Nomura Research Institute Ltd. Asia

THE SCOOP

Binary operations

Tokyo-based Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. (NRI) serves as both a think-tank and a systems integration firm. NRI offers two main service segments: consulting services and IT solution services. Consulting oversees both management consulting and systems consulting. Through the IT solutions segment, the firm provides system development and application sales, system management and operation services, and other things such as IT outsourcing services and specific tech solutions for asset management. Largely working with clients in Japan, NRI is strongest in financial services (particularly securities and insurance), but handles a variety of sectors including distribution, manufacturing, media, construction and real estate, and government. Two of NRI's biggest long-term clients include financial services giant Nomura Holdings and retail group Seven & I Holdingsâ€"and yes, the latter is the parent company of ubiquitous convenience store 7-Eleven.

Management consulting services for corporate clients include: management strategies and corporate governance; business strategies and development; human resources strategies and organizational/personnel reform; corporate culture and business operation reforms; industrial policies and administrative evaluation; M&A and alliances advisory; and international business strategies.  Outside Japan, the management consulting division includes branches in Seoul, Taipei, Manila and Moscow. Meanwhile, through its systems consulting arm, NRI prides itself on its "neutrality" and vendor-free operations, offering systems design, infrastructure and management; IT strategy and procurement; and other services.

Of NRI's two business segments, IT solution services is by far the largest, bringing in over 90 percent of NRI's revenue in the 2008-09 fiscal year, while the consulting segment brought in a little less than 10 percent. NRI's strength is greatest at home in Japanâ€"overseas revenue typically accounts for less than 10 percent of annual earningsâ€"but the firm is expanding in other regions, particularly mainland China. In Asia Pacific, NRI also has outposts in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines and Korea, and further afield has offices in the U.S., the U.K. and Russia. With the global economic crisis, focus has shifted a bit for the firm; management consulting projects decreased for the fiscal year, but systems consulting projects (particularly in financial services) increased.

Roots in research and computing

The Nomura Research Institute was founded in 1965. In 1988, the institute merged with the Nomura Computing Center to form the modern-day NRI, which remains part of the NRI Group. More intergroup mergers have shaped NRI in recent yearsâ€"it combined with NRI Information Systems in 1999, and in April 2006 with NRI Data Services.

Today, the NRI Group is a sprawl of financial services and technology companies which now includes 16 subsidiaries, one associated company, and two affiliated companiesâ€"all of which trace their roots to Nomura Securities Company, founded in 1925 as a spin-off of Osaka Nomura Bank's securities department. Various Nomura entities still stake claims over a third of the firm: Nomura Asset Management owns a 19.3 percent stake in NRI, while Nomura Facilities owns 8.3 percent and Nomura Holdings owns 5.8 percent. Overall, the NRI Group employs about 6,100 as of March 2009, while NRI itself covers about 5,000 of those.

Custom R&D in China, anyone?

In April 2007, NRI inaugurated the Nomura Research Institute-Tsinghua University China Research Center in Beijing. Since 2005, NRI has worked with the Tsinghua University School of Humanities and Social Sciences to conduct research on the Chinese economy and social trends. The research center, which NRI describes as a "cooperative industry-academia project," houses researchers from both institutions. The firm and the university use the center as a lab for research on Chinese consumers and companies, as well as for analysis of industrial trends in China.

Though initially focused on market research requested by NRI, the company has stated that the center will expand to accept requests for research from governments, foreign companies and Japanese companies operating in China. Initial research themes focused on areas where Japan-China cooperation or shared expertise is critical, especially in industry sectors like IT services, electronics, financial services, automobiles and the environment.

Research on the offensive

In 2008, NRI executives quietly suggested a new company tactic: "switching from defensive to offensive position"â€"in other words, focusing on client growth and new business, instead of simply trying to boost productivity, and making a concerted effort to disseminate its research internationally. The firm also launched its "Vision 2015" initiative, with plans to transform the firm from a provider of individualized IT services into a large-scale provider of business platforms.  Vision 2015 also includes a plan to become "global in scope" by launching a non-Japan NRI headquarters in Asia.

Raising the profile of its thought leadership and publications is yet another way of playing offense.  For example, NRI releases a monthly version of one of its flagship publications, the English language lakyara. The report, which is made available online, examines the latest trends in Japan's financial industry and the direction of economic reforms in the country. Each issue examines one topic at a time, considering issues like technology for web-based stock searches, how to improve the efficiency of information delivery, signs of growth in sales of foreign electronic transfer funds and an analysis of Bank of Japan's latest flow-of-funds data.

Other NRI reading material includes the NRI Papers, a series of white papers on business management and policy planning; NRI Net Research, which publishes the results of internet and e-business surveys, as well as analyses of Japanese online social trends; the "NRI Information Technology Report," covering the firm's expertise and R&D results; and an annual overview of Japan's asset management business.

