Human jobs at banks under growing threat due to automation, as MUFG to “move” 30% of staff

Maria Nikolova

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group is taking another step towards embracing technologies, as 9,500 of the clerical jobs in Japan are set to be automated.

Japanese financial businesses have been at the front of the changes involving artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics adoption. Earlier this year, Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance made the headlines by announcing it would make 34 staff members redundant over the deployment of IBM’s Watson AI solution. The trend has continued and another Japanese financial services major – Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (TYO:8306), has joined ranks of the companies that decisively transform their workforce in line with the latest technology achievements.

MUFG’s President Nobuyuki Hirano, quoted by the Nikkei Asian Review, said 9,500 jobs will be automated in Japan. These jobs account for about 30% of the overall headcount nationwide at MUFG’s main subsidiary, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

MUFG’s decision is seen as an attempt to bolster productivity. Mr Hirano stressed that the company will move employees who have been engaged in relatively simple work into more creative roles through retraining and other measures. How easy and effective such retraining may be is a different matter. Mr Hirano emphasized that banks will have to draw a clear line between work that humans do and work that can be performed by machines.

This resembles a statement made by Peter Dahlgren, CEO of Nordnet, who commented that hiring the bank’s first digital employee – Amelia, would let humans focus on what humans do.

Kanetsugu Mike, president and CEO of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, has earlier voiced plans of the bank to promote automation by introducing AI. If mortgage approval is fully automated, for example, it is estimated to remove 2,500 working hours per year, the bank said.

MUFG’s retail FX subsidiary Kabu.com Securities has made a number of steps towards AI adoption. In April this year, the broker said it would launch a special AI-powered solution for its clients. The tool, named “AlpacaSearch for kabu.com”, is developed jointly with AI startup AlpacaDB Inc and has been available to stock traders using Kabu Station Premium.

And, in July this year, Kabu.com unveiled a partnership with fintech expert xenodata lab to deliver infographics showing the highlights about companies’ financial reports based on natural language analysis.

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