TOKYO (Reuters) – The chief executive of Japan’s largest bank expects new business opportunities to appear as digital currencies allow collection of data on how people use their money.
While Japan’s big banks have distanced themselves from bitcoin and other existing digital currencies, they are trying to create their own to provide cheaper and easier means of payments and money transfers.
“We would be able to capture kinds of financial behavior that cannot be collected as data in cash transactions,” said Nobuyuki Hirano, CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), speaking as chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association at a news conference on Thursday.
“We can use the data to create new value.”
Hirano’s bank is developing its own “MUFG Coin” digital currency using the blockchain technology behind bitcoin.
The bank has been conducting experiments with MUFG Coin among its employees, including using the currency to split restaurant bills with each other over their smartphones.
Unlike bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies, MUFG Coin is tied to Japanese yen, so users can exchange it for yen at the same rate as they bought the digital currency.
MUFG has said it plans to expand the experiment to involve all of its 30,000 domestic employees next year.
Japan’s third-largest lender Mizuho Financial Group is also developing its own digital currency, J Coin, targeting widespread use by 2020.
Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by David Goodman