Tackling big questions

As Asia Pacific nations play an increasingly important role in the global marketplace, what will Japan's economy look like in the year 2010? That's the question NRI posed in October 2006 when it launched a multiyear research campaign called Proposing Japan's Future Toward 2010. The firm drew on its own studies and research to create hypothetical growth scenarios, which it issued in the form of reports and papers. Researchers, consultants and executives from China, India, Thailand and Vietnam--as well as Japan, of course--contributed to the NRI studies. According to the firm, its goal is to publicize a series of opinions about Japan's future, with the ultimate agenda of setting concrete goals for the country's industry and society.

But NRI isn't just interested in the future of the real world. In May 2007, the firm released an "IT Road Map" predicting the development of the 3D virtual world up to 2012. Looking at factors like improved technology and connectivity, the trend toward user-generated content and the rise of virtual realities like Second Life, NRI predicted that by 2010, virtual-world business transactions would be commonplace. What's more, the firm concluded that by 2012, specialized software would be readily available, allowing individual consumers to create and operate their own virtual worlds.

NRI by the numbers

Of NRI's two lines of business, system solutions services is by far the largest. For fiscal year 2007 (which ended in March), system solutions reported revenue of approximately $2.49 billion, compared to the consulting division's $255 million. And NRI's strength is greatest at home--overseas revenue typically accounts for less than 10 percent of its total annual earnings. Industry-wise, the financial services sector accounted for 65 percent of Nomura's revenue in 2007. Distribution came in at a distant second, bringing in 14 percent of revenue, followed by other private-sector industry (11 percent) and the public sector (approximately 8 percent).

Looking to the future, NRI said that in fiscal year 2008 it plans to shore up its system consulting services, pursue more clients outside the financial services sector and revamp its internal information systems. In late 2007, the firm also finished constructing a new Tokyo computer center to house outsourcing operations for financial services clients.

Research on the offensive

At the close of fiscal year 2007, NRI executives quietly suggested a new company tactic: "switching from defensive to offensive position" (in other words, focusing on client growth and new business, instead of simply trying to boost productivity, and making a concerted effort to disseminate its research internationally).

Raising the profile of its thought leadership and publications is yet another way of playing offense; in June 2007, NRI released the latest edition of one of its flagship publications, the monthly English report lakyara. The report, which is made available online, examines the latest trends in Japan's financial industry and the direction of economic reforms in the country. Each issue examines one topic at a time, considering issues like technology for web-based stock searches, how to improve the efficiency of information delivery, signs of growth in sales of foreign electronic transfer funds and an analysis of Bank of Japan's latest flow-of-funds data.

Other NRI reading material includes the NRI Papers, a series of white papers on business management and policy planning; NRI Net Research, which publishes the results of Internet and e-business surveys, as well as analyses of Japanese online social trends; the "NRI Information Technology Report," covering the firm's expertise and R&D results; and an annual overview of Japan's asset management business.

Dreaming up the future

Besides all its brainy research and analysis, NRI finds time to work on a number of corporate social responsibility issues. Under the corporate motto "dream up the future," NRI researchers frequently turn their attention to pressing social issues, like population growth, environmental concerns and the role of local business in Japan. Since 2005, the firm has participated in Team Minus 6%, a global warming prevention campaign launched by the Japanese government. It has also promoted Cool Biz, another government initiative that encourages employees to wear light, casual clothing in the summer so buildings can cut back on air conditioner use. By March 2006, all NRI Group data centers had obtained ISO 14001 certification, and three hybrid wind-solar power generators were constructed in Yokohama to fuel offices and the data center there.

Seeking sparky recruits

Nomura's recruiting is mostly conducted online--its web site invites graduates who are interested in applying to contact human resources through snail mail or at hr@hk.nomura.com. As for the ideal Nomura consultant, the firm states that there's no one mold to which candidates must conform; it claims recruiters look for "sparky individuals who are ready to make their mark," as opposed to "clones, stereotypes or anyone who fits neatly into a box." New hires are typically based in Nomura's Hong Kong or Singapore offices. Select consultants have a chance to get a more global experience by participating in the international program. The program begins with training and six months working in London, followed by a transfer to an Asian office. The NRI web site gives more information about the life of a Nomura consultant, through profiles of employees who give firsthand accounts of their experience at the firm.

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Nomura Research Institute Ltd. Asia


Marunouchi Kitaguchi Building
1-6-5 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-005
Phone: +81-3-5533-2111
Fax: +81-3-5533-3230
www.nri.co.jp/english

STATS


  • Employer Type: Public
  • Stock Symbol: 4307
  • Stock Exchange: TSE
  • Chairman, President, COO & CEO: Akihisa Fujinuma
  • 2009 Employees: 5,030

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