue working there while studying was ideal. Second, the EMBA targets highly experienced professionals which fitted to my background and helped me to build a right professional network. Last but not least, I recognised LBS was the best business school in the region with superior global community, which made it a natural choice.
My classmates were from a wide range of professions – not just industries like finance and consultancy. The 2018 cohort included engineers, scientists, doctors, lawyers and salespersons. This helped me to develop a more diverse perspective by learning from the experiences of other high-achieving individuals in sectors that were different from my own.
In the second year of my EMBA, I took the opportunity to study for a week at the University of Hong Kong MBA. I completed an elective of Multi-national Strategy in China, which focused on how European organisations are entering the Chinese market and how Chinese business customs radically differ from other global business customs. The professor was Chinese, as were most of the students, so it was interesting to hear their perspectives. Again, it allowed me to take on board different opinions and challenge the way I think – something that LBS is excellent at encouraging.
The clubs and societies are one of the best things about studying at LBS. I was part of the Israel trek, which involved going to Tel Aviv to immerse ourselves in the city’s thriving startup culture. I was also part of the Investment Management Club, where one of my favourite memories was attending a lunch Q&A session with Warren Buffett!
I discovered my passion for startups at LBS – and found out that it’s an amazing place for both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. Many of my classmates had a lot of experience in their respective industries and were either thinking about starting their own businesses or had already done so. Some had experience on the investment side, too. While it wasn’t something I ended up doing myself, it opened my eyes to the industry and how I could tap into it through my own organisation.
“I was part of the Investment Management Club, where one of my favourite memories was attending a lunch Q&A session with Warren Buffett.”
LBS gave me an incredible foundation of knowledge on startups and entrepreneurship. Through the ‘Financing Entrepreneurial Business’ elective, I learnt about the VC industry landscape, the things venture capitalists check in due diligence and how to evaluate startups. I also learnt from the experiences of real-life case studies through a series of guest speaker sessions organised by the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club as well as the faculties. There’s so much going on, both in the classroom and outside of it, and that’s what makes LBS such a fantastic place for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The network and knowledge I built at LBS helped to develop a new business for my organisation. Caygan Capital had an interest in entering into startup investments in addition to the hedge fund business. However, it was not easy as sourcing deals is essential in private investments, which the organisation was not familiar with. With the experience I’d gained and the contacts I’d made at LBS, I was able to help them do this, leading on investments in this particular field. The LBS campus community discussion board was one of the measures to source deals and find startup founders, with people regularly posting opportunities with the school community.
I was named as SVP of VC Investments for investing in startups that are developing technologies for a better future and tackling problems like climate change, sustainability, digital healthcare and our aging society. This includes businesses who develop software to improve the efficiency of wind and solar power generation, technology to turn organic waste into biodegradable plastic, and systems to resell unsold food and second-hand clothing.
The academic side of the EMBA was essential in helping me step up to a bigger role. The ‘Negotiating and Bargaining’ elective proved extremely useful when making my case for a promotion, and I also took the ‘Value Investing’ elective, which was directly relevant to my role at Caygan. The part-time element of the programme meant I was immediately able to discuss what I’d learnt with my CIO, share the different perspectives I’d picked up from classmates and professors and instantly apply my learnings within my role.
One of the biggest things the EMBA changed was my mindset. Before the programme, I was a pretty conservative, stubborn person and tended to think in a more traditional way. LBS changed all that. My class was so diverse – not just in terms of nationality and profession, but in terms of opinions and experiences. Being exposed to this across a two-year period completely changed me – although I have always liked new experiences, I am now more open to new opportunities than ever before.