MONEY Mar / Apr 2021

Tokyo-London financial seminar

Two fintech hubs join forces

The UK and Japan have a long history of collaboration across varying sectors and industries. In 2017, the Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of London Corporation and Tokyo Metropolitan Government was signed, with both cities agreeing to take steps to further strengthen the collaborative relationship. 

In keeping with the memorandum’s stated goal of deepening the exchange and collaboration of both cities in the area of financial services, the Tokyo–London Financial Seminar 2021 was held virtually on 12 February. Based on the theme of fintech, the seminar featured talks by members of the City of London Corporation, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as well as British and Japanese financial experts.

In finance

Opening the seminar was Vice Governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Manabu Miyasaka. He began by touching on the corona­virus pandemic, saying: “In the new normal, we have to conduct no-contact, virtual meetings. Therefore, there is a growing interest in fintech. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been under­taking various meas­ures to grow the fintech industry. In 2018 we created the Tokyo Financial Award, so we can celebrate the people and companies who have come up with innovative financial products and services”. 

The award was introduced in collaboration with the national government, private sector, and others to advance initiatives for the revitalisation of the financial sector, to win back Tokyo’s position as the top global financial city in Asia.

Miyasaka noted how Tokyo is supporting foreign businesses entering Japan. “We are providing offices for people who really want to come to Tokyo and start business here. We really want to make Tokyo an international financial hub”. 

William Russell, lord mayor of the City of London, followed Miyasaka. He spoke about the collective effort that is needed to aid the global economy’s recovery. “There is no better time than now for the UK and Japan to cement their fintech partner­ship”, Russell stressed. “Fintech has proven itself to be invaluable. From contact­less cards to online and mobile pay­ments, from block­chain to open banking, all of these developments have given people unprecedented power to manage their personal finances. This has allowed them to react quickly to the rapidly changing financial picture”. 

Japan is already leading the way in the fintech industry, with the market expected to be worth ¥1.2 trillion by 2022. “The UK is well positioned”, Russell noted, “to partner with Japan to support its fintech ambitions. 

“There are now more than 1,600 fintech firms in the UK, a figure expected to double by 2030. And we have an impressive fintech adoption rate of 42 per­cent, well above the global average of 33 percent.

“As Tokyo seeks to affirm its position as a world-leading fintech hub, the City of London stands ready to support you in whatever way it can”. 

Fintech solutions

Akira Nozaki, the director for Organizational Strategy and Human Resources Policy, and director of the Fintech and Innovation Office, Financial Services Agency Japan, spoke on the reasons to support digital innovation. Social problems, such as Japan’s ageing society, could benefit from fintech services. 

“In Japan”, Nozaki explained, “there are so many small to medium-sized enterprises that are managed by families, that have very high levels of skills, and are a source of Japanese technology and eco­no­mic growth. However, many of the ageing business owners cannot find a successor and decide to give up on the business. Therefore, we decided to promote the Fintech Association of Japan”. 

The owners of these SMEs to which Nozaki re­ferred, as well those starting businesses, can become members on the platform and gain access to a pool of information and even find business successors. 

Open access 

Kazuhiko Yoshimatsu, the general manager of FinCity.Tokyo—the Tokyo-based organisation aiming to magnify the city as a financial hub—offered insight into some of the business practices Japan is using to increase globalisation and accessibility for foreign firms. “We have worked to eliminate business practices that are unique to Japan, and promote the use of the English language”.

In addition, he mentioned that global compe­ti­tion among financial hubs has encouraged FinCity.Tokyo to converse with policymakers to boost Tokyo’s presence as a global financial centre. 

“What I would like to emphasise to you here is that we have made advancements in issues such as tax and visa requirements—that were previously thought to be extremely difficult to change—all in such a short period of time”, Nozaki said. 

“It is about making sure that regulators and policymakers make a considerable effort to make things happen. It also shows clear commitment and a strong message of increased development by the Japanese Government”, he concluded.

Last word

Closing the event was Sir Roger Gifford. The former lord mayor of the City of London is also chair of the Green Finance Institute, a British company that works with global finance experts to push the transition to a green economy.  “This event is a symbol of the ongoing engagement between Tokyo and the City of London. It is a demonstration of the partner­ship upheld by the Memorandum of Under­standing signed by our two cities in 2017.

“I think we have the goodwill and the trust that we need to take this agenda forward”, he concluded. “We just need to find practical ways to do it. Fintech, asset management data and green finance are key areas where we both feel there’s a chance—a good chance—for growth”.