Nomura, breasts and ablutions
I know of Nomura from my London days. In a ‘oh fuck, I have to go to work tomorrow’ kind of way. Since then there has been the boob incident, the Lehman Brothers flop, Japan at the bottom of a hole and shareholders suggesting that staff should use squat toilets to improve the share price.
One of my best buddies, Kiwi Sue, dragged herself off Monday to Friday, feminine and groomed, to manage the working life of one of the top guys at Nomura. This was after a ‘hit repeat, repeat, repeat’ weekend in our little huddle, clubbing in small back-of-the-pub type places and hosting organically grown house parties … the house with 17 people in summer, tents in the garden, one bathroom and where Owen, our token Brit on the dole, lived under the stairs.
At the time, us girls really didn’t care about how we were perceived in the workplace but rather chased the £/hr to support our offline lifestyle. I was typing notes to my friends back in South Africa, dictaphone plugged in, with my boss concluding I was still typing up his minutes. Sue, being Sue, always looked drop dead gorgeous, naturally voluptuous, an enthusiastic planner and produced perfection. Our approaches have continued to work into 2012. We have maneuvered and overcome, with neither of us feeling disenfranchised by the corporate world. But if my boss in the year 2009 had referred to my breasts during a meeting, perhaps I would be less sanguine.
‘What the guy actually called them was “honkers.” Nomura’s acquisition of Lehman’s internal operations has not gone as smoothly as everyone had hoped. The Lehman employees are very difficult, all but refusing to submit to their new employer’s way of doing things. Particularly the womenfolk. They spent the summer slutting it up in sleeveless shirts, and, despite being told, pointblank, that women exist to serve, they still just seem to not get it. So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’d raise a ruckus over pretty standard business practices like having their jugs referred to as “honkers” in front of colleagues, and it be suggested that their time would be better spent tidying up the house.’
A conglomerate which dominates investment banking in Japan, with the expected banking hits of late, Nomura is also partly confused about what it does well. Which I suspect is to focus on the East, to retract to home base and bank on the beautiful 4.4% GDP growth rate Japan achieved in 2010, the highest since 1990. In the 1980s the west embraced Nomura’s distinctiveness, as the expansionist bank made money and its country of origin’s economic miracle seemed to offer an approach which worked and inspired MBA case studies. In Japan, rules of engagement founded on hierarchy and harmony preside. They are also an intelligent, hard-working bunch. But the 1990s became the lost decade for Japan and Nomura’s results continue to take a knock – an ROE of 0.6% for 2011. The bank makes less money the further it moves from Tokyo and the part-acquisition of Lehman Brothers in 2008 became a ‘loss of face’ in a sensitive Japanese culture. Which was ridiculed this month. One Nomura shareholder has come up with a novel suggestion to help to boost its share price: replace all office toilets with Japanese-style squat facilities.
“All toilets within the company’s offices shall be Japanese-style toilets, thereby toughening the legs and loins and hunkering down on a daily basis, aiming at achieving four-digit stock prices,” the shareholder said ahead of this month’s annual meeting on June 27. “The company can surely avoid failure if they straddle over a Japanese-style toilet every day and strengthen their lower body.”
Snort material. So now I wonder if this shareholder is Japanese, and if Sue’s sexiness enhanced or detracted from her station as a PA at Nomura.