HNC Alum Establishes Fellowship for Students

HNC Alum Establishes Fellowship for Students

Yasuyuki Goto (Hopkins-Nanjing Center, ‘10) recently established the Yasuyuki Goto fellowship for students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. In the interview below, he shared his impressive career trajectory in international finance, his passion about working as a bridge between the East and West in finance, his HNC story, along with his reasons for giving back to the community.

Yasuyuki with his classmates at the HNC, wearing the class shirt he designed 

Could you talk a bit about your career after the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?

After graduating from the HNC in 2010, I returned to Tokyo to start my finance career, working at Macquarie Bank as a junior equity analyst covering commodity sectors in Japan. In the process, I discovered my interest in asset management, and switched to the so-called “buy-side”, working at the Tokyo office of PIMCO, an American investment management firm. After that, I worked at Blackstone Group, fundraising for Blackstone’s private funds from Japanese investors. Then I took a gap year. With COVID-19 disrupting my plan to go back to the industry, I published my first book,“最強の 外資系資産運用術”( The Strongest Foreign Asset Management Technique), in April 2021, a how-to guide on building a personal equity portfolio. As the global economy was slowly recovering from the pandemic, I worked at TransPacific Group LLC in Hong Kong. One day, my ex-boss in Blackstone called me and asked if I wanted to work for the KKR & Co. Inc.. He became my current boss at the KKR. Another boss at KKR New York also happened to be the ex-head of Asia at PIMCO when I was there. As you can see, people move according to different aspirations and market changes, yet individual trajectories often intersect. Here’s a life lesson: don’t be the bad or nasty guy to work with. Be nice to everyone, because your colleague might be your boss one day!

What excites you about your career in international finance? And what is the most challenging part about international finance?

In my industry, mindset and cultural differences matter so much, even in terms of risk and returns of investment and the allocation of money. For example, East Asian people care about “面子”(face), an intangible social value. Losing money from investment is losing face. On the other hand, people in the US tend to talk more about lessons learned through failure, though losing money is not something to be proud of. What interests me the most about my job is to work as a medium between different cultures. My language ability allows me to serve as a bridge between US and Japanese and East Asian clients. Closing the language gap, and more importantly the culture gap, helps both sides understand how they approach investment and asset allocation differently. And that leads to new challenges: how to localize international regulations in finance and implement it on the ground, how to interpret the nuanced cultural meaning behind financial language, and how to translate Western concepts to the Eastern world.

How did studying at the HNC shape your career and your life?

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center gave me the credibility of language skills, because in Nanjing you are not able to get around with English as much as you could in Beijing or Shanghai. Also, China is the biggest trading partner with Japan and lots of Japanese businesses work with Chinese counterparts, so it’s important to have an understanding of the Chinese market and what’s going on in China. In academia, Japanese students mostly decide to study international relations in the US, so my unique experience and skills were valuable differentiators for my career. Thirteen years after my studies at HNC, my friends and colleagues still recognize me as a China expert and ask me a lot about China and my experience there.

What was your best memory at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?

The class committee, aka“班委”, was responsible for printing, promoting, and selling their own class T-shirt every semester. And an idea came to me, why not design my own T-shirt with my picture on it? I did so, and I sold thirty to forty copies to my classmates. We even did a catwalk show on the HNC campus with my T-shirt.

Could we talk a bit about the fellowship you have established at the HNC? What motivates you to give back? Why did you choose to give back to the HNC in particular?

The first thing is how much impact I could make through my giving. I hope through my fellowship, more students learn about the HNC and have access to the institution, the community, and the network that we have. In addition, I hope the fellowship can make an impact on fostering the bilateral relationship between China and Japan given the lack of mutual understanding between the two. It is relatively difficult for Japanese students to study international relations in China. Therefore, I want to help encourage students to learn about Sino-Japanese ties in politics, economy or culture.

Do you have any advice for students and recent graduates?

An ideal career takes way longer than you would think. Don’t be picky about the title, the location, the pay, etc. Take whatever opportunity that presents to you after graduation, as it could pave a way for your future as long as you work hard. Moreover, networking, which students don’t necessarily find helpful in the short-term compared to the homework and the grades, does matter in the long-term. Even though I didn’t study at the SAIS DC campus, I’m part of the Johns Hopkins SAIS community in Tokyo, where I have the opportunity to meet Japanese alumni who graduated in the 70s or 80s. Lastly, mutual understanding is what the HNC is all about. It’s important to have a deeper understanding of how your Chinese counterparts think.

Anything else you would like to share with our SAIS HNC community?

I hope my fellowship can encourage more classmates to establish their own fellowship. In that way, we as a whole can give back to the HNC and the SAIS community. I also want to build an HNC alumni network because the HNC experience is very unique. I encourage fellow alums to reach out and say “let’s get together”.