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Shingo Majima

Shingo Majima [Profile]

Calling all students! Carry a Challenging Spirit!

Shingo Majima
Professor of Auditing, International Accounting and English Accounting, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University

From Certified Public Accountant to University Professor

After working as an accountant and auditor for about 30 years at the New York office of KPMG LLP, one of America's Big 4 (4 largest audit corporations), I returned to teach at my alma mater in April 2006.

Before moving to New York in August 1975, I conducted audits as a Certified Public Accountant and was an instructor for the practical training school of the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants to educate junior accountants who had just passed the secondary certified public accountant examination. In these practical training classes, I explained that in a world where Japanese companies are aggressively pushing their way into foreign markets, it is essential for future accountants to head overseas and gain valuable experience. I practiced this myself by knocking on the door of Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG LLP), part of the former Big 8 (8 largest audit corporations). Initially, I only planned on working in New York for three to six years at most, but the accounting and auditing work there was very interesting and fulfilling. Before I realized it, I had neared the retirement age of the partnership contract agreement. Although I was content having gained substantial experience, my longing to teach what I had learned and experienced in the US and Japan to the next younger generation kept growing stronger. Just as I thought it was time to enter the next chapter in my life, I was invited to become a professor at Chuo University and decided to accept the offer.

In my seminars and classes, I share my actual experiences with the students and explain to them how important it is to demonstrate a challenging spirit and to apply themselves to their studies during their time at university. I would like to write about those experiences here.

The "Miracle" of 30 years ago

This is a story that happened 30 years ago.

The 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics was hosted in New York State, and one month beforehand, I was lucky enough to watch a friendly ice hockey match between the USA and Soviet Union at Manhattan's Madison Square Garden. At the time, the Soviets were said to be the world's strongest, having won four straight Winter Olympic gold medals and labeled as unbeatable. On the contrary, the US team was full of unknown university players. The Soviet team, as expected, brushed the Americans aside and went on to a crushing victory in a game of men against boys.

But one month later, when the Olympics began, the tables were turned. The US team piled up victories in the first round, and with each victory confidence grew within the team, and they became stronger with each match. They finished the first round with a record of four wins, no losses and one draw to advance to the final tournament in second place. Even in the final round, the Americans racked up the victories, became even stronger, and finally were on equal playing ground with the Soviets. I watched this game on TV, but the US team was completely different than that of a month ago. The players appeared bigger, held their own in the match and fought as equals. In the end, the US downed the Soviet team 4-3, and overall finished the final tournament with a record of two wins, no losses and one draw. If you included the preliminary round, they finished the tournament unbeaten and captured the gold medal in style. Not only throughout America, but the whole world was blown away by this team of university students who banded together, piled up earnest efforts, gained confidence and grabbed victory. Afterwards, this was called the "Miracle on Ice" and was made into a movie called Miracle.

Related to this "Miracle on Ice," a coincidence occurred years later. A KPMG partner conference is held every year in Orlando, Florida, and a well known guest is always invited. About 20 years after the Winter Olympics, the guest speaker was the captain of that winning US team. He gave a lively speech about the situation at the time and reminded me of the events of that day as if it were just yesterday.

To the young generation

When I recall this episode to my students, I tell them the following. This episode was not just a simple miracle. The university students challenged themselves and set a goal, and when they placed their efforts toward that goal every day, they matured with the enormous confidence that came from it. You are all in this stage now. Like a bamboo shoot that pops up the morning following an early spring shower, you can feel that sensation fort yourselves. If you are going to put effort into your studies, now is the most important time.

Furthermore, I have explained this to my students. That is, "Go overseas as often as possible while you are young." Going overseas and personally having contact with different cultures and people, encountering different ways of thinking and viewpoints, and understanding the meaning of business, is a highly valuable experience. By going out into the world, even if they face hardships, it will soon give them the strength of mind that they can overcome anything. To do that, it can be said that language skills, especially English, are essential. It is essential to acquire the four general skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and grab any opportunity to strengthen communication skills. It is without doubt that people with these skills will be sought after in the future society.

Finally, there is one more advice I give my students, especially my seminar students. Don't narrow your studies only to Japanese and International Accounting Standards. Their accounting studies will thrive if they also study politics, economics, law, tax laws and business. Don't take a short-sighted or narrow view of things. They need to approach opportunities from various angles and have a flexible outlook. For that purpose, at the seminar camps, research topics unrelated to accounting are delegated and held for discussion. Topics discussed in the past include, "who owns the company?" "corporate governance," "leadership," "personnel management," and "starting a business and initial public offering." Also, twice a year, the university invites people who have been active throughout the world, to give a speech. I believe that what successful people have in common is that they have a persistent challenging spirit and were born under lucky stars. It can be said that their good luck was the result of their perseverance and hard work. I feel that hearing many success stories from those speeches will be extremely beneficial to the seminar students in planning their lives.

In order to enhance my seminar students' communication and presentation skills, I take the approach of not only having them give presentations but also have each group hold a discussion about another student's presentation, and then each group presents his/her ideas and a discussion takes place amongst everyone. In the discussion, I guide the students to understand what others are saying, to express their own opinions, and direct them on how to reach a single favorable conclusion. Of course, depending on the topic, a conclusion isn't always reached. In the seminar, I try hard to create an atmosphere where the students can speak out as much as possible. Through continuing experience and practice, even students who are shy initially and have trouble expressing their opinions, gain presentation skills and confidence.

Seminar student activities

Currently, I have three sets of students who have graduated, and the current juniors are the fifth set of students on their way to graduation. Although it is still a relatively new seminar, the first set of students, in their senior year, took part in the Test of Economic Sense and Thinking, a test created by the Nikkei Shimbun, which challenges university seminar students against each other with the aim of nurturing future corporate executives. They won both individual and team honors by large margins. Additionally, more than twenty of the graduated seminar students are now working for major auditing firms as Certified Public Accountants. I also highly regard my graduates who now work for general companies, and when I see what they have achieved, I feel honored to have taught them.

In these tumultuous times, I want to tell the students, both directly and indirectly, "All students! Challenge your spirit and mentality, and carve out your own paths!"

Shingo Majima
Professor of Auditing, International Accounting and English Accounting, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Born in Tokyo in 1946. Graduated from the Graduate School of Commerce, Chuo University in1971. Established a certified public accountant office in 1972. Entered KPMG LLP New York office in 1975. Appointed as Auditing Division Partner in 1987. Became US representative of the Auditing Division Japanese Business Section in 1997. Certified public accountant in Japan and USA (New York State.) Retired from KPMG LLP in 2005. Took up his current position in April 2006. Majors in international accounting and auditing. Current research topics include Japanese accounting standards and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and convergence.
Major publications include Explication of International Accounting Standards(Zeimu Keiri Kyokai Co., Ltd.), Encyclopedia of American Accounting(Yuhikaku), and many others. Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination Committee member (auditing) 2006 - 2010.