Nomura Holdings Inc. is gaining mainland Chinese clients faster than it expected, a senior executive said, adding to signs of progress in its broader Asian expansion.

The company’s majority-owned securities joint venture in Shanghai has won more than 300 customers for services including wealth management since it began operating about a year ago, said Toshiyasu Iiyama, head of Nomura’s China committee. “We are doing better than we thought,” he said in an interview.

Japan’s biggest brokerage is rebuilding in Asia after a sweeping global restructuring program helped to restore profit. Along with global titans such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG, it’s competing for talent in China as President Xi Jinping opens up the financial industry to foreign competition.

Iiyama said Nomura’s hiring in China has gone “very smoothly.” It has recruited about 170 people so far, of whom half are front-office staff, including researchers, traders and asset managers, he said. About 30 are bankers serving wealthy Chinese.

The brokerage aims to boost its mainland headcount to around 300 next year, mainly by adding private bankers and other front-office staff, he said. Wealth business represents the first step by Nomura toward building a full-service Chinese brokerage by 2023.

Chinese investors who have opened accounts at Nomura include asset management companies and rich individuals, according to Iiyama. They may have found the firm attractive partly because of its research on Japan’s economy and industry, which has drawn “very strong interest” from wealthy Chinese people, Iiyama said.

“Japan can be a very good reference because it has gone through various challenges” ahead of China, such as trade friction with the U.S. and an aging population, he said.

To be sure, the joint venture could have gone “a little further” in building assets under management after the coronavirus pandemic initially hampered access to clients, he said. It oversees more than ¥50 billion ($483 million) of assets at present. Iiyama didn’t give a specific target.

Nomura is pressing ahead with its strategy to set up offices in cities where many rich individuals live, Iiyama said. Having opened branches in Beijing and Shanghai, the company is looking into Shenzhen, Tianjin and Chongqing as candidates for a third, he said.

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