Name: Ben Ferguson
Title: Head of Goldman Sachs Asia Pacific Equities and co-head of Japan Securities Sales
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Years in Japan: 23
What was your first encounter with Japan?
I grew up in the 1980s in the Midwest. Japan was pretty scary back then. Lots of companies in my neck of the woods were going out of business, and a lot of people were losing their jobs. People don’t remember this, but I think the United Auto Workers were standing on top of Toyota cars bashing their hoods in with baseball bats.
Japan was an enigma to me growing up in the Midwest. I really felt like I had to figure out what was happening. I was intrigued by Japan and their economic model. I remember reading articles in BusinessWeek about Japan’s financial system and how capitalism in Japan was far superior than in the U.S. When I had the opportunity to study in Japan in 1993, I intended to only stay for a semester, but now I’ve been here on and off for nearly 30 years.
Please state your motto in life and why you have chosen it.
Given the industry I’m in, luck and probability are pretty key to being successful. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between hard work and luck, which is why I like this Douglas MacArthur quote: “Even when opportunity knocks, a man still has to get up off his seat and open the door.”
Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?
I’ve been very fortunate to be part of some major inflection points in Asian markets. I’ve worked on some deals over the years that have been transformational in terms of outcome. When you sign up for a career in finance, you’re lucky to get one such opportunity, but I’ve had several. These include Goldman’s work with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group to reequitize their balance sheet in 2003 and the recapitalization of Toshiba in 2017.
What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?
A current focus of mine is encouraging our clients to disclose more information regarding ESG standards. In the MSCI index, Japanese companies tend to score below their European counterparts from an environmental perspective.
Japanese companies don’t generally disclose as much information as European companies, which is partly why Japan as an economy doesn’t get enough credit from an ESG perspective. Some of the best environmental tech companies and technologies are being developed in Japan, and it’s been an environmentally sensitive country for a long time. I want to help close this gap between reality and perception.
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