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Mizuho’s Debra Hazleton: To take on challenges, and to challenge

 August 12, 2015

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“There are so many exciting career opportunities available right now at Mizuho,” explains Tokyo-based Debra Hazleton, General Manager of Mizuho Financial Group’s Global Career Management Division.

“It is an opportune time to join Mizuho, to be an active part of its ambitious globalization agenda. And, of course, opportunities for international mobility are very much part of this strategy.”

Debra has a fascinating role. She is the first foreign general manager in Mizuho’s headquarters in Tokyo. (Prior to this she spent seven and a half years as GM of Mizuho’s Australian corporate bank.)  “I feel I can thrive in my current role,” says Debra whose division focuses on all Mizuho staff hired outside the Japanese recruitment system. “This division is tasked with driving change and challenging the status quo in terms of talent management. Together with my fabulous team, my job is to proactively question and reconsider possibilities, push the boundaries, to question underlying assumptions, to identify different ways of doing things and positively influence outcomes. ”

According to Debra, Mizuho as a financial group is embracing fresh thinking and innovation. People with diverse backgrounds and different ways of thinking are more and more welcome at Mizuho. Recruiting and developing the best people globally is a priority, and Debra’s division is developing a global framework for talent development, mobility and engagement.

“One of the real attractions of working at Mizuho,” explains Debra “is the global employee network across the businesses. We are also encouraging more employees to think about working in Head Office in Tokyo - one of the world’s most creative, elegant and exciting international business cities. Mizuho employees also highly value the chance to live and work in other Mizuho centres abroad. As an Australian expat myself, I feel privileged to be allowed to immerse myself in the Japanese culture - everything from the exquisite world of ancient and modern art, to the fabulous architecture and the beautiful natural scenery. I really enjoy working with Japanese people, and in Mizuho I feel very much a part of the Group’s strong commitment to be a financial institution that contributes to the sustainable development of societies and economies around the world.”

With almost 100 offices in more than 35 countries, Mizuho strives to value and harness aspects of local cultures while still maintaining a shared robust corporate culture. Collaboration across Mizuho group entities, as well as geographies, is an essential part of Mizuho’s commitment to being a superior financial partner to its customers. Collaboration is enhanced through the shared vision and values, and underpins the “One Mizuho” corporate culture.

Mizuho emphasises five values that support its vision –“to be the most trusted financial services group with a global presence and a broad customer base, contributing to the prosperity of the world, Asia and Japan”.  The values relate to always putting the customer first; and encouraging innovation, a team spirit, speed and passion.

One celebration of the corporate culture is the annual ‘One Mizuho Culture Prize’ ceremony. Mizuho employees from around the world can nominate colleagues who have demonstrated the Mizuho values to an impeccable standard. Nomination itself is a great honour, and the actual prizes are personally presented by Mizuho’s Group CEO and President at a very prestigious event in Tokyo.

When asked about Japan’s progress for gender equality, Debra is cautiously positive about the increased focus on increasing female participation in the workplace due to Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s economic policies (‘Abenomics’). “There has definitely been a noticeable increase in government policies to encourage women into the workplace, plus, importantly, more discussion about ways to, not only increase the number of women working, but to increase their representation in managerial positions,” says Debra. “Abenomics has certainly contributed to the recent increase in the representation of women as a percentage of Japan’s labour force through provision of more childcare centres. However there are still many hurdles for women who aspire to leadership positions. The economic and social cost of this lack of inclusion in decision-making, given the high level of education of Japanese women, is now much better recognised. We are certainly trying to address this important issue in Mizuho. ”

When asked whether candidates need to speak Japanese if they want to join Mizuho, Debra emphasises that by not being Japanese, and not speaking Japanese, they actually add value by increasing the diversity in the organisation. Diversity is recognised as one of the drivers of improved strategic decision making, risk management and innovation.

Debra describes herself as adventurous, with a love for challenges. Her passion for travel and different cultural experiences began as an exchange student in Japan. Her initial undergraduate studies were in the liberal arts and she lived for a year in Paris, however when she returned to Australia she completed a Masters degree in business. Then, Debra surprised even herself when she decided to forego an academic career to become a bond dealer.  She soon found herself back in Japan enjoying the buzz of the fast-paced finance sector. “My early career path was certainly not straightforward, or well-planned,” comments Debra. “However I’m a firm believer in working hard and doing what you love in life. And one can’t possibly know what they’re going to really enjoy and excel at unless they try many different things.”


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