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Business trends

Japan regional banks to help businesses spread wings in Asia

Partnership to set up offices in 20 countries, including China and Vietnam

Customers shop at a Tokyo store set up by a regional trading house of Niigata Prefecture-based Daishi Hokuetsu Financial Group. (Photo by Ryoske Matsuzoe)

TOKYO -- Japanese regional banks will pool financial and human resources to help smaller businesses find customers and establish sales channels in China, Vietnam and other overseas markets.

Yamaguchi Financial Group and Michinoku Bank will soon enter into a partnership with Tokyo-based RCG, which supports regional trading houses. Plans call for setting up offices in such countries as China, Russia and Vietnam this fiscal year through RCG, expanding the network to around 20 nations within five years.

The move marks a change of tack for regional banks, which have until now opened their own Chinese and Southeast Asian offices to support their clients' overseas expansion. Joining hands will allow them to offer personnel with necessary expertise and bolster their information gathering, in addition to slashing costs.

With the coronavirus pandemic limiting overseas business trips, the partners will also consider launching a service that facilitates online meetings between Japanese and foreign companies. Businesses would register the materials and products they want to buy or sell, and a specialized system would match them.

Despite current restrictions on international travel, small and midsize enterprises in regions suffering from population decline must look for business overseas to survive. Yamaguchi Financial Group and Michinoku decided to drop their rivalry and focus on better support their clients' foreign forays.

RCG intends to call on such other regional financial institutions as credit associations to participate. It will also work with trading houses under the umbrella of regional banks and will offer consulting services to banks that want to create their own trading companies.

A legal change in 2016 lets regional banks take stakes of more than 5% in information technology businesses and regional trading houses, paving the way to acquire new profit sources in a harsh business environment due to low interest rates.

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