Stephen Barber became fascinated with Japanese culture, society and business after his first visit in 1980 as a young investment manager. Visits to temples and museums were as frequent as those to steel furnaces, car plants and Ginza bars. The following year he won the Japan Foreign Ministry Essay Prize on Japan-EU relations and never looked back.
In 1987 at the height of the bubble he was posted to Tokyo as head of the tiny subsidiary of a foreign asset manager with a mandate to gain an investment trust licence from the Ministry of Finance. He then began to learn to read and write Japanese in earnest.
Five years later, mission accomplished, Stephen returned to London to take up a senior role at Pictet & Cie, the Geneva private bank. Part of his mission was to turn around the company’s struggling Japanese business. Eventually, Pictet became one of the top three foreign asset managers in Japan.
He founded and built the Prix Pictet, now the world’s leading photographic prize (whose subject is sustainability), of which he is executive chairman. He is currently planning an exhibition at the prestigious TOP Museum in Tokyo for November 2021.
Stephen remains a consultant to the Pictet Group, where he was an equity partner and head of group communications. In this role he honed his skills as an experienced editor and writer in finance, culture and fiction, as an accomplished public speaker and chair of boards and advisory committees.
He is a managing trustee of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and a member of the advisory board of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust.
He is married to Kimiko, author of nine English language books on Japanese cuisine. With three adult sons, they divide time between London and
Oxfordshire, where she keeps bees and cultivates vegetables, while he restores an ancient meadow.