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19 March 2015
Eiichiro Yanagawa

Japan’s financial market is also home to outdated bedrock regulations.

Currently in Japan there are approximately 270 Shinkin banks (Credit Unions). On average, these average a deposit balance of around 500 billion yen and loans of 300 billion yen, with some large Shinkin banks that exceed regional banks in size.

Joining Forces:
The January 2015 announced merger of Ogaki Shinkin Bank and Seino Shinkin Bank was premised on a proactive business strategy looking five to 10 years in the future and taking into account the shrinking population and economy. The new entity will boast a post-merger total of 700 billion yen in deposits, falling in the realm of mid-tier financial institutions and with a notably high capital adequacy ratio. With Ogaki boasting a capital adequacy ratio of 12% and Seino 15%, this union of banks—which could go it alone—speaks to a strategic move to maintain or enhance regional market share and consolidate forces to achieve greater economy of scale. Both institutions are located in central Japan’s Gifu Prefecture, which is home to a number of robust regional institutions including Juroku Bank (assets of 5.0 trillion yen), Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank (assets of 4.2 trillion yen), Gifu Shinkin Bank (assets of 2.1 trillion yen), and also one of the few areas of Japan that is enjoying staunch competition in retail banking. This merger can also be seen as hinting at things to come.

The dominant take is that strategic partnerships and mergers will proceed apace among institutions of suitable scale and sound management until an appropriate number for the market has been reached. A trend similar to that witnessed in the U.S. credit union industry is expected, in which as the hurdle to survival has risen, especially in urban areas, many credit unions boasting assets in excess of 2 trillion yen are created. It would seem moving forward that in addition to scale, financial soundness, and operational efficiency, that having a strategy that focuses on offering niche services that fill local needs will prove essential.
(Lessons that can be learned from developments in the U.S. credit union industry are addressed in detail in the below Celent report.)

Challenges and Strategy:
From the perspective of efficiency, regional financial institutions will for the most part operate in partnership with other institutions using a shared center system rather than operating such systems themselves. This will solve cost and resource challenges, but at the same time could hamper efforts to offer unique products and services when it comes to taking advantage of IT. In addition, until now there have been other system–related obstacles to partnerships and mergers across regions. Outdated “bedrock” regulations remain. You might say this area of the industry has been protected by virtue of the system. However, the largest impediment would seem to be human resources. We hope to see strategic and proactive initiatives taken by networks of financial institutions and overarching bank entities such as the Shinkin Central Bank.

Partnerships and mergers taken with strategic intent are urgently needed. For example, Shinkin banks, which boast freestanding shop networks, manpower to undertake business activities, and with strong local ties, by joining forces with dedicated online players (in banking, insurance, and securities), with their robust online sales and powerful national mass-marketing capabilities, could quite conceivably realize strategic online-to-offline (O2O) channel development and omnichannel marketing. If they can do this, then they can be expected to devise unique services that set them apart from megabanks and mega-insurers and—in this time of shrinking populations and declining local economies—create novel financial service delivery models. In doing so, key success factors can be expected to boil down to the use of technology and human resources.

Catch CU: The Ongoing Evolution of the Credit Union Market


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