Staff writer

Growth in Japan is so solid that Edgar Weissenberger, co-chief executive officer of Credit Suisse Asset Management Japan and president of Credit Suisse Trust & Banking Co., is looking to upwardly revise business projections for 2000.

“We currently have an objective to have 2 trillion yen worth of assets in Japan under our management by 2000, but that might now be too conservative, and we might be able to accumulate more assets by the new millennium,” he said in a recent interview.

And it is hard to agree with the argument that the Japanese financial market is closed, he said, especially given the continued shift toward foreign asset managers.

As of the end of 1997, assets under CSAM management came to about 1.5 trillion yen, and growth in business has been especially strong over the past two years, according to Weissenberger.

Of this amount, 300 billion yen has been accumulated in the company’s investment trust division, and Weissenberger predicted that the retail market will become more important to the business with progress of the “Big Bang” financial deregulation. “We want to manage more of the money of Japanese retail investors who would buy mutual funds of foreign equities and foreign bonds,” he said.

The Credit Suisse Group is a global financial service company that consists of five business components, one of which is the asset management unit. In Japan, it operates the trust bank and the investment trust management company.

The company boasts of being one of the few global asset managers in Japan that has operating licenses covering all major investment areas, and Weissenberger pointed to the “global reach” of Credit Suisse as a major selling point for his firm.

But the company is not alone in seeing the future potential of the asset management business and the retail market here. The much-touted 1.2 quadrillion yen in personal assets is a driving force behind the earnestness with which some foreign financial institutions are working, and a key reason why stronger domestic financial firms are determined to dig in their heels.

Many foreign firms are forging relationships with Japanese financial institutions to secure sales routes for their mutual fund products. Credit Suisse Asset Management currently provides its products through domestic securities firms.

A pivotal component of the government’s Big Bang program is a bill set to clear the Diet this week that will in one sweep revise 22 separate pieces of finance-related legislation and ease regulations.

“We see ourselves as product providers — and going forward, from December, banks, too, will be able to sell mutual funds, and then we will also target that channel,” Weissenberger said, adding that his firm is already holding talks with some banks.

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