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Japan – the view from the top: Jun Ohta, SMBC

Japan's social environment is said to be transforming, and SMBC's CEO is determined that the bank will take the lead in those changes.

Jun Ohta says he has an internal slogan for employees: “Break the mould.” 

Since becoming president and group chief executive of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group in April, he has sought to bring change to one of Japan’s strongest but most static financial institutions.

The mould does, after all, need breaking. 

“Commercial banking is ultimately a GDP business,” Ohta tells Euromoney in Tokyo. “We cannot expect rapid growth where GDP is not growing.” 

And, indeed, SMBC isn’t growing: first-quarter net profit was down 5% year on year and return on equity fell from 8.8% to 8.2% over the most recent financial year. 

Many of Ohta’s goals for dealing with this unfortunate truth involve revamping wealth management, moving away from product-pushing brokerage fees to advising on broader portfolios, expanding internationally and buying a high-growth franchise in Indonesia. 

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