Makoto Shibata, Head of FINOLAB, Japan, The FinTech Center of Tokyo spoke with Samee Zafar (Director, London).
1. What is the state of Fintech in Japan and how do you see it moving forward?
We have seen a steady growth of FinTech in Japan. For example, according to Accenture, FinTech Investment of Japan in 2018 was US$542 Million - more than a five-fold increase over 2017. But FinTech investment in Japan represents a mere 1% of Global FinTech investment whereas the country’s share of the global GDP is around 6%. We expect FinTech investment to grow more. One of the major features of FinTech startups in Japan is that only a few start-ups are trying to disrupt existing financial services businesses such as banks. Many are trying to collaborate to improve efficiency or customer experiences.
I run FINOLAB, the FinTech Hub in Central Tokyo with 56 startups and 17 corporate members. We have just inaugurated Japan Financial Innovation Award to recognize innovative initiatives in 3 categories: Startups; Financial Institutions; and Collaboration, to share best practices, and to appreciate creative efforts in the industry. I found the results very encouraging to see that FinTechs are collaborating across industry sectors.
2. Which are the emerging Fintech hubs in Asia and which ones do you think are likely to lead in the future?
Singapore and Hong Kong are often recognized as FinTech hubs in Asia with easy access to international financial market and English language capability. And both financial regulators are working hard to attract startups to set-up their operations and also global financial institutions to launch their R&D offices. Other major cities in South East Asia, such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila are all trying to follow Singapore’s lead to promote FinTech. Since I am from Tokyo, I have to emphasize that Tokyo has a bigger potential to become a leading FinTech hub in Asia, since the size of the Financial Market is significant and would urge organizations, old and new, to consider Tokyo as their hub of choice for Fintech ideas and initiatives.
3. What do you do in your spare time / hobbies?
I like to listen to music and now spending some time, or even all the time at home with COVID 19, on YouTube to find live performances of various musicians from the 60s, 70s, and particularly 80s. It brings back many memories of spending my time spent in the US and the UK during the 80s as a student.
4. What book are you reading these days?
“Doing Digital” by Chris Skinner.
We had Mr. Skinner present about this book at our online event in March. The COVID 19 situation prevented him to fly over to Tokyo, but we managed to have him present online. And I enjoyed reading the book on kindle right after the presentation. As the book is based on interviews of top leaders of large banks aggressive in digital transformation, I was able to appreciate the implication for both the banking and FinTech startup worlds.
5. What is your main personal goal for this year or next?
I am working on weight control. Since I was told by my doctor after a recent health check-up that I had problems with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I needed to lose weight. Now, I am on a program with a smartphone app to record how much I walk, what my blood pressure is, and what I eat with a photo of every meal, and a diet specialist would monitor them and send me a chat message based on these records. Now I have realized how the diet program in a digital age is like!
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