David Atkinson was still in his 20s when he rose to fame as a Japan-based banking analyst with the U.S. investment bank Salomon Brothers, prior to him moving to Goldman Sachs.

Having graduated from Oxford University with an M.A. in Japanese studies in 1987, and following a few years' stint in London and New York at major consulting and outsourcing firm Andersen Consulting (now known as Accenture), he arrived in Japan in 1990 and soon became embroiled in the most dramatic and turbulent chapter in the country's peacetime banking history.

Throughout the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s, Atkinson, thanks to his objective and cool-headed analyses, was one of the most influential observers of the sector. And what a time it was to be in such a key position, with several banks going to the wall, the nationalization of two long-term credit banks and mega-mergers that saw the nation's 10 major banks consolidate into just three.