Japanese megabanks double down on global expansion

Written by Kapronasia || September 13 2023

In recent years, Japan’s largest banks have expanded rapidly in emerging Southeast Asia, from Indonesia to Thailand to Vietnam, as well as India. At the same time, they are making strategic investments in advanced economies such as the United States and Israel. With growth prospects at home facing constraints, from the aging population to the fact that the Japanese population is well banked, this search for growth overseas looks set to continue for some time.

In July, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group launched a digital banking service in the United States with an eye on the consumer banking segment. To start off, Sumitomo Mitsui is providing personal loans through a newly created online banking division of Manufacturers Bank, a California state-chartered bank wholly owned by the Japanese group. It plans more offerings in coming months, including a savings product.

For its part, a subsidiary of Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) recently launched a 20 billion yen ($136 million) fund that will focus on investing in generative AI startups in countries such as the U.S. and Israel. Since it was established in 2019, the Japanese bank’s corporate venture capital arm MUFG Innovation Partners (MUIP) has invested in about 40 companies, including Tel Aviv-based Liquidity Group. That US$40 million investment was announced in May. Liquidity Group has decision-making technology of interest to MUFG which features a unique scoring methodology and ability to predict future cash flows that enables it to provide term sheets within 24 hours.

At the same time, Japan’s largest banks are also stepping up their presence in India, a market in which they see strong long-term potential on both the retail and corporate sides. Nikkei Asia reported earlier this month that MUFG Bank now employs around 500 workers at the Indian entity it set up in 2020, which is set to expand to 1,000 by the end of FY2024 in March 2024 and 2,000 in three years.  

In April, Indian fintech firm DMI Finance Private Limited announced the closure of a US$400 million equity investment round led by MUFG (it invested US$232 million) that also saw the participation from existing investor Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Limited (SuMi TRUST Bank).

Additionally, in March, MUFG completed a US$1 billion syndicated social loan facility for State Bank of India (SBI) that is the one of the largest ESG loans to date globally. As lead social loan coordinator, MUFG worked with SBI on publishing its sustainable financing framework, covering both the green and social uses of proceeds.

Meanwhile Mizuho Financial Group recently increased workers at an Indian unit to around 150 people, with plans to reach 300 by the fiscal year-end in March. Founded in 2020, the unit mainly handles administrative tasks related to trade transactions.