I was recently invited to visit our growing Grant Thornton Japan member firm along with Shoko Arakawa, our own Japanese Practice Leader, and Louise Willdridge from GTI.

What many people might not know is that the merger between Grant Thornton Japan and Yusei Audit Co. and Yamada & partners Certified Public Tax Accountants' Co. in July this year, means that the Japanese partnership greatly mirrors our Australian partnership – similar size and similar offerings across audit, tax and advisory. We’ve also both recently been through the process of M&A – expanding our offerings and consolidating our position as growth advisors to mid-sized business.

Japanese and Australian businesses and the law of attraction

In fact, M&A was a significant topic of discussion as we’re seeing plenty of M&A activity between Australian and Japanese companies. There are a couple of reasons driving this – the negative interest rates in Japan being a significant one. While Australia’s interest rates continue to rise, Japan took the decision a number of years ago to introduce negative rates to encourage banks to put their deposits and funds to more productive use – including business loans at much cheaper rates than accessible here in Australia. That certainly makes Japanese companies a very attractive partner for Australian companies looking to either access more funding to grow in Australia or expand into Asia.

International sports and its impact on real estate and construction

The real estate and construction sector is another driver. Japan has two major events on its calendar with the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020 supporting a surge in investment in new facilities and infrastructure. While development is well underway, there are a number of Japanese contractors and engineers with major development experience looking at what is next after the sports fans leave. And Australia is on the radar with the significant amount of investment our capital cities are investing in over-station developments, metro and densification of our urban centres. Just as we have a strong RE&C sector focus, it is also one of the strengths of our colleagues in Japan. We now have a receiving counterpart with expertise in Japan that allows us to assist our clients’ growth ambitions both inbound and outbound pragmatically.

Supporting our ageing populations

Another interesting parallel between Japan and Australia is our rapidly ageing population. Twelve months ago, the number of people over 90 in Japan hit over 2 million for the first time. Around the same time, approximately 500,000 Australians were aged 85 or older. While we are about to launch into a Royal Commission into the aged sector, we heard from our Japanese colleagues that they are looking to Australia and our model for aged care to help improve their own aged care sector. The Japanese have invested heavily in the regulation and infrastructure to physically support their older citizens, but are keen to learn more about how to increase the quality of care in their facilities. Likewise, there is much Australia can learn from Japan’s systems to help improve our own. And like Grant Thornton in Australia, our Japanese partnership has similar depth and breadth of experience in the health and aged care sector which will be a boon for our clients in both countries.

I have come away from Japan impressed by the increased offering, and excited to offer a seamless experience to our clients already operating in both Australia and Japan, or looking to expand into either.

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