2014 BBA Winner Profile: Sue Kinoshita OBE (Person of the Year)

Dec. 3, 2014


The seventh British Business Awards were held on 14th November, 2014 at the Hilton Tokyo. Sue Kinoshita OBE, Director of UK Trade & Investment, based at the British Embassy Tokyo, was named as Person of the Year after a poll of BCCJ members.

Sue Kinoshita OBE was recognised for her work leading the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) team in Tokyo. UKTI has seen wins of more then GBP 25m as a result of her team's work this past year and more than 1,000 Japanese investments have generated more than 500 UK jobs. Sue has also worked tirelessly to ensure UK firms maximise the business opportunities from Tokyo 2020.

Sue Kinoshita OBE on being named 2014 British Business Awards Person of the Year:

It is a great honour to be named Person of the Year in the 2014 British Business Awards, the more so because this is the result of a vote by the membership of the BCCJ. Business typically says that it just want government to keep its distance, so for the UK Trade &Investment team that I lead to be recognised in this way is truly motivating for us.

On the afternoon of the Awards I had to spend an hour in the dentist’s chair – a perfect opportunity to reflect on what I might say were I to win the Award! I didn’t write anything down, so the following is not an exact replica of what I said on the night. But the sentiments are the same.

Firstly, I pay tribute to my fantastic team at the British Embassy in Tokyo and the British Consulate-General in Osaka. Between them last year they helped over 2000 UK companies to develop their business in Japan and over 100 Japanese companies to invest in the UK. And they did that while securing the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any UKTI team in the world. A highly experienced, inspirational team, it is a privilege to work with each one of them.

Our UKTI team organogram has me sitting at the centre, with our various teams ranged around me, rather than the more typical hierarchical structure. I like to describe myself as the jam in the middle of the doughnut. I feel similarly about the British business eco-system in Japan represented by the nominees in this year’s Person of the Year category: every single one of them is providing the substance of the UK-Japan business relationship and I just have the very jammy job of sitting at the intersection of all their activity.

Take David Pilling of the FT. Without the work that he and his colleagues do to spread awareness and understanding of the Japanese market our job in UKTI of interesting UK companies in exporting to Japan would be nigh on impossible. Or Rob Williams, who gives Brits a good name through his tireless work for both the British community in Japan and our host country. It’s people like these who create the right backdrop for UK companies to succeed in Japan.

I have the pleasure of working closely with one of the other nominees, Ashley Harvey of Visit Britain, and have huge respect for his energy and creativity. Getting Japanese people to visit the UK is crucial to our export drive too: Japanese people tend to have a pretty negative view of British food and drink, for example – unless they’ve visited, in which case they love it and will continue to buy British products on their return home. So Ashley’s work is crucial to UKTI’s aims as well.

And of course we don’t have a hope of achieving our export targets without British companies like Haruno Yoshida’s BT making great services and products that meet Japanese needs; nor individuals like Wataru Kuwahara of Hankyu Department Stores who want to buy them! Kuwahara-san got my vote, because he could choose to promote any country’s products in his store, but chooses to promote British ones, and has done so faithfully for many years.

I couldn’t do my job without any of these people. So, far from Person of the Year, I view this as an award for the Business Community of the Year - the BCCJ. Thank you to everyone for making it so, and particularly to my colleagues on the Executive Committee and to Lori, Samata-san, Sarah and their merry band of interns in the Secretariat.