When Toshiharu Kojima took the reins of Nikko Salomon Smith Barney in April, 1999, few money pros in Tokyo figured the hybrid investment bank had much of a future. It seemed highly unlikely that melding the ailing and rigidly bureaucratic Nikko Securities into the gung-ho culture of Citigroup's Solly could add up to a profitable future.
Yet the burly Kojima, 50, is proving that East-West alliances can work in the cutthroat world of Japanese investment banking. A graduate of Tokyo's Sophia University, Kojima knows the ins and outs of Japanese financial markets, having worked for 10 years at Nomura Securities before joining Solly as a bond trader in 1983. He is making great strides as he takes on the likes of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan. Nikko Salomon is now tops in merger advice and equity offerings, and it has even overtaken domestic powerhouse Nomura Securities in debt underwriting.
Kojima has a knack for landing trophy deals. Nikko Salomon pushed aside Daiwa Securities Group as one of three global coordinators for last fall's $15 billion equity offering by Nippon Telegraph & Telephone. The momentum has continued with the underwriting of a $500 million Samurai bond for the Mexican government and a $7.8 billion secondary offering for Oracle Japan. That's a sign of more success to come.