How Frontline Employees Took the Occasion of the Company Name Change as an Opportunity to Personally Express Their Vision of Tokyo Century’s Future
Mar 2, 2022
Tokyo Century has undergone a remarkable transformation since its merger in 2009. In October 2016, we changed the company name from Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation to Tokyo Century Corporation, so October 1, 2021 marked the fifth anniversary of the change. How has the company continued to transform as an organization and how have frontline operations and personal attitudes toward work changed as a consequence? We asked three employees to comment from their own experience on how customers reacted at the time as well as on their own thoughts and vision for the future.
The Company Name Change Led to a Renewed Awareness of the Internal and External Expansion in the Group’s Business and Raised Stakeholder Expectations
――The past decade brought significant change to Tokyo Century. October 2016, in particular, represented a major turning point, when the company name was changed from Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation to Tokyo Century Corporation. How did you feel about the name change at the time?
In 2016, I experienced my first transfer since joining the company. At the time, my work involved analyzing the business characteristics of my new corporate client and conducting research on related markets as a salesperson.
When I first heard about the name change, I was very excited. I felt a great sense of anticipation about what new developments lay ahead.
I was also transferred that year from the Metro Tokyo Business Division to the Tohoku Branch, where many of the projects involved local governments and medical institutions. The name change came when I was grappling with the difference between my current and former jobs, so it felt like yet one more new thing to deal with in my own career journey.
The element of surprise was outweighed by my expectations that perhaps being transferred during the period of transformation for the Tokyo Century Group might actually present a major milestone in my own career, and that motivated me to work even harder.
Almost my entire career since joining the company had been focused on handling sales for equipment leasing, so I must admit I was somewhat rattled by the elimination of “leasing” from the company name. The statement issued by management upon the corporate name change went a long way to restoring my confidence.
The message was that the company would continue to value the founding business of leasing as it expanded into broader areas toward meeting diversifying customer needs to achieve even higher corporate value. I completely agreed with that direction and remember feeling ready to move on.
Of course, the reaction of our customers was a different matter altogether. I felt I had to do something to ensure that they correctly understood the intentions behind the name change.
――How did customers react to the change?
I belonged to the Metro Tokyo Business Division at the time, and many of my counterparts at our business partners voiced concern about the future of our leasing business. The elimination of “leasing” from our company name had a major impact on our customers as well. I was aware that some feared our leasing service might no longer be available at some point and would need to review their contracts.
In the days immediately following the name change, I sought to proactively communicate with my customers and dispel their concerns by reiterating the significance of the leasing business within the Tokyo Century Group.
For example, I showed them our corporate profile and other reference materials to point out how equipment leasing accounted for roughly 50% of the segment assets of the entire Group at the time. I was generally able to convince most of my customers by explaining that our intention was not to eliminate our leasing business but rather to provide leasing along with proposals related to other services and businesses. And even those companies that feared they would have to review their contracts have also continued to do business with us to this day.
Many of our customers at the Tohoku Branch reacted in the same way. However, in addition to the robust state of our leasing business, broad expansions in our mobility and fleet management, specialty financing and international business, as well as ongoing alliances with leading companies and unicorn companies both in Japan and overseas, offered solid ground for convincing them.
Many of my customers were surprised by what they perceived to be a drastic decision. I felt that the name change heightened their interest in our businesses other than leasing.
From Helping Meet Specific Challenges to Becoming an Escort Runner and Frontrunner
――What kind of changes did you experience in your business operations?
First, I changed my understanding of leasing from an exclusive business category to one of many functions we provide. The Tokyo Century Group had already launched businesses that transcended the framework of leasing, such as the JCM Project*1 and onsite PPA*2. To establish these viable businesses in the Tohoku area, we had to become a company that functions as a regional platform.
And to do so, we must come up with ideas that begin with answering the simple question: What value can we provide to each customer?
Instead of confining ourselves to discussing credit and ratings when a customer consults us about a lease, we should pay close attention to the fundamental issues and desired results and determine the extent to which we can apply our strengths from a corporate finance perspective. Doing so will change the way we review business plans and enable us to present proposals that sail through customer internal approval processes.
To put this into practice, I have been focusing on strengthening my mindset around viable businesses and always being ready to learn. When meeting customers, I ask them questions and present proposals that delve deeper into their needs so I can identify potential issues and present solutions.
*1 Under the Joint Crediting Mechanism, Japan provides its decarbonized technologies to partner countries to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and establish a sustainable social infrastructure. At the same time, the system enables crediting some of the reduction in GHG under Japan’s emissions.
*2 A Power Purchase Agreement in which power generators pay the cost of installing a solar power generation system at a user’s site and take responsibility for the ownership, maintenance, and management to supply electricity to the user.
In the past, I was always pressed for time, and much of my work seemed to be focused on handling large quantities. But from around the period immediately preceding the company name change, I started presenting more proposals for creating new services and businesses to expand beyond leasing. I began to think in terms of integrating leasing with our other proven businesses and with the services and businesses provided by our business partners. For example, if a customer needed to improve their sales method for its product, I might suggest adopting a subscription platform, and if there was unused space at a factory site, I would consider installing a solar power generation facility. Now I notice even small things that might be sources of concern for the customer without caring about whether or not we could offer a solution. By serving as a mediator for companies, I was able to win the trust of both parties, which in some cases has led to constructive relationships.
