Japanese investors turning to independent financial planners

Japanese investors turning to independent financial planners
Hiroki Nakagiri, foreground, head of Gaia, advises clients on managing their assets.

TOKYO - Time was, Japanese trying to build a nest egg would take to their local bank or stock broker for advice. While many investors still take the conventional route, more are seeking out asset management services from independent financial planners.

One 60-year-old Tokyo man is typical of this new breed. Several years ago he began using Gaia, a financial planning service. "I feel reassured because they pay attention to the whole of my assets," he said.

Hiroki Nakagiri founded Gaia in 2006. He used to work for a big brokerage house, but wanted "to give advice while standing in the client's shoes," free of ties to a particular financial institution. Gaia now has 10 financial planners managing assets totaling more than 17 billion yen ($139 million) on behalf of 550 clients.

Individual investors in the US often decide where to put their money based on recommendations from independent financial advisers. These advisers are just starting to gain a foothold in Japan. There are around 3,000 of them, compared with 300,000 in the US

Real dangerous

"I never thought of losing so much on the Brazilian real," lamented an 82-year-old Tokyo man who placed a big bet on an investment trust whose assets were denominated in the Brazilian currency. He was following the advice of a financial institution's marketing representative, who stressed the instrument's high yield. But Brazil's economy has stalled, sending the real plummeting and leaving the Tokyo man with a 3 million yen loss.

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