Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Every month on WOMENCANFLY.CO’s blog series, The Way, we introduce inspirational women who live abroad.
In this segment, we meet Shizuka Nara, a financial planner living in Malaysia.
Shizuka joined the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ after graduating from university and worked as an advisor for personal asset management, loans and inheritance for about ten and a half years. Even though her job was stressful, she had no major complaints about it and thought she’d work in the same company until she retired. However, after she went on a family trip to Malaysia in 2018, she became fascinated with the country and decided to migrate there with her husband. She currently resides in Kuala Lumpur with him.
We hear about Shizuka’s Malaysian lifestyle, changing jobs to work overseas and overseas working conditions as she continues to work as a financial planner (FP) in Malaysia.
10.5 years of financial knowledge and experience at a megabank
As a Senior Financial Planner, Shizuka was in charge of a wide range of operations including personal asset management, financing and inheritance for ten and a half years at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
A financial planner is a money expert who provides advice on life planning and assets. In Japan, financial advisors have the image of being a little out of reach for just a casual consultation but in the west, even if you’re not a business manager or wealthy person, hiring a financial planner can be like having a personal money doctor.
“It’s a rewarding job because clients entrust me with valuable assets. During my banking days, I had no desire to be a great, top consultant but I wanted people to have the feeling of, “I’m glad Shizuka was in charge of this.”
Originally, Shizuka had neither the intention to change jobs and move abroad nor a strong awareness in climbing the corporate ladder. However, she was in charge of areas like Marunouchi and Otemachi where there are many wealthy people who represent the Japanese business world. While taking care of first-class customers, it seemed that finance had become an “unbeatable weapon.”
“My customers at the time had much better financial knowledge and experience than me. Every day, I was conducting trial and error on how to make proposals to them. I often felt that the banking world has broad duties and it’s useless to remember so much but I thought it would be useful if everything was put together.”
The skills and experience Shizuka gained in her ten and a half years at a megabank became her biggest asset for changing jobs overseas.
What led her to Malaysia
Malaysia is located in the center of Southeast Asia. It is approximately 60% covered with tropical rainforests and has a population with various ethnic groups including Malay, Chinese and Indian. Malaysia weaves these various cultures and customs into its own which makes it unique.
The first time Shizuka went to Malaysia was in February 2018.
“I have no connections abroad and it was my second time travelling overseas since my honeymoon but I was fascinated by Malaysia’s warm climate and relaxing atmosphere. I thought to myself I wanted to live there. My husband had lived in Malaysia when he was younger so he accepted it well.”
After returning to Japan from her trip, they quickly started to make preparations to move.
“There were lots of things to think about like whether there would be a buyer for the apartment we were living in, how much I’d be able to earn in Malaysia or whether I’d be able to make a living and have savings with that income.”
At the time, Shizuka was responsible for loans at a bank and had a habit of always assuming the worst patterns. She calculated the trend of a lack of a raise in her salary through a simulation in Excel.
Fortunately, a buyer for their apartment was found and Shizuka also found a job where she could use her financial planning qualifications.
Shizuka started a new life in Malaysia in August 2018, six months after her trip thanks to her bold decision and careful planning.
Differences between Japan and Malaysia
Shizuka now works at Questor Capital, a financial company headquartered in Malaysia. Her colleagues are from all over the world including, Malaysia, England, The Philippines and Japan. It has a Western-influenced corporate culture of meritocracy as it was founded by an English person.
Shizuka is mainly in charge of Japanese people living in Thailand and currently lives between Malaysia and Thailand every other week.
“I’m introducing global, financial products for Japanese people working overseas, mostly those living in Thailand. In terms of the financial product proposals and life plan consulting, it’s about 60% similar to my job during my banking days but the working styles and systems are quite different.”
For example, when Shizuka was working at a bank, the working hours were fixed from 8:40am to 5:10pm and the bank business days were fixed according to a calendar. However, at Questor Capital, consultants had full flexibility over their way of working. Shizuka is able to decide everything from working hours to vacations.
