July 23, 2015,11:00 +0900(JST) My Business Trip to Europe

From July 5 to 8, I went to Europe on business. During that period, a heat wave struck all of Europe, with temperatures reportedly exceeding 40℃ in some regions. In fact, it was awfully hot on the day of my arrival. When I stepped out from the comfortably air-conditioned aircraft into such hot air, I felt my head was spinning.

The purpose of this trip was to express my appreciation to everyone concerned with our group company J-Power Systems Corporation (JPS) having won a contract with Nemo Link Limited (Nemo) for a DC 400 kV. XLPE subsea cable system.

In this project, the cable system consists of a 130-km subsea cable route and an 11.5-km land cable route, connecting the UK and Belgium. Since Nemo, the main body involved in the project, is the joint venture by Belgian ELIA and UK. National Grid, I met the management of the former company in Brussels and that of the latter in London.

In front of the office of National Grid, London
▲ In front of the office of National Grid, London

For Sumitomo Electric, winning this project contract is significant for two reasons. First, we have won a contract for a cable system of the 400 kV class, which is the highest level in the world as a commercial operation voltage for a DC transmission XLPE cable system. The other reason is that we have become the first Asian cable manufacturer to win a contract for a long-distance power transmission line connecting countries in EU. At the meetings, the management of the companies held out their hands, saying "We're counting on you," and I firmly shook hands with them, saying "Leave it to us."

To travel from Brussels to London, I took Eurostar, a high-speed train that Europe boasts of to the world. Even Eurostar takes more than 20 minutes to go through the Eurotunnel (approx. 50 km long) under the Dover Strait. Considering that the cable that JPS is expected to deliver will be nearly three times that distance, I could not stop trembling with excitement.

My first ride on the Eurostar
▲ My first ride on the Eurostar

July 23, 2015,09:35 +0900(JST) I Go to Watch the Japan National Championships

The Japan National Championships was held in Niigata from June 26 to 28. Fourteen members of our athletics club competed there. I also flew to Niigata on the final day, the 28th, and cheered them until my voice went hoarse.

I Go to Watch the Japan National ChampionshipsAlthough it was unfortunately raining, members of our athletics club competed in the finals in four events and showed excellent performances. Yuta Konishi and Tomoya Tamura both finished in third places, in the men's 400 m hurdles and the men's 400 m sprint respectively. I was very pleased to see them standing on the winners' platform at the Japan National Championships, in the uniform of our athletics club. I'm sure that their medals will greatly encourage other members of our athletics club.

At the beginning of the following week, good news was received by Sumitomo Electric, pleasing all the staff at the company: Mr. Konishi, who had won the 400 m hurdles at the Asian Athletics Championships, was selected as a representative of Japan for the World Athletics Championships (to be held from August 22 to 30 in Beijing), while Mr. Tamura was selected as a representative of Japan (4 × 400 m relay) at the Japan-China-Korea Friendship Athletics Meeting (held on July 12 in Hokkaido). I hope that they set ambitious goals and train hard so that they can continue to demonstrate their best performances.

Mr. Konishi (right) on the winners' platformMr. Tamura (second from left) making a final spurt
▲ Photo on the left: Mr. Konishi (right) on the winners' platform, Photo on the right: Mr. Tamura (second from left) making a final spurt

July 10, 2015,09:00 +0900(JST) Liberal Arts

At the shareholders' general meeting that we held the other day, we received a question on liberal arts. The shareholder said that he read my blog, in which I sometimes mention the importance of liberal arts. I'm very happy to know this.

As I said at the general meeting, I believe that today, when no one can tell what will happen next, it is useful to obtain liberal arts knowledge in order not to step forward in the wrong direction. The higher your position at your organization, the more necessary it is to have such knowledge. Although the term "liberal arts" is often regarded as equivalent to the Japanese word "kyoyo," I feel that there is a slight difference between them in terms of nuance.

Now that I have remembered that Vol. 449 of SEI WORLD, our group's newsletter that we distribute to customers, contains my contribution on liberal arts, let me introduce it to you again as follows.

Learn the Classics

In present-day society, where a wide variety of events interact with each other in complex ways, there is no telling what will happen tomorrow. There must be many cases where an event in one place exerts some influence over another place in a totally unexpected manner. Although business managers consider and compare as many possible choices as possible, it is impossible for them to predict a situation that may be described by the phrase "Bliss often falls into the hands of an unexpected person," under the restrictions of a limited amount of time and incomplete assumption and information. In many cases, if a manager judges that the advantage of proposal A outweighs that of proposal B by a ratio of 6:4, the manager will decide to select proposal A, and then make efforts to increase the likelihood of success by correcting negative points while the project is on the move.

