As Japanese families gathered earlier this month for the traditional "Obon" festival honoring ancestors, some elderly parents broached an awkward but increasingly critical topic: planning for inheritance.
Japan's government will increase the inheritance tax rate in January, while tax relief measures on gifting will be expanded, in moves aimed at encouraging wealthy, older Japanese to either spend or pass on their savings before they die.
In years to come, the change would release billions of dollars languishing in savings accounts into the hands of a younger generation and promote investments in stocks and property, giving the economy an extra push as it emerges from nearly two decades of deflation.
"There's a major distortion in Japan with funds heavily concentrated among the elderly. Trying to change that is worthwhile," said Yasuo Yamamoto, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute.
Nomura's Chief Executive Koji Nagai estimates around 50 trillion yen ($480 billion) is passed on through inheritance each year, with that amount set to grow in the years ahead given Japan's demographics.
That will inevitably mean greater demand for services such as real estate planning and wealth management consulting.
The long-term stakes, however, are even higher for brokerages. Japan's population is aging, and much of the 1,630 trillion yen in financial assets held by households belong to people over 60 years old.
Nagai told an investor meeting this month that Nomura could gradually lose much of its 95 trillion yen in retail client assets unless it won over the loyalty from younger family members who stand to inherit clients' legacies.
Daiwa executive Mitsuru Fujita, head of wealth management at Japan's second-biggest brokerage, said talk of inheritance planning used to be a dreaded precursor to losing a client's business. These days, his colleagues are more likely to be asking for the contact details of the customer's children.
"Until now, inheritance meant an end. But if you're acquainted with a family and understand its needs, you're not necessarily letting go when a client passes on," he told Reuters.
Nomura and Daiwa lead Japan's retail brokerage market, from which most foreign players have largely exited in recent decades as Japan struggled with repeated recessions.