Yasuki Okai
NRI Holdings America

The longtime head of Nomura Research Institute’s financial technology solutions group, Yasuki Okai, relocated to New York last year to spearhead the Tokyo-based systems consulting company’s international growth. But Japan remains NRI’s center of gravity — the ¥421 billion ($3.5 billion)-in-revenue firm began life in the 1960s as a Nomura Securities International think tank — and the site of its most globally significant projects. Nomura Securities is still a top customer, and Okai says a milestone last year was the brokerage’s replacement of its in-house retail and capital markets back offices with NRI’s STAR and I-STAR hosted, or application service provider, platforms. The conversion both lowered Nomura Securities’ costs and simplified its technology architecture. “This highlights the trend that major broker-dealers are focusing more on technology-cost reduction because of issues such as regulatory compliance,” says Okai, 53, who has worked for NRI since it entered the tech solutions business in 1988. He points to a posttrade outsourcing deal with UBS Securities Co. in Japan, announced last September, as “a very significant achievement for us because it was the first utility service in Japan for investment banks.” At a time when many firms are trying to reduce fixed costs, “this implementation signifies that NRI was able to join the competition to make utility service happen for investment banks’ entire back-office operations.” NRI in June acquired Hingham, Massachusetts-based investment operations consulting firm Cutter Associates, which has more than 200 asset management, insurance and pension fund clients worldwide. In April, NRI launched the second phase of what it termed a “proof of concept to examine the applicability of blockchain technology for securities markets,” with collaborators including Japan Exchange Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Nomura Securities and SBI Securities. “We are excited to be leading the charge with great partners,” says Okai, though he believes it could take ten years for the “big change” of distributed ledger to take hold.

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