President’s Message at the 2018New Employees’ Initiation Ceremony
April 2, 2018
Good morning everyone. I am Yoshihisa Suzuki, President & COO of ITOCHU Corporation.
Today, I am very happy to welcome 137 new colleagues to our company: 127 of you in general positions and 10 in clerical positions.
It is also my first day as President & COO of ITOCHU. Like all of you, I’m excited to be making a fresh start.
For the past three years, ITOCHU has continued to deliver record-high earnings. In fiscal 2016, ITOCHU became the top sogo shosha in terms of consolidated net profit. In fiscal 2017, ITOCHU achieved record-high consolidated net profit. In our earnings for fiscal 2018, which will be announced soon, we expect to achieve two consecutive years of record-high earnings.
Meanwhile, society has been changing at a tremendously fast pace. Are all of you familiar with the term “Fourth Industrial Revolution?” Ten years ago, the top-ranking global companies in terms of market capitalization included ExxonMobil, GE and Citigroup. However, today the highest ranks are dominated by IT companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.
In the next ten years, I believe the shakeout of companies will probably accelerate even further, and IT companies will probably expand their business models from online shopping to encompass logistics and wholesaling, as well as transaction settlement and finance, and insurance—fields that have traditionally been strongholds of so-called trading companies. If this scenario comes true, ITOCHU’s business models will also be impacted significantly.
Under these conditions, one urgent priority for ITOCHU at this time is to rapidly drive evolution by reshaping outdated business models that have remained unchanged from the past, and to replace assets in the functional areas and industrial fields that are likely to fall into decline in the years ahead. A major current priority for management is to think carefully about the future, devise strategies, and put those strategies into action, especially in these good times when our business performance is strong.
I urge all of our new employees to be firmly aware that they have joined ITOCHU at a time when the Company will start to undergo changes, along with recognizing that they have joined ITOCHU at a time when the Company is performing very strongly. All of you are talented individuals who have surmounted difficult hurdles to join ITOCHU. However, please know that the real race that will determine your careers is just getting started.
The essence of ITOCHU’s DNA lies in its emphasis on commending employees who get back on their feet even if they fail, rather than urging them not to fail at all. ITOCHU has a corporate culture of tackling new challenges without fearing failure by thinking out of the box in big ways and making bold decisions. In every period of ITOCHU’s history since the Company’s founding long ago, ITOCHU has launched businesses that were firsts of their kind for a sogo shosha. It all started with Chubei Itoh, founder of ITOCHU and a merchant from the Ohmi region (in present-day Shiga Prefecture), who traveled long distances to engage in itinerant trading of linen and other products. In the 1980s, ITOCHU launched the Japanese private sector’s first communications satellite. In the 1990s, ITOCHU invested in FamilyMart Co., Ltd. More recently, ITOCHU has made large investments including the acquisition of the Asian fresh produce business and the worldwide packaged food business of Dole Food Company, Inc. and capital participation in CITIC in China.
You will now open a new chapter in your life as a sogo shosha person. As with ITOCHU’s corporate history, I’d like you to make “ambition” and “evolution” the cornerstones of the personal history of your life as a sogo shosha person.
To make this happen, I’d like to share three pieces of advice with you: “Work to be humble,” “Learn” and “Take on Challenges.”
First, you must seek knowledge with humility. I’d like you to constantly strive to learn. The first step is to become skilled and proficient in the work you are given and seek to be a professional in that field. Professionals are people who are constantly attuned to what is happening around them and are able to grasp trends. To become such a professional, it is important that you let go of any arrogance, learn from your customers, supervisors and colleagues, and constantly foster the humility needed to seek knowledge from others.
The professionals among professionals, or true professionals, are individuals who constantly scale new heights, thereby sparking innovation and evolution. There is only a fine line between winning and losing. Using the most of the skills you have honed to get wisdom, I’d like you to become true professionals who have the courage to get ahead of the curve and embrace ambitious initiatives.
ITOCHU is proud to be the sogo shosha with the longest history. This year, ITOCHU will mark 160 years since its founding. Around the time when you turn 60 years old, ITOCHU will mark its 200th years. At that time, I’d like each and every one of you to celebrate that anniversary with a sense of achievement based on the belief that you have helped to develop the history of ITOCHU and drive the evolution of the company. With that determination in mind, I urge you to make a strong start to your ITOCHU life.
Finally, let me close my welcoming address by once again welcoming you and congratulating you on joining ITOCHU Corporation, along with wishing you the best of success as your ITOCHU life gets started today.