The decisions of managers determine their companies' business results, affecting many stakeholders. In this age of chaos, however, it is never easy to make right decisions. One element that can help guide such managers is liberal arts. Liberal arts, which is more than mere knowledge, shares with us wisdom, ingenuity, self-examination, and lessons that have been accumulated and handed down successively over many generations. The essence of these excellent assets is found in the classics.

I learned that the word "classic" dates far back to the Roman period. In ancient Rome, warships were constructed not with taxes but with donations. Wealthy people who could donate "classics" (meaning a "fleet") to protect the country in times of crisis over time began being called "classics." Afterwards, the word further evolved to mean books and other works that provided the power of spirit in times of crisis. This is the origin of the current use of the word "classics."*

The leaders of organizations need to tackle a wide variety of challenges, most of which are difficult to solve. In addition, problems sometime arise suddenly. However, if they take an interest in classics on a regular basis and learn deeply through such wisdom of the ancients, it follows that they will have many more choices and maintain calm even in times of difficulty. I believe that this is the purpose for enhancing your liberal arts background.

* Daigaku no hansei, Takenori Inoki, NTT Publishing Co., Ltd.; and Dante shinkyoku kogi (Dante's Divine Comedy, Lecture Japanese Language Book), Tomonobu Imamichi, Misuzu Shobo

July 9, 2015,11:00 +0900(JST) 145th Annual Shareholders' General Meeting

On June 25, we held the 145th annual shareholders' general meeting at The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka, in Umeda.

At the general meeting, which started at 10 a.m. as scheduled, we reported on the summary of our business situation and results, and then received questions from shareholders participating in the meeting. Since prior to the general meeting, we had been given questions on redox flow batteries and concentrator photovoltaic systems (CPVs), we first explained what these are.

This was followed by a question on our mid-term management plan VISION 2017, whose numerical targets we had revised recently, and then by a wide variety of questions and comments on such topics as the effect of the depreciation of the yen on our business results, the progress in our development of new products, the efforts that we are making in the energy field, such as the above-mentioned redox flow batteries and offshore wind power generation, and shareholders' expectations on the undergrounding of electric wires. In addition, although this was not directly relevant to our business operations, a question on the importance of liberal arts, which I have mentioned on various occasions, was also asked.

We also received a severe dressing-down from a shareholder, who indicated that the loss generated by our payment of the surcharges resulting from compliance-related problems was a wasteful expense. The shareholder is exactly right. While expressing our apologies, we explained the efforts to reinforce our compliance with laws and regulations, such as our regularly-held Compliance Committee. We are fully aware that, returning to the basics of our business operations based on "Fusu-furi" (Do not act rashly or carelessly in pursuit of easy gains.), one of the Sumitomo Spirits, we must straighten up, establish an irreversible system, and also ensure that such a system will not turn into a mere shell.

Although the numbers attending annual shareholders' general meetings had been less than 700 over the past few years, this year's event drew more than 800 participants. Unlike the venue with empty seats in previous years, the venue was full this year, with all the seats, including those in the back row, being occupied. I'm truly grateful that despite the hot weather, an increased number of shareholders made the effort to attend the meeting. To live up to your expectations, we will continue to do our very best.

July 9, 2015,10:15 +0900(JST) Resignation as President of the Josuikai (Alumni Association for Hitotsubashi Univ.)

As of June 12, I resigned from the positions of President of the Josuikai Alumni Association (which I had held for five years), External Board Member of Hitotsubashi University (seven years), and Chairperson of the Supporters' Association for Hitotsubashi University (five years). Despite my busy schedule as president of Sumitomo Electric, I feel that I have done a decent job over quite a long period, even if I do say so myself.

I had decided to serve in these positions in order to show my sincere gratitude to my alma mater for all it had done for me, and to contribute to society, with my original plan being to resign after completing my first term of two years. As expected (?), however, my tenure extended on and on. During my tenure, I learned a lot from engaging in discussions with the President of Hitotsubashi University and other faculty members, participating in university events, and interacting frankly with a wide variety of alumni making an outstanding contribution to society regardless of age, and sometimes exchanging opinions with students currently studying at the university. These experiences have expanded my horizons, making me feel that what I got out of this experience might have been much greater than what I contributed.

At the party held after the general meeting of the Josuikai, one senior member said to me: "Mr. Matsumoto, the one who is pleased the most about your resignation must be your secretary. I'm sure she was probably sick of making so many schedule arrangements!" This might be true... Without the generous support of you all, I could never have held these positions. Thank you very much!

The position of President of the Josuikai was taken over by President Tsuyoshi Okamoto of Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd.
▲The position of President of the Josuikai was taken over by President Tsuyoshi Okamoto of Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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