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MUFG rules out more job cuts at Asia brokerage after comeback

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Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) is ruling out further job cuts at its brokerage business in Asia after a lengthy overhaul, even as global banks trim headcount during the pandemic.

[TOKYO] Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) is ruling out further job cuts at its brokerage business in Asia after a lengthy overhaul, even as global banks trim headcount during the pandemic.

"We are done with it - it's over," Saburo Araki, chief executive officer of Mitsubishi UFJ Securities said in an interview.

"It must have been painful for employees, but we have carried it through."

The move contrasts with major banks such as Goldman Sachs Group which are resuming job cuts even as the market volatility brought on by the coronavirus fuels a rebound in trading.

Under Mr Araki, 63, the brokerage arm of Japan's biggest bank eliminated dozens of roles in the Asia-Pacific region in areas ranging from credit trading to equities as it sought to reduce overlap and revive profitability.

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The exercise included moving trading operations to other regions to focus on debt business, he said.

The effort is beginning to pay off. Overseas operations generated almost 90 per cent of the unit's pretax profit in the quarter ended June as Asia made money for the first time in three years.

It has about 130 staff in Asia excluding Japan, down from 170 in October 2018.

In Europe and North America, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities has taken steps to reduce or scrap what Mr Araki calls "marginal business", including credit, he said.

RETAIL REBOUND

At home, the company's majority-owned venture with Morgan Stanley is pursuing a plan to slash real estate costs by 40 per cent over four years through March 2023, he said.

The securities firm is looking to set up satellite offices so that branch or head-office employees don't have to commute long distances.

Business for individual investors in Japan has "largely recovered" from weakness in April and May when social distancing measures were at their peak, Mr Araki said.

He is hoping to double managed assets to about 70 trillion yen (S$906.7 billion) within three years, and will consider hiring experienced wealth advisers to that end, he said.

Separately, Mr Araki joined MUFG's banking unit chief Kanetsugu Mike in backing a proposal to ease Japanese regulations restricting the sharing of client information between commercial and investment banking units in financial groups.

"Eliminating the firewall is the urgent desire of bank-affiliated brokerages," he said.

Its removal will help them more quickly propose "comprehensive, total strategies" for clients such as where they should raise financing, he added.

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