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Business trends

Japan megabanks nix plan for peer-to-peer mobile remittance

Mizuho, SMFG and MUFG opt to hone their own digital currencies

Young women use their smartphones in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district. Japan's digital payment market is growing increasingly crowded.
Women use their smartphones in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district. Japan's digital payment market is growing increasingly crowded.   © Photo by Tsuyoshi Tamehiro

TOKYO -- Japan's three largest banking groups have scrapped plans for a peer-to-peer remittance service linked to mobile phone numbers, deeming the project redundant as each develops its own digital services.

The canceled program by Mizuho Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group used the blockchain technology that underpins such cryptocurrencies as bitcoin. Customers could send and receive money using their phone numbers or email addresses through virtual accounts tied to their deposit accounts. Tests ran during fiscal 2017, with broader trials planned for fiscal 2018.

The cancellation was revealed in materials presented Tuesday by the Japanese Bankers Association -- chaired by Mizuho Bank CEO Koji Fujiwara -- to a Financial Services Agency public-private council on increasing the sophistication of the country's payment environment.

The digital payments market here is growing crowded, with the likes of Line and PayPay offering a plethora of services tied to phone numbers or social media handles. SBI Sumishin Net Bank, Suruga Bank and a Resona Holdings unit launched their own app this past October to let users send money directly from their bank accounts by using phone numbers or scanning QR codes.

With the megabanks also preparing their own digital currencies, such as MUFG Coin and Mizuho's J-Coin, doubts were raised about the need for the joint service.

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