The chairman of Hitachi Hiroaki Nakanishi has become the first Japanese business leader to receive the Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award.
Mr Nakanishi was handed the annual award at Whitehall’s Banqueting House on the evening of Tuesday, 1 November, 2016 in recognition of his achievements over the course of his five-year tenure at the helm of Hitachi, a Japanese multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Tokyo.
The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, presented Mr Nakanishi with the prestigious award.
Mr Nakanishi led Hitachi in one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Japanese corporate history with his bold restructuring plans placing Social Innovation at the core of business development.
Receiving the award, Mr Nakanishi said: “It is a great honour to be here in this very international gathering accepting such a prestigious award from Asia House. I am particularly grateful that Japan has joined the list of the recipients of this award, because our countries have such a deep history of trade and mutually supportive political relations.
“I hope that in the new circumstances which the UK now finds itself, Japan, and Asia in general, will benefit from a new surge of attention by the UK’s technology and service industries, and I am sure that the vital role that Asia House plays in bringing Britain and Asia together, particularly in trade, will be ever more necessary and relevant.
“Hitachi’s founding creed was to put technology to the benefit of society, and that is why today we put Social Innovation at the heart of our business. Social Innovation is the recognition that as a business we have the ability – and the responsibility – to improve the lives of people.”
Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi gives his acceptance speech in which he says that he is grateful that Japan has joined the list of recipients of the Asian Business Leaders Award. Photo by Andy Tyler
In 2015 Mr Nakanishi was appointed as an Honorary KBE by Her Majesty The Queen in recognition of his distinguished services to UK-Japanese business.
In a keynote speech at the gala dinner, Mr Clark praised Mr Nakanishi, who has worked for Hitachi for 46 years, his entire career, for his “remarkable leadership” and “boldness of vision.”
“The transformation of Hitachi, though informed by insider experience, was not an inward-looking exercise,” he said. “A business is nothing without customers and Hitachi has turned to the world to find them. It has gone to where the growth is. The British economy must have a global growth strategy too and it will. This must and will include an Asian growth strategy,” he said.
UK Business Secretary Greg Clark makes a keynote speech at the Asian Business Leaders Award dinner held to recognise the achievements of Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi
He said the UK had deep foundations and decades of industrial cooperation with Asia.
“I would like to reiterate my country’s gratitude to Nakanishi-san for his own invaluable contribution to building up those links. In particular, as everyone here knows, Hitachi has made and is making important investments in the UK economy, including a 30 acre manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe in County Durham and the proposed nuclear power station at Wylfa on Anglesey.”
He said it was thanks to projects like these that Japan was now the second biggest source of foreign investment in the UK.
“However it is the quality and not just the quantity of that investment that stands out,” he said.
Deputy Chairman of Asia House Vahid Alaghband, chairman and founder of Balli Holdings, also paid tribute to Mr Nakanishi at the event.
Mr Alaghband said: “This award is not given in recognition of business success alone. There are many successful businessmen in this room but there are leaders that we recognise and it does not stop with the figures. Hiroaki Nakanishi is in the glorious company of the likes of Ho Ching, Jack Ma and Ratan Tata. It is a great time to recognise a leader in Japan and we, the trustees of Asia House, could not think of anyone more qualified than Mr Nakanishi for this purpose.”
He described Mr Nakanishi as a friend who had shown “impressive leadership” since taking the helm as president. “I don’t want to talk about figures. I want to talk about him as a man and a friend who I have known for some time now,” he said.
“It has been my great privilege to know and work with him for a number of years. He has three exceptional traits which I wish to share with you that set him apart from many business leaders I have met,” Mr Alaghband said.
“Firstly he is truly and effortlessly cosmopolitan, not in the sense of being well-travelled but in the sense of being at ease with and respectful of diverse cultures and different traditions. He was born in Yokohama, educated at Tokyo University and Stanford University. Having lived in Europe, the USA and Asia, he is a citizen of the world and the global platform on which Hitachi operates is a reflection of his comfort leading such a geographically diverse enterprise,” he added.
Secondly, Mr Alaghband said that whilst many companies paid lip service to the social contract they had with the societies they operated in, Mr Nakanishi was deeply committed to it and genuinely believed in it. “When the earthquake hit Japan he organised a committee and said ‘we have to deal with the impact of the earthquake. We have to look after Japanese people.’ Giving service to society is not a slogan to him,” Mr Alaghband said. “He takes it seriously.”
Mr Nakanishi believes that a successful enterprise must improve people’s lives, Mr Alaghband said. “This is manifested through the Social Innovation concept. The idea is to use technology to improve the way that we live,” he explained.
Thirdly, he said that Mr Nakanishi had genuine humility. “For a man who has achieved so much and touched so many lives, I have always found him to be approachable, affable and open and the way he has dealt with the people around him, with his colleagues and counterparts, in this truly humble way, is extremely touching. Many leaders in this room can learn from his example,” he stated.
