Jan. 14. 2016
The New Year greeting delivered by Fumiya Kokubu, President & CEO at the Marubeni Tokyo Head Office on January 4 is posted below.
Happy New Year.
In the oriental astrological calendar, this year is “丙申 (hinoe-saru).” “丙 (Hinoe)” is said to represent the fires of the hearth. From the “甲 (kinoe)” first term during which the seeds sprouted, followed by the cool climate of the “乙 (kinoto)” second term, “hinoe” conveys a meaning of increasing abundance in the third term. Furthermore, the character for “申 (saru)” is the basis for the character “伸 (nobiru),” meaning expansion, suggesting a time of growth and progress in material things and new activities. There are a variety of flashpoints gaining momentum throughout the world, and it seems that the outlook for the coming year will be difficult. Nevertheless, even under such circumstances, I would like this to be a year in which the Marubeni Group continues to make steady progress toward sustained growth.
As we begin our work in 2016, I would like to extend a New Year’s greeting to all members of the Marubeni Group throughout the world.
1. Business Environment
It is no exaggeration to say that the world today is facing “the turning point of an era.” The existing order is being shaken in various places across the globe, and there is a sense that a new current is rising.
The first thing is the change in global money. Last month, for the first time in nine years, the U.S. raised interest rates. The long period of hyper-liquidity that we have become accustomed to is ending, and we must recognize the fact that the era of anyone being able to obtain cheap funding is over. A change in mind-set is required.
Next, is the situation of emerging economies. In particular, China has been a driving force for the world economy since the 2008 global financial crisis; but, the main focus now is whether there will be a smooth transition from the rapid growth to a “new normal.” There is also expected to be some deceleration of the growth of emerging economies, and it seems likely it will be difficult to achieve a full recovery of resource prices.
The third is the uncertain international situation. The situation in the Middle East, including the rise of the Islamic State and frequent occurrences of terrorist activity, has caused a flood of refugees to inundate Europe, which has intensified the exclusionist attitudes and activities in many nations. As the influence of the U.S. declines, there is confusion as other countries jockey for position, such as Russia attempting to demonstrate its presence, even while under sanctions, and China making aggressive offensive moves. This kind of activity may impede the momentum of the world economy.
On the other hand, there are a variety of opportunities to be found in specific markets and fields. Steady economic recovery is expected in the U.S., and there appear to be chances to expand business, particularly in the growth markets. Even with an expected slowing of growth in the emerging economies, there is strong demand for infrastructure, mainly in China and other countries in Asia, as well as the continuing development of a solid middle-class, and the rapid expansion of consumer markets. In addition, there is expected to be expansion and opening of new markets, including the significant growth as development proceeds in Africa, sanctions being lifted in Iran and Cuba, and testing of the abilities of the new governments in Argentina and Myanmar. In the industrial fields, there is rapid evolution in IT, such as IoT, artificial intelligence and Big Data.
This kind of new trend in the world also comes with great expectations for future business. It is crucial to thoroughly understand the changes, and succeed in the global competition.
2. Direction of the Marubeni Group
The ideal I have for the Marubeni Group as we move toward 2020, simply stated, is to thoroughly strengthen operations overseas and build a strong Marubeni abroad. That is, we should first work to acquire the capability to compete with the top players in each field and area, and then strive to win those competitions and become a tough, truly global group of companies.
Operations in Japan will still be extremely important, as always; but, I believe the key for our company to make a big leap forward is capturing growth overseas.
The strengths of our company, such as electric power, infrastructure, agricultural materials, grain, transport equipment and certain lifestyle fields, have all been closely connected to the local region where the operations are located, capturing the growth in the domestic demand and building up knowledge and success as they grow. I hope that by further strengthening the platform-type business with such local roots, while also trying to add as many new pillars as possible, we will realize a strong Marubeni abroad. In this way, we can also further contribute to the development of the local economy and society.
I would like you all to polish your “overall capability” and reach your full potential.
I hope to see each of you first become “respected by outside groups,” and “people with high market value,” and ultimately become “personnel who tackle the challenges of the market or local site, and succeed.” At the same time, I would like to see you fostering the same kind of development in your subordinates. Going head-to-head with opponents who have completely different cultures and values means we need the strength to dominate.
To do this, I believe that developing on-site capability is the most important. This means building up experience in the field from a young age while facing the customers and the market, learning to think for yourself without waiting for instructions from a supervisor, making decisions and acting; taking the risks and accepting the responsibility for the outcome. Competing on the global stage is a truly a game of “overall capability.”
The same can be said about compliance. The basis is having a solid foundation as a person, being a fair human being, and having clear personal boundaries that cannot be crossed. This may actually be the source of “human strength.”
Finally, there is one more thing I would like you all to take to heart; that is open communication. In the world today, it seems that people are not willing to accept ideas or values that differ from their own, and tolerance is disappearing. I feel that free, vigorous and open communication is especially important at such a time. Free communication feeds the vitality of the organization, and leads to improved productivity. It has been scientifically proven that an organization with active communication has vitality and performs well. I call on everyone to make the effort to communicate openly every day, not only within the company, but also with customers and suppliers.
2016 marks the 15th year since the “A” PLAN was implemented in 2001. Today, about half of our head office employees do not know about that period. Those of us here today who do remember must pass on the experience and painful memories of that time to the succeeding generations. At this turning point, I would like everyone to look back on the “A” PLAN, and to carve it in your minds as a lesson of something that must never be repeated, so that we never return to such a time. It is my hope that we can build a bright new future for the Marubeni Group.
Finally, this year we are encouraging everyone to take good care of their health, and to be able to work vigorously. Let’s continue this year being upbeat, and enjoying our work. To close my New Year’s greeting, I would like to extend my wishes for health and success to all of you and your families. Thank you.