Shizuka also calls her seniors and colleagues by their first names or nicknames and feels closer to her colleagues than in her Japanese workplace.
“The role of a manager is also different from that in Japan and comes from the stance of being a supporter for the consultant. Meetings with managers take only about ten minutes and a lot of correspondence about business is done through email or chat. Essentially, my role as a consultant is to proceed with my work based on my judgement.”
The consultants have a lot of discretion so some people set up their own websites or advertise in free papers to acquire clients.
Expenses are basically self-funded but if you decide to earn profits to match that, you can challenge it as long as it doesn’t violate compliance.
“I was impressed when I joined the company and was told, “It’s all up to you.” In Japan, women’s activities have been promoted in recent years but in large companies this may be diminishing. Questor Capital doesn’t give us preferential treatment based on gender or age but has a meritocratic system. It’s a workplace where results are always required.”
Shizuka became Thailand’s country manager about a year after she joined the company. While working as a consultant herself, she also currently manages and supports her team.
Having a specialty is key
Shizuka achieved results at her company and was appointed as a manager. As English is the language of communication within the company, we wondered if it was because she was good at English but she has no confidence in her language skills at all.
“I think I’m the person who can’t speak English the most in the company. When I was a banker, the TOEIC score I got was in the 300s (laughs) and when I tried again to change jobs overseas, I challenged myself again and got around 600 points which is just a little higher than the average new graduates get. It definitely wasn’t something I could write on my resume.”
When it comes to changing jobs overseas, many people give up before they even start because they tend to think that having a certain TOEIC score is required.
Shizuka was also worried about her language skills when she changed jobs.
However, when she was actually working overseas, in the end, what was most useful was not her English skills but the knowledge and experience she accumulated as a financial planner.
“It’s good to be able to use English but for me, my financial skills hid my weak language skills. I wondered what I’d do with better language skills even if I had them anyway? What’s more important is what I do with the language that I know.”
Expertise should become increasingly important for women whose careers tend to be interrupted due to giving birth and raising their children. Questor Capital has a large number of consultants and staff who balance taking care of their children and work. Shizuka also plans to continue working even if she has children in the future.
Changing jobs overseas is nothing special so if you’re in doubt, take on the challenge
Malaysia has many Malay Muslims, Buddhists and Christians and celebrates various holidays for their respective religions.
“I came to Malaysia and learned about working styles and cultural diversity which broadened my mind. I may have changed jobs overseas and abandoned the brand and stability of a large company but I feel like I’ve gotten much more than that.”
Since Shizuka goes on business trips to Thailand every second week, she doesn’t have much time to spend with her husband but on days off, they go to cafes and have afternoon tea. Their goal is to become people who work hard and play hard like the Westerners in the company.
“If I hadn’t moved and changed jobs overseas, I think I would’ve somehow lived in Japan and worked at a bank until I retired. I was an ordinary office worker but now I work overseas. It’s nothing special.”
Money and life plan issues are important for everyone to consider regardless of age, gender or occupation. However, opportunities to learn about them at school are scarce. On top of this, financial products are intangible so it is very important to consult with someone who can give you recommendations.
In addition to face-to-face consultations, Shizuka also provides remote consultations via Zoom, Skype, LINE or telephone. Even for those who are not familiar with finance, there are many recommended readings and email newsletters that for example compare investments to a diet or a fall in stock prices to a bargain.
“I try not to use financial jargon as much as possible and try to explain in an easy-to-understand way for beginners.”
Shizuka has a wealth of knowledge and experience and is polite and sincere when dealing with clients. We also got a glimpse of a charming side of her that makes us understand when people have thought, “I want to consult with Shizuka.”
If you would like to consult or receive information, please feel to contact Shizuka via the email below. She’ll be able to give you money advice according to your situation. Financial Planner: Shizuka Nara firstname.lastname@example.org Questor Capital’s Official Website https://questor-capital.com/ja/ (Shizuka was responsible for the Japanese website design)
Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!
Women can fly.
Much love, xxx
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