Another case study from Japan - where jobless Wall Streeters would go

The demise of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch reminded me of my home country Japan 10 years ago.  Amid the post-real-estate-bubble mess, In 1997, Yamaichi Secirities, then one of the "Big Four" brokers in Japan, closed its doors.  Long Term Credit Bank and Nippon Credit Bank wend under as well.

Today's Wall Street Journal article "The Japan Lesson:  U.S. Must Own Up To Its Bank Crisis" talks about how Japan was slow in taking drastic measures, and that one of the reasons was the fear of causing social instability with massive and sudden unemployment.  So-called life time employment system still is not quite gone away in Japan today, and was still very intact 10 years ago, so the career flexibility was not woven into its social system yet.

In the end, many employees from those failed brokers and banks found jobs in other financial institutions.  Some still had to go out and seek the opportunity in the new world.  It is not an official story, but I have my own theory that this "spill over" employment issue caused a chain reaction in the form of "mobile phone boom" and pushed Japan up to one of the most sophisticated mobile countries in the world.

I don't know who brokered it, but I started seeing many "ex-Yamaichi" or "ex-LTCB" executives in NTT DoCoMo, the largest mobile phone carrier in Japan.  I don't know how many of them actually ended up in DoCoMo either, but I can tell it was not a single digit.  DoCoMo had to give them something to do, but they didn't know anything about base stations or mobile billing systems, so many of them went to business development.  And it was 1999, when DoCoMo launched its flagship mobile internet service called "i-Mode".

It is cumbersome (=high cost) to work with many small content providers (CPs), so US carriers limit the number of official CPs, but because DoCoMo had so many people that needed work, they could afford to have wide range of CPs.  They basically threw people at it (instead of money).  I should also mention that it was not only the failed financial institutions who provided extra work force to DoCoMo around that time; they accommodated thousands of people from NTT's landline phone units around the same time.

After the success of i-Mode, its pioneer Mr. Natsuno tried another push to transform DoCoMo into a financial institution, with its mobile wallet service "Osaifu Keitai", although he had to leave the company before it sees the project completion.  I suspect maybe his idea was hatched by his ex-financial staff - or at least this is something they are familiar with and they probably had little resistance.

It was a new thing for a Japanese company to accommodate such a big chunk of white collar work force from totally other industry, and it is quite interesting that DoCoMo had such a drastic transformation around that time.  The situation in the US is different, and there is no lesson to learn from them on this side, but I just thought it may be an interesting observation for the mobile industry insiders.