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Securities firms luring young investors with early morning seminars, radio shows

Participants gather for Daiwa Securities' morning investment seminar in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 6, 2017. (Mainichi)

As a mindset of saving rather than investing money remains entrenched in Japan, securities companies are engaging in new methods to lure people into the world of financial investment -- from early morning seminars to radio programs narrated by famous voice actors.

    It's 7:30 a.m. and roughly 20 people gather in a room at Daiwa Securities Group Inc.'s head office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. With cups of coffee in hand, the participants listen for about 45 minutes to a Daiwa Securities employee explain the company's individual type of defined contribution pension plans, called "iDeCo."

    "Rather than just saving money, I think I'd like to try investing," says a 29-year-old female participant, who has just begun making investments under the Nippon Individual Saving Account (NISA), a system introduced by the government in 2014 making capital gains and dividends on investments under 1.2 million yen tax-free for five years. "I was also interested in iDeCo. It was just the right content in a short time in the morning."

    Daiwa began holding the morning investment seminars twice to three times a month from November 2016, and this month plans to open similar seminars for those to attend after work.

    Mizuho Securities Co. has also been offering information, but over the radio. The company has enlisted voice actress Masumi Asano from the popular anime "Princess Precure" to narrate its weekly radio program "Shukan Money Land" since the spring of 2015. In its July 31 broadcast, a listener asked for a definition of stocks, and Asano responded, "They're issued tickets that mean, 'We want our company to grow, so please help us. We'll give you a thank-you gift when it grows.'"

    "We learned through a survey that there is a strong trend for those interested in anime and games to also be interested in making investments, so we started the broadcasts as a test," said a representative of Mizuho Securities. The company expects that since many of these people enjoy deepening their knowledge, they are likely to be good investors.

    Financial venture company Money Design Co., which offers online investment consultations, has also teamed up with two other firms to attract young investors in their 20s with events that began at the end of June. The events have featured celebrity guests and tackled such questions as "What is money to me?" The company also explains concepts of investment such as being more likely to accumulate profit the sooner one invests.

    A recent money flow survey by Japan's central bank showed household financial assets nationwide totaled nearly 1.81 quadrillion yen as of the end of March 2017. But securities stood at just 304 trillion yen -- much less than the amount of cash and savings which was roughly 932 trillion yen. The proportion of financial assets consisting of stocks or investment trust funds, meanwhile, hovered at 13.6 percent in Japan in 2016, compared to 46.1 percent in the United States and 24.9 percent in Europe, making it clear that most Japanese still retain a mindset of saving money rather than investing it in the market.

    "Most Japanese are still unfamiliar with making investments," said a representative for a major securities firm. "In order to appeal to them, efforts to deepen understanding of investments including the process are an important first step."

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