Business 27 December 2018

Dan Taylor

Mizuho Financial Group plans crypto for cashless retail payments

Japanese banking titan Mizuho Financial Group is planning to launch a digital currency in March 2019, becoming the first institution of its size to offer this type of product.

The digital currency will offer a cashless basis for payments and remittances, according to reports, enabling consumers, merchants and banks to access efficient, low-cost payments via blockchain.

As reported in Nikkei Asian Review, retail shops will be able to take payments in cryptocurrency for a fraction of the fees charged for credit card payments, with remittances between users and from wallets to accounts free of charge.

Mizuho has reportedly signed up some 60 institutions in Japan to the scheme so far, with more expected to join the consortium to provide payments under an as-yet undetermined common brand name.

Payments will be made through QR code technology and managed through user smartphone apps, with the value pegged at 1:1 to the yen for stability. Users will ultimately be able to access funds at any branch of a participating bank.

The project is the product of a research effort known as J-Coin, announced by Mizuho back in late 2017 by the then-CEO and chairman, Yasuhiro Sato. At launch, the project will be the first of its kind undertaken by a Japanese megabank, at a time of increasing competition from financial giants in the cryptocurrency space.

Back in January, rivals Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group announced plans for their own cryptocurrency, MUFG coin, though with a March launch date, the Mizuho project is expected to appear first.

The move coincides with a changing picture for cryptocurrency regulation in Japan, amid reports regulators are considering creating a new legal asset class for “crypto-assets”, as distinct from legal tender.

With a significant number of banking partners already on board, and more local banks and retailers expected to sign up to the scheme, the Mizuho project will be one of the most ambitious projects launched to date in striving to take cashless payments into the hands of consumers.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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