Accounting Study Mission: Reflections from ASM Japan (I)

By CHEW Jing Kai , SMU School of Accountancy

I was initially expecting my Accounting Study Mission in Japan (ASM Japan) to be very rigid and extremely formal, especially the company visits. But I was pleasantly surprised by the openness of our Japanese hosts in taking and answering questions, with many of them speaking their minds instead of simply giving the “politically-correct” answer, which greatly enhanced the learning experience.


With my project mates at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (pictured second left)


Things I learnt:

  1. Paying attention to detail – There was one particular incident that left an impression on me. Towards the end of our visit to Kajima, we started whipping out our phones to take photos. Next thing I knew, our host from Kajima had already retrieved our SMU banner from the coach and was on standby to take our group photo. It is important to pay attention to details; people will remember you for it, as it reflects the effort and thought that you put into your work.
  2. Be fully committed – When I found out that RICOH had hired two translators to host us, I was really wowed. It showed the level of dedication and commitment that they put into hosting us. As a result, we had a truly informative session at the Eco Business Development Center.
  3. Rethink the way you do business – Profitability and sustainability are not a zero-sum game, it is possible to achieve both.
  4. Stay grounded, remain humble – One incident during the trip was a real shocker for us. A representative who was invited to be part of the presentation panel was not only blunt with his words, but bordering on impolite. This served well as a reminder that whatever your achievements, do not treat others as though they are beneath you. If you think of yourself as the smartest man in the room, you are probably the least respected as well.
  5. Always look at the bigger picture UOB Tokyo shared that they have been loss-making since they started. So the question is why are they still operating after all these years? While it may, in part, be due to political reasons, if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we’ll realise that UOB’s presence in Japan helps facilitate transactions for their clients in other parts of the world, especially in their key markets. Therefore, while they may be losing money in one geographical region, they are actually profitable on a global scale.
  6. Entrepreneurship and innovation are not the same – Innovation is often closely tied to entrepreneurship, but this trip to Japan has highlighted that though they may often come together, they really are two separate skills.

Enjoying a bit of sightseeing


I have definitely benefited from ASM Japan, from learning how to carry myself in a business setting to the ethical considerations of doing business. It far exceeded my expectations; I have learnt a lot and made many good friends along the way!


[Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the SMU School of Accountancy.]