Kumi Fujisawa, who founded Japan’s first mutual fund assessment company in the mid-1990s, says investing in yourself — not high-return financial products — is the key to getting the largest return.

“I have experienced big losses through stock trading, but I have also come to realize that one is able to maximize returns by investing all one’s money and time in oneself,” she said.

Currently director of think tank SophiaBank Ltd., Fujisawa, 36, engages in a variety of work, ranging from writing columns on investment for fashion magazines to sponsoring seminars for children and investment novices — all to disseminate her belief that investment has the power to change society.

At school, she studied a field entirely different from financial affairs: skin respiration. But she questioned the hierarchical system at her university’s research laboratory.

“I thought that the hierarchical structure of the lab epitomized society and I decided to create my own company . . . by the age of 30,” Fujisawa said.

As a first step toward achieving this dream, Fujisawa worked for an investment management company after graduating.

She also worked at Schroder Investment Management (Japan) Ltd. and Warburg Investment Trust Management Co. Ltd. to gain further financial knowledge and skills.

When she turned 28, she and a former colleague created IFIS Inc., Japan’s first company specializing in assessments of mutual funds.

Fujisawa said her company was created to provide investors with information about mutual funds from a neutral standpoint rather than that of companies handling the financial instruments.

But she was soon disappointed to find that investors were not as interested in that kind of information as she had expected.

“People were not interested in taking risks for investment,” she said.

Fujisawa believed people were shying away from investing mainly due to a lack of education. The belief prompted her to sell IFIS to Standard & Poor’s in 1999 and create a new company to disseminate information about investment to the general public.

In 2000, she helped establish SophiaBank. Fujisawa said she has learned the true value of investment through her own experience of creating and running her own business.

“I was able to find out what investment is all about when I took the risk of creating my own company,” she said. “Up until then, I had thought about investment only in terms of making money.”

Fujisawa believes investment is about designing one’s own future and helping shape society. “What is most important is to have a vision.”

To build a career, “it may be far better to spend one’s own money and time on studying abroad or brushing up one’s business skills” rather than just seeking short-term profits through investing in financial products, she said.

She also realized that investment is closely connected with social participation, as stockholders are able to foster companies in which they have a stake.

Having created her own company, she experienced the joy of meeting many people with different backgrounds and working toward the same goal of creating a better society.

To fulfill her part, she is trying to reach out to as many people as possible to convey that message.

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