Chief Executive of Asia House Michael Lawrence said: “Mr Nakanishi has led what is arguably the greatest turnaround in Japanese corporate history. Among his many accomplishments, he has put Social Innovation, placing products and solutions aimed at solving global issues and advancing society in inclusive and sustainable ways, at the very heart of Hitachi’s business.”
Under Mr Nakanishi, Hitachi has invested over £1 billion in the UK, including moving the global headquarters of its rail business to Britain two years ago.
The black tie dinner was attended by more than 300 world business leaders, British Government figures, Heads of Mission and representatives from more than 25 countries in Asia and beyond.
More than 300 guests including world business leaders, Heads of Mission and Government figures attend the Asian Business Leaders Award dinner at Banqueting House. Photo by Andy Tyler
Senior figures from industries including rail, aerospace, technology, infrastructure, financial and professional services, including senior representatives from a dozen leading Japanese companies operating in the UK, were among the guests at the gala event.
Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi chats to HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint at the top table at the gala dinner. Photo by Andy Tyler
They included Sir Henry Keswick, Chairman of Jardine Matheson; Minoru Shinohara, Executive Chairman, EMEA, Nomura; David Sayer, Senior Partner and Member of the Board, KPMG UK LLP; Alistair Dormer, Global Chief Executive Officer, Hitachi Rail Systems Business; and Masahiko Mochizuki, Deputy President and Senior Management Director, Mizuho International.
The First Minister of Wales the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones MP and Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint were among the UK political figures at the dinner, along with a number of MPs and senior officials from the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade.
Asian Governments were well represented with a number of Heads of Mission and diplomatic officials. They included HE Koji Tsuruoka, Japanese Ambassador to the UK; HE Evan Garcia, Philippines Ambassador to the UK; HE Sir Alexander Lockwood Smith KNZM, High Commissioner of New Zealand to the UK and HE Nguyen Van Thao, Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK.
During the evening Chief Executive of Asia House Michael Lawrence thanked the three Founding Stakeholders of Asia House, HSBC, Prudential and Standard Chartered, for their generous support.
To mark Asia House’s 20th anniversary this year, Lady Felicity Wakefield, wife of the late Sir Peter Wakefield, who founded Asia House in 1996, presented plaques to Douglas Flint, Chairman of HSBC; Paul Manduca, Chairman of Prudential; and Tracy Clarke, Regional CEO, Europe and Americas at Standard Chartered.
“Sir Peter had a vision of connecting the UK and Asia and elevating understanding of Asia in Britain,” Mr Lawrence said. “He enlisted the support of three organisations who shared that vision HSBC, Prudential and Standard Chartered.
“All three organisations have been with Asia House throughout the last 20 years, through thick and, at times, thin. They have been supporters and true partners. I know that Sir Peter Wakefield, who sadly passed away in 2010, would want us to mark the 20th anniversary of Asia House by thanking them for their support,” he added.
Receiving his plaque Mr Flint said: “It’s a great honour to receive this award on behalf of HSBC. It’s always good when you are in at the birth of something to see how your child grows up, so 20 years in, it is wonderful to see how Asia House has matured – reflected in the fact that so many people are here tonight to celebrate not only a great Asian leader, but also just what Asia House is contributing.”
He praised Asia House for having the relevance to act as a hub of knowledge between UK businesses and Asia Asian businesses and the UK and said it was a “remarkable success” and was ever more relevant in a world that is focused on Asia.
Mr Manduca was equally grateful. He said: “Prudential has operated in Asia since 1923 when we sold our first policy to a tea planter in Assam. Today we operate in 14 Asian markets and my company’s future is closely tied to the future of the region. Our focus on Asia underpinned our decision 20 years ago, together with our friends at HSBC and Standard Chartered, to help make real Sir Peter Wakefield’s vision of an Asia House here in London.
“Since then the changes that the region has seen have been remarkable,” he said, referring to the rise of new technologies, the embedding of widespread prosperity and emergence of a powerful Asian middle class.
“Asia House has played an important role in improving our understanding of these issues and helping the UK build closer relationships across the region. They also always have an eye to the future and I was delighted to help launch Asia House’s Asia 2025 essay collection in March this year.
“We are proud of what Asia House has achieved and look forward to developing our partnerships in the years to come,” Mr Manduca added.
Mrs Clarke said she too was delighted to accept the recognition. “Asia is our home. More than half of our clients, people and operations are in Asia. Our partnership with Asia House is really important to us and so we look forward to working more with Asia House,” she said.
The Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award celebrates the enormous social impact of commercial enterprise which, at its best, promotes values of leadership and service that can be felt far beyond the boardroom. Asia House presents this annual award to those individuals who exemplify the concept of the ‘Servant Leader’. The award highlights the links between economic success, professional excellence accompanied by moral leadership, and service to society.
Previous recipients of the Asia House Asian Business Leaders Award include Nazir Razak, Chairman of CIMB Group; Ho Ching, Executive Director and CEO of Temasek; Jack Ma, Chairman and Founder of Alibaba.com; Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Group; Lubna Olayan, Chief Executive of Olayan Financing Company; and Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro.
To see a slideshow of the event click below:-
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