Mizuho to become first Japan bank to start selling consumer data

Koji Fujiwara, president and chief executive officer of Mizuho Bank Ltd, stressed that the data would be aggregated and anonymous, and no personal details would be shared. — Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg

Mizuho Financial Group Inc will start selling information on consumers’ spending habits and other aggregated data in a bid to expand beyond the traditional lending business.

"We are going to offer a data service for corporate clients,” Koji Fujiwara, chief executive officer of Mizuho’s main banking unit, said in an interview. The move would be the first of its kind by a Japanese bank, he said.

"We have a vast amount of data, such as accounts, transactions and lending information,” Fujiwara, 59, said. He stressed that the data would be aggregated and anonymous, and no personal details would be shared.

Lenders worldwide from Bank of America Corp. to Lloyds Banking Group Plc are finding ways to monetise their troves of customer information, much like tech giants Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc. While the practice has them treading a fine line to protect privacy, Accenture has estimated that banks could see revenue gains of at least 1% to 2% if they can harness the value in sharing such data.

In Japan, the new business is being made possible by deregulation aimed at shoring up the country’s struggling banking industry. Once restricted to a narrow range of activities, banks are being given greater freedom as chronic low interest rates and weak demand erode their prospects from lending.

Data and digital technology are key areas for Mizuho and its Japanese rivals in their search for fresh growth drivers.

Retailers, restaurants

Fujiwara didn’t give any targets for income or fees to be generated from the service, but said Mizuho is aiming for more than 100 users in three years. For example, it may be useful for retailers and restaurant operators to pick prime locations based on residents’ income, spending and other lifestyle statistics, he said.

Banks have already begun sharing customer data with financial technology firms through the government’s so-called open banking initiative. This is different from aggregation because it involves account information given with the customer’s consent to enable them to more effectively manage the finances online, such as by running budgeting and accounting apps.

"As a core function of a bank, financial intermediation remains very important, but it’s not enough,” Fujiwara said. "We need to go beyond that and offer new value by including non-financial services.” – Bloomberg

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