Values learned at TROY translate well for SCOB alumnus Derek Young in Japan

Sorrell College alumnus Derek Young lead's Fidelity's operations in Japan.

Sorrell College alumnus Derek Young lead's Fidelity's operations in Japan.

For one Trojan, a world away from Troy in Japan is almost like being at home where every-day values of compassion, competence and respect are mainstays of society and business.

Derek Young, a 1986 Finance graduate of the Sorrell College of Business, now leads Fidelity International’s Japan operations as president. He is president and representative director at FIL Investments (Japan) Limited the asset management arm, as well as FIL Securities (Japan) K.K. which provides investment products and services to Japanese individual investors. He is a member of Fidelity International’s Global Operating Committee.

Derek Young, left, accepts the Sullivan Award from then-TSU President Dr. Ralph Adams in 1986. The other recipients are Donna Gay Anderson and Donald Gibson, Vice-President of Student Affairs at the time. (TROY archives)
Derek Young, left, accepts the Sullivan Award from then-TSU President Dr. Ralph Adams in 1986. The other recipients are Donna Gay Anderson and Donald Gibson, Vice-President of Student Affairs at the time. (TROY archives)

Fidelity is one of the world’s largest privately held financial services corporation with some $4.4 trillion in total discretionary assets and more than $11.5 trillion assets under administration. Some 43 million individuals and 24,000 businesses do business with the company, based in Boston, Mass.

“Fidelity is a family-owned business, and its values are very similar to mine,” Young said, from his Tokyo office. “If people are not capable, not willing or don’t have the time to manage their investments, Fidelity is there to help. Our two guiding principles are ‘the client is always right’ and ‘what’s in the best interest of our customers.’ 

“Those values – family values – are Fidelity Values and Southern Values, and I get to see how they interact in this country to earn the respect of those people around me,” the Milledgeville, GA native said.

Those values, first learned at home, were honed at TROY in the Sorrell College, where Young said the combination of professors taking an interest in him, leadership development, work on campus and social activities is what has carried him to success in business.

A Sullivan Award winner, Young was a George C. Wallace Leadership Scholar, through which he expanded his leadership capabilities greatly.

“I had the privilege of being involved in leadership activities and those helped to development my values of caring about other people, respecting other people, of making sure you did the right thing for other people,” he said. 

He was a resident advisor in Alumni Hall and then moved up to be manager of Dill Hall – both experiences proved invaluable learning labs for Young.

“The work ethic skills that came from having to work with people across the university were important and I learned so much about different people from different walks of life and I got to be the person to understand where they were coming from,” he said.

“I had real learning experiences (at TROY) as I moved through on how you fit in, how to bring the TROY values into the workplace and be the kind of leader who motivates people to follow, who want to win and want to do it the right way. I’m a leader with a carrot, not a stick,” said Young.

“I have built amazing teams of amazingly talented people who have wanted to be a part of the winning culture and team. I learned that at TROY,” he added.

Young points to three professors in particular who mentored and pushed him to succeed academically.

“Robert Earl Stewart was so great – he was the ‘Z’ of the balance sheet. He taught me to think about things in a different way and was very supportive of me as a finance major. His classes were incalculable in understanding finance; he was easy to follow and had a natural gift as a teacher,” he said. “When you were dealing with him, he was giving you the tools to go about and be successful.”

The real difference for him was seeing that TROY professors took an interest in developing a total package, not just a competent practitioner in a given field.

“They really cared about me as an individual and cared about my being successful. Having that background has been really important in my life,” he said.

It was Ira Pyron, who taught Finance alongside Stewart, that pushed Young to take his education to the next level.

“He had gone to Harvard, and he pushed me to Vandy. I had a full scholarship at Georgia and only a partial to Vanderbilt, but he convinced me it would be a good opportunity to grow and do things in a big way,” he said.

Young went on to complete an MBA in accounting and finance at Vanderbilt and later earned his Chartered Financial Analyst certification.

Derek Young's entry from the Who's Who selection in the 1986 Palladium. (Palladium)
Derek Young’s entry from the Who’s Who selection in the 1986 Palladium. (Palladium)

“Eugene Sherman in accounting really challenged me,” he said. “The professors really challenged me on a personal basis and made sure I was doing everything I could to excel and leverage my skill sets. They were really great, and I learned from them. They were true mentors.”

 Today, although working in a global environment on a large scale, Young carries the lessons he learned at TROY into his every-day strategy in business.

“One of the biggest challenges facing us in Japan is the standard of living – the life expectancy is increasing as people live longer and I want to make sure they have enough money to live on,” he said.

Noting that Japanese culture – not unlike Southern culture — places a very great importance on respecting and caring for the elderly, Young is concerned with teaching families about how money works for them.

“In Japan, 55 percent of household assets are in cash or cash equivalency. In a deflationary world, that feels ok, but over the past 12 months, inflation is increasing, and people are sitting on cash. Costs are going up and what that means for the elderly is that food costs are going up. They are sitting on cash and have no ability to offset those increasing costs,” he said.

“I want to push the idea of trying to help people invest in the ways it takes to maintain their quality of life. These issues mean a lot to me and to Fidelity, so I want to help the Japanese people to understand it,” he added.

Two avenues have opened to give him a greater platform from which to spread those values and expertise.

Young is the first non-Japanese speaker to serve on the Investment Trust Association Board, the governing body for industry in Japan. He also serves as vice chairman of the Financial Service Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. 

Derek Young with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Young at the 1986 Sullivan Awards luncheon. (TROY archives)
Derek Young with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Young at the 1986 Sullivan Awards luncheon. (TROY archives)

“I’ve been able to share my insights and learning from the United States on how we can make the Japanese market sustainable and successful. With the Chamber, I can concentrate on how we can bring our expertise to Japan and help make it a better place for those who are investing in Japan – and those who should,” he said.

It’s part of the “Fidelity Way,” according to Young: “Fidelity cares for us as individuals, as a team and cares about our clients.”

When he arrived in Japan five years ago, Young needed a mentor to help him navigate a new business and cultural environment. He found that in person amongst the Fidelity family. 

At 88, Kuramoto-san still comes to the office to work with Young. He was Fidelity’s first employee in Japan, and 54 years later is still working.

“I’ve learned about what I didn’t know and having good people around me compliments my skill sets. There’s a real deference to the elderly in Japan and that makes it feel very much like home, a Southern set of values,” he said.

“It lets me lean back on my Southern roots and my TROY roots,” he added.

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