Tokyo FinTech Digest #1
Greetings from Tokyo, drenched in rain from typhoon “Chan-hom”!
Just when you think it might be a relatively calm week, the news reel starts spinning. Like you would usually only expect from the investor relations department of a large insurer (AI…) hiding bad news, the Bank of Japan at 4pm on Friday released their position paper on Central Bank Digital Currencies (affectionately referred to as CBDCs). Wait, it gets even better — the document was published in Japanese and English *at the same time*, so even if you are Anglo-Saxon (i.e., mono-lingual — LOL, just kiddin’), you can give it a read.
As we are on the topic of ease-of-doing-business, Nikkei Asia (recently rebranded from Nikkei Asia Review) published a paper in August on the race to become the next Asia financial hub. Since presenting the vision of “Global Financial City Tokyo” in November 2017, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been lobbying fiercely to re-claim pole position, and if they cannot lure asset managers back from Hong Kong in the current environment, it will presumably never happen.
While one might argue with some of the assessments based on personal experience — for example, I would rate the quality of living much higher in Tokyo than in Singapore (well, that is why we live here after all)— it is noteworthy that Tokyo is a laggard when it comes to the ease of doing business — too much red tape, too much paper and lack of digitalization (which, of course, is an opportunity in and of itself). I do think that, despite its recent troubles, Hong Kong gets counted out too early, and integrated into the Greater Bay Area, it will be a formidable economy (the fourth largest in the world in its own right, actually), and continue to be the gateway to China.
But I digress — in other noteworthy news coming out on Friday, SBI Holdings announced that they plan to conduct the first Security Token Offering (STO) in Japan by the end of the month. After new regulation came into effect on May 1, the industry needed a few months to work through the jungle of rules, and with SBI being the vanguard, more issuances are expected to follow, in particular for tokenized real estate.
Tokyo FinTech is extremely excited to welcome back Harumi Urata-Thompson, since the beginning of the year Chief Financial Officer at Celsius Network, for a webinar on Celsius, and Decentralized Finance (DeFi) vs Centralized Finance (CeFi). Early in her career, Harumi was the first woman in Fixed Income Sales at Morgan Stanley in Tokyo, and we have had insightful discussions with her about diversity & inclusion as well. You may also be interested to tune in to our podcast with Harumi to get to know her better, or watch her presentation on Celestial Data, her space venture.
eXponential Finance Podcast
This past week, we have been busy editing and publishing several of our recent webinars as podcasts. First, there is the discussion with John Ho, Head of Legal for Financial Markets at Standard Chartered, about Central Bank Digital Currencies.
Second, a great “State of Digital Transformation in Japan” based on the book “Transforming Japanese Business”, published by Springer at the beginning of the year, with three of the co-editors and co-authors, namely Associate Professor Will Baber from Kyoto University, Kieran Gane, and Raja Karim.
Lastly, we hosted a session with R3 and SBI R3 Japan to hear the latest about Corda. While the technical overview by David Lee and the review of new features in Version 4.6 by Alessandro Baffa are probably easier to digest as a video, Alisa DiCaprio’s discussion of business applications, client engagements and the outlook for 2021 makes for an entertaining podcast listen.
That is it from me this week. If you like this bulletin, please forward it to a friend (or two).
Please stay dry, healthy and in good spirits!