The Hedge Funds Club Good Life Interviews – Part 42: Sergei Diakov

Hedge Funds Club boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Sergei Diakov in Tokyo to talk about riding motorbikes along the Shonan Coast, visiting Kyoto, Japanese city pop, South Indian food in Tokyo, cups of tea, the FT’s Life & Arts section and much more. Sergei now heads up the Japan office for Tikehau Investment Management. Earlier he spent the bulk of his career at Citigroup but also had stints at Rogers Investment Advisors and Seiryu Asset Management.

From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?

Online. FT, Nikkei, several finance-focused blogs. There are also some Japanese weekly podcasts, such as Nikkei Trendy, that I started listening to years ago for language practice and still find interesting today.

What do you do to unwind on a weekend?

Take my motorcycle up to the mountains around Chichibu or down the Shonan coast. Longer trips work like meditation and Japan is one of the best countries in the world for riding.

Can you name a great book you have recently read?

“Deep Kyoto” by Alex Kerr, delightfully detailed and timed to a recent trip to Kyoto. The city is tourist-free these days and being there feels surreal – like stepping into a time machine.

Your soundtrack of choice?

My musical tastes are all over the place and I like discovering new stuff. Japanese city pop of the 80s – Mariya Takeuchi and Tatsuro Yamashita – is one of the most recent discoveries.

What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?

A glass of water upon waking, more often than not followed by an espresso before lunch. The last drink is far less predictable.

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?

There have been too many. The ones I tend to remember are all regrets of inaction, like watching the yen go higher in 2011.

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?

I have been lucky to work alongside many amazing professionals in Europe and in Japan – bosses, colleagues and clients. I like to think that some of their wisdom has rubbed off. One particular person who will always stand out is Chris Devries, the former head of Citibank in the Netherlands, whom I was lucky to encounter at the very start of my professional life. He passed away way too early and is fondly remembered by many people to whom he was a mentor and a friend.

What gives you energy?

I love being around people but occasionally need to recharge all by myself with a cup of tea and a good book or the FT’s Life & Arts section. After a few hours of that, I am usually good to go out again.

How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?

Through interacting with people that I admire and respect and semi-regular exercise.

Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?

Nandini for making some of the best South Indian food in Tokyo. It’s hardly a secret place, considering how many friends and acquaintances I keep spotting there. Whenever in London, I go out of my way to drop by at Tayyabs.

What’s your favourite museum in the world?

The British Museum – one or two sections at a time. In Japan, it’s small museums that often have niche exhibitions – Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Artizon (formerly Bridgestone Museum), Tokyo Station Gallery.

Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?

Not any longer. I have an empty account on Twitter to follow some people whose work I’m interested in, as well as some public organisations, such as GPIF, for their news and official announcements.

Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?

For all my trying to stick to a good diet, the appeal of delicious carbs from a local bakery occasionally wins.

What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?

It gives me great pleasure to put on a suit for a face-to-face client meeting, an event that used to be taken for granted but feels so special these days.

Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?

I’m not big on celebrating specific dates or events but spontaneously deciding to share a bottle of wine with a friend can be fun on any day of the week.

What makes you happy?

I am happy if I can get my cup of tea and the FT’s Life & Arts section.