When I heard that Ian de Stains OBE had passed away on 18 December, the overwhelming emotion was sadness—sorrow and disbelief that someone at the centre of the British community in Japan for more than 40 years would no longer be with us. Raw emotions such as these are understandable to anyone who knows the warmth and affection with which people remember Ian’s generosity and kindness.
Grief and solemnity, however, cannot suffocate our admiration for his achievements, the desire to celebrate his memory and our gratitude for the service he gave. In the case of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ), he will be remembered most for his 24 years of leadership as executive director from 1987 to 2011.
He set a course for the chamber, and the current executive team continues that journey. The BCCJ’s future success will be a tribute to his memory and an ongoing contribution to his legacy.
Sources of magnetism
This January is a major milestone for the BCCJ, marking the start of the year in which we celebrate the chamber’s 70th anniversary. It is a time to reflect on the lessons and achievements of the past, and to focus on the opportunities, as well as obstacles, that lie ahead for our members.
Decisions on the UK’s future relationship with Europe will be watched closely for their impact on Japanese investment into the UK. Shared interests and values, however, should continue to steer UK and Japanese policymakers toward broader and deeper collaboration, which bodes well for business exchange.
As participants in the UK–Japan business relationship, it is prudent to be realistic in our assessment of the commercial possibilities that lie ahead, and conscious of the attendant risks. Equally, we should not succumb to pessimism in the face of change. Brexit increases uncertainty, but the impact will not be felt evenly. Some businesses will face challenges, but others will discover new avenues of opportunity.
At the same time, good governance, robust regulation and the clustering of talent can remain powerful and formidable sources of magnetism when it comes to drawing firms to the UK for business.
In 2017, London was ranked number one in the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Global Power City Index, and took the top spot in Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centres Index. Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank rated Edinburgh second in the world for quality of life, and Forbes tipped the UK as the best country for business in 2018.
Historical standing is, of course, no guarantee of continued future success. What cannot hurt though is a determination to show resourcefulness and resilience in making the very best of the circumstances we face, regardless of whether the outlook is brightening or darkening.
The new year heralds exciting possibilities for UK–Japan business exchange, and it is my hope that all BCCJ members will resolve to combine hungry ambition with a frugal determination not to squander any crumb of advantage or opportunity. I wish you the very best in 2018, and look forward to hearing of your success at a BCCJ event very soon.