(Bloomberg) — Takahiro Kusakari went from being a self-described bum getting by on bit-part acting roles in Tokyo to calling the shots at a $2.7 billion stock fund.

His life changed in 2007 when the then 28-year-old stumbled into a seminar by the legendary investor Atsuto Sawakami, the founder of Japan's biggest independent mutual fund. Sawakami saw a spark and later offered him a job. What followed was a meteoric ascent from back-office lackey to analyst, then fund manager and finally chief investment officer.

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