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Banking

MUFG's Nobuyuki Hirano: Japanese banking's greatest hope

Nobuyuki Hirano is the world’s most recognized and most respected Japanese banker – and the chief executive of MUFG is an articulate voice on the demographic challenges facing Japanese banking and society. He believes he has charted a path through those challenges and is an internationalist in outlook. His aim is to make MUFG the world’s most trusted financial institution. Can he succeed?

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An elderly, shrinking population with plenty of savings and a steadfast unwillingness to spend them. Negative interest rates and 10-year government bonds that yield exactly nothing. Companies that do not need to borrow and have to be coaxed to spend on anything that might require billable advice. Welcome to banking in Japan.

Japan’s big three banks have been wrestling with these worsening problems for a decade, each of them coming up with strategies, plans and visions to make lemonade from the lemons that surround them domestically. Their decisions resonate globally: Japan is still the world’s third largest economy, and is home to four of the world’s top 20 banks by assets (the big three plus Japan Post Bank).

But the one that bears closest scrutiny is MUFG, the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. It is the biggest – total assets of ¥299.1 trillion ($2.65 trillion) at the end of June, ranking top five worldwide – and it is also the one with the clearest strategy about what to do both inside and beyond Japan.




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