RETAIL BANKING | Staff Reporter, Japan

Japanese banks cut over 3,600 employees in 2018 in aggressive restructuring push

Total headcount fell to 223,778 by end-March.

Banks in Japan have reduced their combined headcount by 3,629 employees in fiscal 2018 as part of an frenzied push to digitise operations and bring down costs in response to deteriorating profitability, according to Tokyo Shoko Research cited by Nikkei Asian Review. 

Total banking headcount hit 223,778 at the end of March, with declines hitting over 70% for 81 banks in what marks the sharpest decline notched in records dating back to fiscal 2005.

Megabank Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. witnessed the sharpest decline in absolute terms with 710 individuals, followed by MUFG Bank with 577 and Mizuho Bank with 310.

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In an earlier report, Moody's estimated that the three megabanks alone will cut their headcout by 32,000 headcount reduction over the next few years.

Nikkei Asia reports that the steepest decline relative to overall workforce took place at Saga Kyoei Bank, whose ranks shrank 11% on the year to 289 people at the end of March and brought just one new person aboard in fiscal 2018.

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It was followed by Gifu Prefecture's Juroku Bank, which shed 9% of its staff to reach a total of 2,480 people and Chikuho Bank rounded out the top three with an 8% decline to 548 employees.

Banks in Japan are grappling with a shrinking customer base and dwindling loan demand as the country rapidly ages with the proportion of the population aged 65 and above set to account for a third of the population by 2030, according to UN projections.

A rapidly ageing country presents a challenge to banks as retirees tend to draw down in savings and less risky investment products unlike younger populations that use more expensive banking products. 

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