I think I am involved in more projects that make me realize that work becomes more interesting with higher levels of difficulty and complexity.
I had always liked presenting proposals, so once the Group’s direction became widely understood following the name change, I focused on developing proposals that would satisfy my customers. When a customer commended Tokyo Century for its versatility, I remember feeling just as pleased as if I was being personally recognized.
Now that I have transferred to the Personnel Division, I am becoming more intentional about conveying the significance of our identity as a company with financial capabilities to university students.
――The impact of advances in digital technology and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive dramatic change in the environment for daily life and business. Did you experience any events that overturned conventional wisdom?
Hiring processes, including final interviews and a job offer ceremony, are now conducted online, and I have a feeling that the combined options of face-to-face and online interaction will become standard procedures, even after the pandemic ends.
Since Tokyo Century’s head office is in Tokyo, we used to receive applications mainly from students in the Kanto region. However, since implementing an online system, we have seen an increase in applications from other areas as well. Many students view the company as a potential place to work, regardless of where they are located, and I’ve come to realize this is a welcome trend for us.
Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of consultations on topics we had not dealt with before. For example, we hold discussions with companies on supplying renewable energy to municipalities through local production and consumption, and in the course of the conversation, they have consulted us about introducing cleaning robots and other automation and labor-saving options.
The high degree of customer expectations and trust based on our accumulated track record have undoubtedly boosted my motivation.
Apart from advances in society and technology, I am aware every day of the remarkable changes taking place within the Tokyo Century Group. For example, Nippon Rent-A-Car Service, Inc. is now a part of our Group, and we are increasingly pursuing collaborations with well-known companies. I have to admit that even members of the organization have been pleasantly surprised by many of the unexpected changes.
With each day, I feel a stronger resolve to break free of conventions and focus squarely on the value of the Tokyo Century Group so I can more effectively do my work.
――So, you are also witnessing the growth of the Group itself?
Exactly. The 20-plus years I have spent since joining the company have been a continuous string of surprises. I am inspired by our pioneering businesses such as solar panels and biomass power generation as well as our active pursuit of overseas businesses.
When I first heard the phrase “company with financial capabilities,” I was thrilled. It gave me the opportunity to break through the limits of my own thinking.
When I joined Tokyo Century, I imagined it to be a company that backed up others in meeting challenges. Now its image has changed to that of an escort runner.
I hope that in the future we continue to be a company that accompanies customers as a source of support while also becoming a frontrunner that demonstrates leadership.
Building an Organization Characterized by High Employee Engagement to Remain a Member Who Continues to Add Value to the Company Over the Long Run
――Finally, what kind of change would you like to create in the future? What are your challenges and aspirations?
Tokyo Century is not a company that sells goods like a manufacturer; it provides services and businesses created through collaboration between its employees and business partners. I thought about what we needed to do to ensure that each employee can demonstrate their strengths to continue generating services and businesses that offer even greater benefits for our customers, and I have realized the importance of securing and fostering human resources. This is why I applied for a transfer under the Career Challenge Program.
While the traditional concept of spending one’s entire career at a single organization may be becoming a thing of the past, I personally hope that as many employees as possible will choose to stay with the company for years to come. I also think that what’s best for both the company and employees is to build an organizational structure characterized by high employee engagement that provides wide-ranging experience and opportunities to hone diverse skills in response to each person’s aspirations.
As stated in our corporate slogan “Solutions to your Pursuits,” the company encourages everyone to take on challenges. My aim is to ensure that both current and prospective employees understand this message at a personal level. To that end, I will remind myself to take on my own challenges in the course of my own actions and communication.
I would like to focus even more on the leasing business while seeking to develop a personal understanding of the fundamental nature of a viable business. By doing so, I hope to come up with self-initiated projects with potential for future expansion and realize as many of these as possible.
Tokyo Century has introduced new mechanisms that encourage employees to submit proposals for new business, such as the TC Biz Challenge and Career Challenge programs, and I hope to actively take advantage of these opportunities. I will continuously strive so that one day I will be able to create schemes based on the Finance × Services × Business Expertise concept to resolve social issues like the labor shortage and decarbonization.
For example, in the automobile industry, investment in areas such as automated driving and hydrogen engines is expected to accelerate toward actual social implementation. We also must closely monitor 5G and 6G technologies.
I intend to consistently view my work through what is best for our customers and to maintain a broad, inquisitive awareness of diverse industries toward my goal of becoming a person who can serve the needs of society from a long-term perspective.
Joined the former Century Leasing System, Inc. in 1999 and has since then worked in sales for equipment leasing, covering areas such as Nagoya, Hokuriku, and Metro Tokyo.
Joined the former Tokyo Leasing Co., Ltd. in 2004 and subsequently worked in sales for equipment leasing, covering areas such as Fukuoka, Metro Tokyo, and Tohoku.
Joined Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation in 2012. After working in sales for equipment leasing, transferred to the Personnel Division using the Career Challenge Program and has been in charge of hiring and training since April 2021.