Insights from the Japan FinTech Festival 2024

The Japan Fintech Festival was held between March 4-8th at the majestic thirteen-hundred-year-old Kanda Myojin Shrine. Whilst the setting was ancient and traditional the conference content was modern and cutting edge.

Ravi Menon, former Governor of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) provided the plenary speech and highlighted the opportunities for financial innovation in Japan who have long been a technological powerhouse.

Ravi mentioned how the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida has set out a vision of a New Capitalism in Japan, with the goal of turbocharging Japan’s FinTech sector.

There is a countrywide target to support the creation of 10,000 new start-ups and 100 unicorn businesses by 2027.

Four key global fintech trends shaping global finance were highlighted;

  • The proliferation of cheaper and faster electronic payments across domestic and cross border applications
  • Use of distributed ledgers and tokenisation to potentially create a more efficient financial architecture
  • Application of Artificial Intelligence in financial services
  • The growing potential of quantum computing technology

Akio Isowa, Chief Digital Officer of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), our client, described this time as ‘The Awakening’ of Japan onto the FinTech stage.

Many Japanese Financial Services businesses like SMBC are taking their value propositions based on strong trust and innovation to the global arena.

There was a genuine feeling of a start-up vibrancy in Japan for the first time in a long time and this positivity was further enhanced by Japan’s Nikkei stock average crossing the 40,000 mark whilst we were there for the first time in thirty-four years.

Many workshops discussed the fact that doing business in Japan takes time and any start-up should give themselves five years to make a mark was a constant message.

This fact was further supported by various FinTech founders reinforcing this point when they discussed their journeys entering Japan in the Founders Peak talks.

It was evident that you have to take time to earn trust with the Japanese, but once you have earned it, it can last a lifetime.

Several conference attendees indicated to me that ‘if you can make it in Japan, you can make it anywhere’.

The importance of upskilling and future proofing the workforce was also discussed in several roundtables.

Many participants concluded that (OTJ) On the Job training is not sufficient for many talented young individuals under thirty years old coming into the industry.

This is exactly why programs such as ‘Realise the Revenues’ and ‘Thinking like a Banker’ have been developed to guide young people and give them the confidence and process to develop business in financial services.

I came away from the conference with a renewed optimism about the Japanese business opportunity in Financial Services, both for Japanese Banks expanding globally and new start-ups seeking to enter and succeed in Japan.