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Japan’s Mizuho bank to issue digital currency

Mizuho Financial Group Inc. will issue its own digital currency from March at the earliest, which will allow users to make cashless payments via smartphones and fee-free cash transfers among users, it has been learned. The currency will be the first to be issued by a megabank.

The new project will involve about 60 regional banks, with Mizuho aiming to have more participating banks, according to sources.

Under the J-Coin (tentative name) scheme, users can make payments with a QR code on a smartphone app at stores and can also transfer money from their bank accounts to the app in advance, and vise versa.

Many companies have already entered into the cashless payment business in the form of QR codes on smartphone apps, among other technologies. However, shops cannot cope with all types of cashless systems. Under these circumstances, Mizuho plans to further increase the number of participating regional banks to expand its J-Coin alliance.

Shops usually pay part of consumers’ settlement to credit card companies as commissions when they get paid via credit cards or e-money. Under the J-Coin scheme, such commissions can be kept low. Mizuho has made it possible for regional banks to utilize the scheme and issue their own-brand coins.

Mizuho hopes to eventually allow J-Coin to be used for salary payments by bank remittance as well as team up with Alipay — an online payment platform that uses QR codes, which is widespread in China — to allow foreign visitors to make payments smoothly in Japan.

Utilizing data

“The business of financial settlements has become more important and is expected to continue to grow. So we have to take a serious approach,” said Mizuho Financial Group President Tatsufumi Sakai in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

He also expressed his intention to make use of a large amount of data obtained through the new payment service for its future businesses.

Mizuho has currently stepped up cross-industrial alliances such as with information technology companies, bearing in mind the trend of digitization and technological innovation. For example, it has decided to jointly establish a bank with LINE.

In connection with the business, Sakai said: “We’ll do business with other companies if we have the opportunity. Timing and speed is very important.

“There is a limit to what can be done as a conventional financial institution alone. We’re focusing on new technology.”

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