Clare Baldwin

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Nomura banker says singing for karaoke only

November 17, 2009

Takeo Sumino, chief operating officer of Nomura Holding America Inc, wants to make one thing clear: neither he nor his Tokyo colleagues are into the habit of breaking into song first thing in the morning at the office.

A Wall Street Journal story in July said that one group of Nomura traders sang a company song in morning meetings.

“Japan created the video game, Japan has created the karaoke culture, but that does not necessarily mean that Nomura as a company will ask people to sing a song every day,” he said, trying to debunk reports of culture clashes between Nomura bankers and their new colleagues at the former Lehman Brothers empire in Asia and Europe.

“I worked in Nomura for 22 years. I never sang a song in the morning,” he said. “If you want to sing a song or listen to my song I can take you to karaoke, but you don’t need to come to my office because I don’t sing a song.”

Sumino acknowledges that the Lehman deal has changed things at Nomura, but insists it’s been in positive ways.

Bankers who could only communicate in Japanese are now rattling off e-mails and water cooler conversations in English, he told the Reuters Global Finance Summit.

“I do think a very big transition, a transformational change took place in Nomura after we started working with Lehman,” Sumino said.

“E-mail traffic in English . . . . is tremendously larger,” he said. “The number of individuals in Tokyo who used to be able to operate only speaking in Japanese, a lot of them are now communicating and writing and speaking in English.”