Banking On Alternative Investments

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Ikuko Yamanaka, CEO of Terrasias Capital thinks the world of alternative investments is crowded and tough. We find out how she remains focused and stubborn without emotions from an early age.

By ShuQi Liu

“You just have to get on with it and put up with the long hours, hard work and relentless yelling.”

When Ikuko Yamanaka attended pre-school in Tokyo at six years old, she wrote that she would become a banker one day. “I was very determined and goal-oriented from an early age”, she says.

“The sooner one realises that there are no shortcuts, the sooner one gets on with doing whatever one is supposed to be doing, better. Laziness and sloppiness won’t get you far in any industry.”

With hard work and dedication, the banker-turned-entrepreneur runs Terrasias Capital, her own family office in Tokyo. Without the constraints and interference from external investors, Ikuko can focus on alternative investments, such as the local community of Okinawa.

After spending her childhood in Japan, Ikuko moved overseas for college, where she worked for major Japanese brokers, completed an MBA and spent the bulk of her time in Singapore and Tokyo.

According to Ikuko, one’s early years in finance are the dog years. “You just have to get on with it and put up with the long hours, hard work and relentless yelling,” she says in a no-nonsense manner.

Ikuko adds that only confident people succeed in the crowded world of alternative investments.

“I don’t waste my time worrying about male domination. If you want to go into management, you have to navigate around politics with sharp elbows. I just wanted to make money, so I simply avoided all the office politics. By learning from those dog years, I became stronger.

In my career so far, I have never had a formal mentor. I have learnt what to do and what not to do from my superiors, colleagues, and clients. Now that I work for myself, I can ignore these issues and just enjoy my job,” says Ikuko.

“The sooner one realises that there are no shortcuts, the sooner one gets on with doing whatever one is supposed to be doing, better. Laziness and sloppiness won’t get you far in any industry.”

Today, Ikuko’s experience in brokerage sales and trading has served her well as an investor and entrepreneur. Besides trading the public markets, Terrasias Capital also invests directly in deals and external funds.

One particular area is investing in Japan’s distressed small and mid-sized real estate. Situated in busy parts of Tokyo, some of these properties are transformed into student housing, which she believes is a profitable business.

Yet, Ikuko is not resting on her laurels. Although she is proud of her success thus far, it is still too early to sum up her achievements. “My most satisfying experience at Terrasias Capital was investing in the future of Okinawa, where my mother came from. It is very rewarding when I combine a good investment with helping a local community. I hope to continue investing to make a positive difference, and help Okinawa realise its potential.”

But why does the fact remains that very few women are involved in alternative investments? “There are many reasons,” explains Ikuko. “It is typical to experience long working hours in these positions, which can be tough on motherhood.

I have also often attended meetings with senior people who assume that I am there to charm clients or serve tea. They pay attention to my male colleagues in the room, only to find out quickly that I am the CEO.”

Can women really have it all, work and family? Yes, if you prioritise and stay focused on the important things at hand, says Ikuko. “Asia is full of strong women who excel in their careers. Some of the best portfolio managers and senior executives in alternative investments are female. If you focus on being good at what you do success will follow,” she concludes.

Images by Hedge Funds Club


Terrasias Capital invests in both liquid and more illiquid, longer-term investments. They are also experienced in real estate, acquiring small and mid-sized properties in Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan.

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