Japan’s biggest brokerage Nomura Holdings Inc. has hired a computer-generated influencer to advertise tax-free investing accounts as it tries to attract a younger generation of retail clients.
(Bloomberg) — Japan’s biggest brokerage Nomura Holdings Inc. has hired a computer-generated influencer to advertise tax-free investing accounts as it tries to attract a younger generation of retail clients.
Imma, a virtual influencer with a pink-colored bob and nearly a million total followers on Instagram and TikTok, has recently begun appearing in Nomura’s advertisements for tax-free accounts that are part of the Nippon Individual Savings Accounts system. Japan’s government and brokerage industry have for years been trying to promote NISA, the country’s equivalent of the UK ISA plan, as a way to get people to invest in riskier assets rather than hoarding them in savings. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expanding the program from January 2024, and Nomura is launching new tax-exempt products in time for this.
Boosting individual investments is particularly crucial in the coming years as Japan’s baby-boomer generation, which holds a bulk of the country’s household wealth, passes on their assets to a younger generation. For Nomura’s brokerage arm, this is a chance at ensuring funds held by its retail clients, who are mostly over 60 years old, are channeled back toward investments rather than into cash or the state’s coffers via inheritance tax.
Nomura spokesman Hiroshi Tanigaki said there were some initial doubts over using Imma, developed by AI technology company Aww Inc, as its advertisements usually feature sports stars and other well-known figures. Imma has modeled in advertisements for BMW, IKEA, and various cosmetic brands, and appeared in the Tokyo Paralympics closing ceremony in 2021 through projection mapping, but she is little known among older generations.
“I wouldn’t say there were no concerns. But we needed to emphasize that the new NISA policy will bring about major change, and we believed we shouldn’t just extend our existing advertising strategy,” said Tanigaki, co-head of the group’s corporate communications, adding that advertising agencies initially suggested more conservative ideas. “I kept asking the advertising agencies for something with more impact, more impact… and they eventually suggested, how about a virtual human?”
The changes to NISA from January will include raising the maximum amount of tax-free investing accounts. The program, initially a limited-time measure, will also become a permanent feature.
The advertising campaign is Nomura’s latest attempt to boost interest in investing among younger people. It also been teaching economic basics in high schools and investing billions of yen in a loss-making joint venture with messaging-app operator Line Corp.
It’s unclear whether the ads with Imma will persuade more younger people, who face minimal wage gains and an uncertain economic outlook, to open NISA accounts. Younger Japanese are marrying later, with an increasing number staying single, and the average childbearing age has risen to over 30, making financial planning less of a priority for many.
–With assistance from Nao Sano and Takashi Nakamichi.
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