David Baran and Kazuhiko Shibata are the co-founders of Symphony Financial Partners. Symphony is a twenty year-old Asia-based asset manager that invests a long-bias, constructive engagement strategy that works closely with willing managements of deeply undervalued Japanese companies to see intrinsic value reflected in the share price.
Our conversation covers their early careers in Japan, the country’s employee first, shareholder last culture, the resulting disconnect of corporate activity and share price, and the formation of Symphony to invest in select companies. We then walk through their investment process, including the challenges of taking advantage of what appears incredible value on paper, offering friendly advice as a key component of due diligence, conducting research, structuring portfolios, and walking through an investment example. We close with a discussion of corporate governance and the necessity of a long-term perspective to thrive in Japan.