Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

MUFG: A Sense of Unity amid Change

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

MUFG: A Sense of Unity amid Change

Article excerpt

The digitization of financial transactions has empowered start-ups that can provide payments and other digital services. The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Hironori Kamezawa, president and group CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. (MUFG), about how the group is responding to rapid changes in the business environment.

--Moment of success

The coronavirus crisis has made online meetings more common, enabling me to meet many people at one time over great distances. In July, we held a town hall-type meeting in cyberspace with 500 employees from our group's bank, trust bank and securities companies in Japan.

I asked the participants to come up with questions on the spot. I answered in order of the questions that got the most thumbs up, and sometimes asked them questions in return so as to understand the intention behind their query. I was asked many things, such as "Do you, the president, enjoy your work?" and "How shall we change?" It was fun, as I could directly find out our employees' interests.

Since I became CEO in April, I've held a series of online discussions with young employees from our group companies. I talked frankly about my private life and actively exchanged opinions about our business with them.

I'll continue to use the internet to communicate with our employees, and I've asked the other executives to take a similar approach. It's important that employees have a greater sense of participating in management and can feel an affinity with the MUFG's raison d'etre. I want to make this group attractive enough that employees enjoy working everyday and find their jobs rewarding. I'm advocating a type of management that focuses on "engagement," which refers to employees having confidence in the company and the desire to voluntarily contribute.

We are implementing other specific measures as well. For example, we plan to have open discussions with experts from outside the group, in which our employees also participate, and to establish an in-house venture system. We are trying to shrink the distance between management and employees to create an organization in which employees can propose any idea they have.

I've had many opportunities to be involved in the launch of new businesses and have often been transferred to a department without a predecessor. The experience of building a team from scratch each time is the foundation of my engagement-oriented management.

Kamezawa joined MUFG in 1986, around the time of drastic financial liberalization.

In my third year, I was assigned to prepare for the lifting of a ban on securities options transactions. Through the introduction of a trading system and the establishment of a market framework, I gradually gained more colleagues. It was hard to determine what we should do in the beginning, but by making mistakes over and over, we began to share feelings like "this is our goal." That was the moment when I felt like it was getting exciting and that we would do well.

Once a team can create a situation in which they share a common goal, they can boost their team strength and make ideas a reality. I was able to learn this philosophy early in my career.

--Ready for bad news

Kamezawa was in charge of a credit policy and planning department when the company was hit by the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

We were forced to increase reserves to prepare for loan losses and to reduce our securities holdings, which directly led to management problems. I had a hard time as a manager in charge.

However, I was advised by my boss at the time: "The power of an organization is tested when times get tough. Just think it over and look forward with confidence." Therefore I tried to convey my best measures without hesitation. …

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