Kensaku Kimura, CPA, CFA
Using an international skillset to tackle global accounting challenges
Founder and CEO
Kimura Certified Public Accountants
Kensaku Kimura’s firm, Kimura Certified Public Accountants, is a one-man operation - and a successful one at that. His office is in Tokyo’s Otemachi district, one of the city’s key business hubs.
“I started my firm in my mid-30s after about ten years at KPMG,” says the Kobe native in fluent English honed during eight childhood years in Los Angeles and a two-year stint at the Big Four firm’s office in New York. “I had a great time at KPMG, but I gradually realized I was becoming dependent on the organization. I wanted to become independent.”
He acquired the Japanese CPA (JCPA) after leaving college. During his second year at KPMG in Tokyo, he was inspired to take the U.S. CPA by friends who also chose this career path.
“At first, the U.S. CPA was more of an add-on to my resume. I wanted to use accounting as a tool to facilitate international business, so I thought studying for the U.S. CPA would be an efficient way to learn accounting terms in English. But once I transferred to New York, it expanded my opportunities. I was immediately put in charge of handling a public company, which doesn’t happen often to expats on rotation. I think the U.S. CPA was one of the factors that made it possible.”
Armed with bilingualism, multicultural business knowledge and expertise in both Japanese and US accounting standards, Kensaku became specialized in international accounting and transactions. After finally adding the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation to his skillset during his last few years at KPMG, he found a market niche perfectly suited to a rapidly globalizing Japan.
Today, he helps clients tackle cases spanning multiple languages and accounting standards, in addition to providing professional insights into investment valuation.
“One example would be cross-border Mergers & Acquisitions (M&As). A Japanese company buying a U.S. company, or vice versa. The accounting around the M&A is based on a valuation that someone does, so that’s where the CFA comes in,” he says.
With Japan Inc. currently engaged in a worldwide M&A spree, it is easy to see why Kensaku’s skills are in high demand. In the first six months of 2018 alone, M&A involving Japanese firms nearly quadrupled to a record $232.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
From the JCPA to the U.S. CPA to the CFA, continuous learning is at the heart of Kensaku’s approach to work. “I think that’s a very important aspect of being a professional. Learning never ends. Once you think you’ve covered one area, it would be arrogant to think there is nothing more to learn.”
For Japanese professionals looking to broaden their opportunities, the U.S. CPA is definitely an option. “With the JCPA, you’ll need to study full-time for two years. However, if you have a life that you need to sustain but still want to enter accounting at a foreign firm, or you’re looking for a leg-up, the U.S. CPA is a good option. The clear advantage over the JCPA in the Japanese job market is that it shows English accounting capabilities. If you have the time and resources, and you’re sure accounting is what you want to do, go for it.”
To those who might see the English-only U.S. CPA Exam as a barrier, he offers encouraging advice.
“While the U.S. CPA was easier for me since I had the language, I’d say there is an 80% overlap with the JCPA so if you already have that you’re off to a good start. Even if you don’t, you can do it. When studying, allocate time to the practice problems at the end of each chapter, and keep in mind why you want to take the Exam. If it’s because you want to work, then don’t let the language intimidate you. You learn English and you also get the license.”
“You should enjoy it,” he adds with a smile. “I know I did.”
The day begins with an un-healthy breakfast. I’m trying to change my habits though...
9am: Arrive at the office
Luckily, I don’t need to suffer a lengthy Tokyo commute. On a busy day, I’ll be in the office by 9am. On a slow day, I’ll get in a bit later.
9:30am: Meet with a client
Client meetings can take place in our office or theirs. If I’m helping with a closing, I typically do so at the client’s office. On a slow day, I might take some time to update the various websites I maintain, such as our company homepage or websites related to an app called CryptoGain that I am currently developing as a start-up project.
Time to power up! Lunch is usually one hour, and I tend to go a bit early or a bit late to avoid the queues. Tokyo’s endless variety of great restaurants in combination with the fact that the CPA job entails a lot of sitting can wreak havoc on your weight if you’re not careful!
12:30pm: Back to work!
I continue whatever I was doing before lunch or use the time to move to the next location. There might be an upcoming meeting to prepare for.
3pm: Weekly management meeting
I might attend a weekly management meeting of a client where I sit on the audit committee. If I’m in the office, I might work on an article for an online column that I contribute to. The column is blockchain/cryptocurrency-related with a twist of accounting and finance. Exciting stuff!
6pm: Planning ahead
I head back to the office to continue working on the app. CryptoGain calculates gains and losses from crypto trades, and you can use it to analyze the performance of your portfolio as if you were a fund manager. I usually also take a few moments to plan ahead for the next day.
8pm: Personal Time
On an average day, I might go jogging or read books. Somewhere around this time of day, I also grab some food and catch up with friends.