Doug Hymas, Country Executive, Bank of New York Mellon: Episode #109 Japan's Top Business Interviews

Doug Hymas was the previous Japan Country Executive for the Bank of New York Mellon Group. Many years ago, during his college days, Mr. Hymas served in Japan as a Mormon missionary based in Tokyo. He returned after this stint and finished up college at the Brigham Young University (BYU) back in the US. He developed an interest for Japan, while he was at college in the 1980’s and Japan was at the frontier in business and culture. Mr. Hymas was glad he was given the chance to develop his Japanese at the university and through his missionary work in Tokyo. During his time with the Mormon Church doing missionary work in Japan, he focused mostly on verbal Japanese and not on the Kanji Japanese script as most of their work was verbal. After about 6 months in Japan, he was very confident in his conversational Japanese abilities. He later did get a chance to develop his written Japanese through BYU, which had a strong focus on Japanese and other languages. The retuned missionaries often teach courses to current students at the university, and this gives students a fresh perspective of people who have experienced Japan.

Mr. Hymas later returned to BYU to do a Law degree and graduated as a lawyer. He started working with KPMG and was later transferred to Japan. He then worked by advising Japanese clients on International Law. Afterwards, Mr. Hymas was headhunted by a Japanese firm called Minebea Company Limited, where he worked as an in-house counsel advising on legal matters outside of Japan, primarily in the US. Mr. Hymas loved this job, but the pay was very low. At this point one of his friends was building a team of lawyers within the Lehman Brothers and invited Mr. Hymas to join his team at Lehman. At this role, his salary tripled but he says his lifestyle went down. He stayed with Lehman brothers for 3 years, which led him to his role at BGI, who were the world’s largest indexing investment manager at the time. He liked the business model at BGI as he felt that the company’s interests aligned with the clients−if they did well, their fees increased. If they didn’t do well, they received a reduced fee. This business model was one of the reasons he stayed within Investment Management for 10 years thereafter. Afterwards, Mr. Hymas was headhunted by Citigroup, which allowed him to step away from the legal world and into business. Soon after, he started leading the organization.

To foster creativity in the workplace, Mr. Hymas reminds his staff that they are not government workers, and their success is dependent on working hard with engagement. Mr. Hymas says there are many ways to be creative in his work. For example, it can be a creative solution in sales, the actual product design, or innovative ways to provide customer service by understanding client needs. Mr. Hymas emphasizes that some people are motivated by financial incentives, but many are not, and acknowledgment through public recognition is also important.

Mr. Hymas advises those new to leading in Japan to be open to cultural differences and try and understand the strong team culture. He observes that Japanese people work well if the team is working well. Thus, trying to understand what you may see in a meeting may not be the real picture. For example if the staff are nodding and agreeing to something in the meeting, that may not necessarily be the case, and there may be something they are holding back. Being mindful of this and trying to understand what is happening in between meetings is important. Mr. Hymas also recommends the person coming in getting a confidant. By building a relationship with people you trust on the team who act as your eyes and ears, Mr. Hymas says you can get a better understanding of Japanese people and workplaces.
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