The surge of emerging Japanese business leaders has seen a steady rise. In 2015, only 10 percent of Fortune Global 500 CEOs were Japanese, but by 2023, that figure reached 15 percent. Japan has earned recognition for its ability to cultivate outstanding business magnates who spearhead innovation and stimulate economic advancement. In addition to revolutionizing numerous industries, these extraordinary individuals serve as a wellspring of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs and emerging leaders. In recent times the financial services industry is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by emerging trends that reshape the way services are delivered. Digital transformation, powered by technologies like AI, ML, and blockchain, fuels innovation and enhances operational efficiency. Fintech disruption challenges traditional institutions, while open banking fosters collaboration and personalization. Seamless omnichannel interactions prioritize enhanced customer experiences. However, these trends bring forth significant challenges. Regulatory compliance remains a constant hurdle, with evolving regulations necessitating continuous monitoring and adherence. Cybersecurity threats demand robust measures to protect sensitive data and thwart financial crimes and technological advancements pose both opportunities and risks, requiring firms to navigate digital transformation while maintaining customer privacy and trust.
Razin Ashraf, an accomplished and visionary individual, has played a pivotal role in overcoming industry challenges, leaving a significant impact on Japan's business landscape. Through strategic approaches and focused efforts, Ashraf has tackled the difficulty of attracting younger talent by highlighting the unique opportunities and growth potential offered by the firm's Japan-focused operations. Ashraf has recognized the importance of diversification and explored opportunities in sectors beyond finance. By actively seeking individuals with the required expertise and skill set, the firm aims to overcome this challenge and propel the growth and expansion of its business under Ashraf's leadership. His story serves as a shining beacon of hope, showcasing the relentless pursuit of success despite formidable challenges.
Could you give a brief account of your professional background and experiences? What is the motivation that fuels your daily routines?
I started my recruitment career in Tokyo in 2007 at a company called Hays Japan, a large British recruitment company. At that time, I joined as a junior consultant after completing my education in Australia. At Hays, I joined the banking team, focusing on financial services recruitment and progressed from a junior consultant to building the Front Office business, managing the banking team, then also the insurance team, and finally the finance technology team as well-covering the entire Financial Services recruitment group. After eight and a half years, I decided to start my own company called 'Divine Solutions Japan' in 2016.
How would you define Divine Solutions Japan as an organization and its current position in the market?
Divine Solutions Japan is described as a small firm in terms of numbers, but it holds a prominent position in the market as one of the top five financial services recruitment specialists in Tokyo. Our primary focus is on the Front Office area, particularly within investment banks/Sell-Side (fixed income and equities), but we also have a strong presence and track record within Buy-Side (asset management and hedge funds) recruitment, Technology, Risk Management, Corporate Banking, and Fintech. Our clients include domestic/Japanese and Non-Japanese Financial Institutions, and our strongest area of expertise lies within global markets.
Tell us about your leadership approach. What are the guidelines or methodologies you follow as a leader?
The leadership approach can be characterized as a mix of leading from the front and one of collective leadership, where I actively seek input and opinions from all staff members, including juniors when making decisions or implementing new initiatives. We avoid top-down management and focus on developing successful consultants in our company. We have built a strong network and a deep understanding of clients’ businesses and needs. We prioritize cultural fit and strive to meet their expectations. As a trusted partner, we can arrange meetings for candidates without resumes, simply through a phone call, text, or email recommendation. This reflects the trust and credibility we have earned with our clients.
Could you reflect on some of the toughest challenges you have encountered in your journey so far? How did you overcome them and what did you learn from them?
One of the toughest challenges I have encountered in my journey so far is attracting and retaining younger talent to our smaller company. We have found that younger individuals tend to gravitate towards bigger or international firms, while our core focus is primarily on Japan. While we do receive interest from experienced consultants, for the most part, we prioritize hiring and training juniors.
The second biggest challenge has been the difficulty in expanding the size of our business and exploring new sectors beyond finance. We have been considering branching out into different sectors but have struggled to identify the right individuals for such endeavors. Overcoming these challenges requires finding innovative ways to attract and retain younger talent and identifying the right people to facilitate expansion into new sectors.
What is the future destination you are heading towards?
The future destination I am heading towards is to continue being hands-on in my job, actively involved in sales and the full recruitment process, hiring several managers to help achieve my growth plans, and to constantly seek new sectors to enter. In terms of short to mid-term goals, we aim to achieve certain staff and revenue numbers and targets. Specifically, we plan to have 20 consultants within a two-year timeframe in Japan and another 10 in London. Additionally, we hope to establish a similar setup and culture in our London office and become recognized as an international player.
In light of your strong experience within the industry, what advice would you give to budding industry leaders?
Authenticity and genuineness are crucial for budding industry leaders. Understand your offerings and actively listen, empathizing with others' needs. A positive, respectful attitude holds immense value. In my 16 years of experience, I've seen individuals rise and fall, but those who maintain consistent communication styles and treat everyone equally succeed. Regardless of career position, treating everyone with respect and courtesy is an important principle to embrace.
Razin Ashraf, Managing Director, Divine Solutions Japan
Razin is the Managing Director of Divine Solutions Japan, a leading financial services recruitment firm. With over 16 years of experience and a collective leadership approach, he has established the company as a trusted partner, fostering success through authenticity, collaboration, and a deep understanding of client’s needs.