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MEET NRI- Q&A with Yasuki Okai, President, NRI Holdings America

Jul 23. 2015

Newly appointed President of NRI Holdings America, Yasuki Okai has been ranked No. 44 at Institutional Investor’s Tech 50 in 2015. He answers 8 questions regarding his professional and personal life.

Okai-san InterviewWhat’s the favorite part of your job?
 There are so many things I enjoy about my job, but the top choices surround my work with people. Having the ability to nurture employees to grow and succeed at the firm and developing creative solutions to combat challenges our clients face in the market is extremely rewarding to me on both a professional and personal level.

What motivates you?
 Seeing my colleagues being exuberant at work.
I once had an employee who was very talented but frustrated with her current work assignment. She was given a particular project where she did not have the opportunity to fully optimize her skills and expertise. I decided the best course of action was to reassign her to another division where she could utilize her strong skill set and find a sense of career fulfillment. Shortly after the change, I began to see this employee’s enthusiasm and motivation for success shine through in her work and productivity level. This made me realize how important it is as a manager to identify people’s strengths and interests, and match them with the appropriate opportunities. This is what motivates me at work every day - being able to manage people for success!

What 5 adjectives would you use to describe NRI and/or NRI’s solutions?

1. Client-centric
2. Quality
3. Ambitious
4. Efficient
5. Futuristic

Where do you find your inspiration?
 I have spent the majority of my life in Japan, and have always found comfort in running through the beautiful countryside. After my run, I would frequently stop to rest at a coffee shop where new ideas and thoughts would usually spring to life. Since moving to New York, I am often inspired by the skyline and it’s representation of hard work, achievement and opportunity. Tokyo and New York are both metropolitan areas, but each city stimulates my brain in a very different way. Now that I am living and working in New York, I tend to focus on how to position NRI, and myself, in the current American landscape. Being recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the financial technology industry has a significant meaning not only for me but also for NRI’s plan for global expansion. 
  
What is your favorite hobby?
 I enjoy playing the Japanese version of chess, which is called “Go.” I first learned how to play this game from my father-in-law twenty years ago. The game is similar to chess because they both involve deep strategy. However, unlike chess, whose objective is to checkmate the opponent’s king, the goal of Go is to expand your territory. I like this game because it’s not about destroying the opponent, but rather it’s about creating more opportunity for yourself. I also like the fact that every game piece counts and contributes equally, and that the end result comes down to how you make decisions. Go has a lot of implications for business as well. On a Go board, it’s very easy to get more territory at the perimeter of the board, but this territory is small in comparison to those located at the center. It’s difficult to secure territory in the center, but the reward is huge.  I find business decisions to operate in a similar manner. It’s about finding the right balance between small opportunities with low risk vs. large opportunities with high risk.

What is one thing everyone does not know about you?
I used to run a lot back in Japan. Initially it was my colleague who asked me to join him to run, and I was hooked as soon as I started. What I liked about running was it taught me “self-control.” You have to control both your mind and body in order to run for a long distance, such as a marathon. During the run, you have to control the allocation of your energy. I run at least a half-marathon every month, and each time I do it gives me an excellent opportunity to train my mind and body, while having some fun!

What is one thing you cannot live without?
 Reading and writing. I read about sixty books every year and keep a daily journal with my personal ideas and thoughts on different aspects of my life, work and greater society. When I was younger, I never read, but as I began to mature in life and find my own identity as an adult, I found the many lessons I learned from these brilliant writers to be useful to me personally and professionally. I enjoy old Chinese stories like “Water Margins,” “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” and “Records of the Grand Historian.” These old stories illustrate various characters- sometimes more than 100 to a great extent, which teaches me the idea of embracing and appreciating different attributes and characteristics of the people in my real life.  

What is the best advice you ever received?
 When I was young my father told me to never get held back by imminent successes, and to instead remain conscious of long-term goals. Although he never had any experience in my current field, my father told me that as a consultant, I should always strive to provide solutions with future objectives in mind.