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Finance

MUFG appoints Japan’s only megabank CEO with a math degree

Choice of Kamezawa ignores seniority and schooling in push to go digital

Hironori Kamezawa, who will assume his new post in April, has been head of the group's digital strategy since 2016.

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group will promote Deputy President Hironori Kamezawa to president and CEO in April, replacing its chief executive after just one year as Japan's top bank embraces change to speed its digital shift, Nikkei learned Wednesday.

Kamezawa's appointment breaks a number of conventions at MUFG and in Japan's conservative banking sector.

The 58-year-old will become the group's first president who has not initially served as a head of core unit MUFG Bank, and the first to have fewer years of seniority.

Kamezawa, who now leads MUFG's digital business, also stands out for his educational background. He graduated from the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Tokyo, making him the only head of a large Japanese banking group to hold a math or sciences degree.

Current President Kanetsugu Mike has spoken frequently about making MUFG an "innovative" banking group. As financial services increasingly go digital, the banking sector has seen an influx of nontraditional players such as tech companies. MUFG worries that it will struggle to retain customers without a change in culture.

To transform the organization, MUFG introduced a program last April allowing for promotion of young talent without regard for age-based seniority, and it has increased hiring from outside the company to bring in fresh thinking. The elevation of the head of MUFG's digital division to CEO is a manifestation of this effort.

Mike, 63, will assume the role of deputy chairman of the group with representative rights. Mike will be chief of MUFG Bank, focusing on commercial banking, in a clearly separate role.

Chairman Nobuyuki Hirano, 68, will continue in his current position.

Kamezawa joined then-Mitsubishi Bank in 1986, and has long experience in bond and currency trading at the markets desk.

He moved to New York in 2014 and has been head of digital strategy at the holding company and bank since 2016.

Kamezawa is scheduled to assume his new position in April. He has risen to the top of the ranks somewhat faster than his four predecessors, who each worked at the bank for about 40 years before assuming leadership compared with 34 for Kamezawa.

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