When Mia Nagasaka, a Senior Analyst who works in Morgan Stanley’s Tokyo office, accepted an offer to move from covering the Japan gaming sector to the Japan financial sector in 2016, she saw it as both an opportunity and a risk. Nagasaka is a rarity: a female analyst in a country and an industry where a small fraction of women hold managerial positions. As the mother of a young child, she knew that the stress and complexities of tackling her new sector would mean even more juggling, and that her ability to do so successfully would have an impact on those looking to follow in her footsteps.
“Some people have called me a pioneer in the Tokyo office,” Nagasaka says. But the chance to take on the challenge—and to pave the way for others—was a powerful incentive. “It’s challenging but, at the same time, it’s very exciting,” she says. “The financial sector is interrelated with so many other industries that you are always learning something and having a chance to meet chief investment officers and other influential people from around the world.”
Read more about Nagasaka in the following interview.
What is your background?
I grew up in Tokyo but was born in the States, because my father’s business took him there. That’s where I learned to speak English. I attended Keio University in Tokyo, where I got both my undergraduate degree and my business degree, and went to the Wharton School as part of an exchange program. I started my career on the sell-side in 2006 and worked for two competing banks before I came to Morgan Stanley in 2010. I was in the technology, media and telecom (TMT) sector, covering Japan gaming, internet and other tech industries. But after 10 years, I wanted to try something new. When there was an opening as a financial analyst and management asked if I wanted the job, I decided to take it.
What is your role at Morgan Stanley?
I’m an equity research analyst. To put it simply, research analysts cover specific industries, and in my case, I cover the financial sector, analyzing companies' fundamentals, making projections for future fundamentals, and valuing the stock. And I explain this to global investors, telling them when the best time to buy is, when the best time to sell is—or whether to stay away from the stock altogether.
What made you decide to switch from covering TMT to covering the financial industry?
I felt strongly that this was a rare opportunity to work in a sector that has enormous influence on the economy as a whole. I also perceived it as an opportunity to deliver the kind of broader insights and perspectives that clients are looking for. Additionally, it seemed the overlap with my previous involvement in the TMT sector would be a good fit. It is a difficult sector, combining macro- and microeconomics, but a dynamic one. Particularly in Japan, the banking industry is now at a very fascinating and challenging period in its history. With about ten years’ experience as an equity analyst, I felt equipped to take on this timely challenge.
Can you elaborate on that?
Banking is possibly the oldest major industry in Japan, supporting various other industries and making it possible for them to develop. However, in order for any industry to sustain growth, it must meet the needs arising from the constantly changing environment. The Japanese banking industry now faces a new era, which warrants dramatic restructuring of its business model. In order to improve profitability, there must be a strategic refocus on efficiency through the intensive use of technology and by concentrating on more highly trained manpower.
What’s it like to be a woman and a mother who works in equity research in Japan?
It requires a lot of work. You travel a lot, you spend a lot of time compiling reports and meeting investors. Traditionally in Japan, it’s been difficult for working women and mothers to find a good life balance. For example, we don’t have an adequate childcare system, although in recent years, I think there are signs of change. Just five years ago, I was a rare example of someone who came back quickly from maternity leave to working full-time. I think I have been able to change the general perspective on this issue in my working environment by constantly maintaining my passion as a professional and striving to come up with solutions to work around my situation. I feel that I have been able to establish credibility. When I was making my decision to come back to work, I saw this as an opportunity to contribute to diversifying the workplace, and that was as exciting to me as pursuing my career.
How can a working mother succeed in Japan?
It takes a great deal of planning ahead and strong commitment. You definitely have to be accountable. But this probably does not differ much from the circumstances faced by working mothers anywhere in the world. I also think a lot of it is about transparency. I try to be open as possible, letting my colleagues know my schedule. For example, if there is an important event at school, I tell them I have to take time off. But I‘ve made the commitment to my clients that I’m always reachable by phone or email. I tell clients, when the market is open, I’m available. Furthermore, technology is definitely on the side of the working mother, and I rely on it to cut down on travel and to work from home.
What is your typical day like?
I get up at 5:30 every morning, pack my son's lunch for pre-K and then look at the newspapers and major media to check whether there's any big news that will drive the market that day. At 6:30, I have breakfast with my husband and my son. Every morning at 7:30, we have the morning meetings with sales at Morgan Stanley that I call into, sharing any relevant reports or news I have with the team. I’m at the office by 8:30. During the day, I spend more than half of my time with clients, and the remaining time, I spend doing analytics and writing reports. I’m home by 7:00 to have dinner with my family; I put my son to bed and then I do whatever work I still need to get done remotely.
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
I really like my job, so I’d like to continue as an analyst but eventually, I would like to take on a role to help the younger generation become excited about their professional pursuits and be rewarded for their efforts. I’d be very interested in a position that would allow me to mentor young women who want to succeed in their career. Furthermore, I hope to contribute to bringing about greater diversity in the workplace, which I believe would energize the workplace as a whole.