In a partnership with around 60 counterpart financial institutions — which together reportedly host 56 million user accounts — Mizuho’s new “J-Coin” digital currency platform will reportedly directly link existing bank accounts with digital wallets.
Mizuho Financial Group is a public banking holding company that reported over $1.8 trillion in total assets as of Dec. 31, 2018.
The currency will reportedly be managed by a dedicated mobile app, dubbed J-Coin Pay, using QR codes at checkout to complete retail payments. According to Nikkei, the currency will be a digital stablecoin fixed at a price of 1 yen (~$0.01) per unit, and transfers between bank accounts and J-Coin wallets are set to be zero-fee.
Mizuho CEO Tatsufumi Sakai told Nikkei that “the arrival of all these new entrants [into the digital payments space] is eroding the common-sense notion that payment services are provided by financial institutions." As Nikkei notes, Japan is already served by payment innovators such as e-commerce giant Rakuten and chat app provider Line, which has itself launched its own cryptocurrency and in-house blockchain.
According to Nikkei, prospective J-Coin wallet users will not be required to undergo credit checks and the service will be open to users below the age of 18. J-Coin wallets will also serve a more flexible range of payments and remittance services than traditional bank accounts — with options for colleagues to split bills or for family members to transfer pocket money.
In a bid to establish the platform with retail industry players, Mizuho is reportedly currently negotiating with convenience store FamilyMart, as well as electronic retailer Bic Camera and transport company East Japan Railway. Its purported aim is to onboard a minimum of 300,000 stores and sign up at least 6.5 million users within a few years.
As Nikkei notes, despite the megabank’s broad perspective user base and 60-member alliance, its target user outreach still falls short of Line’s existing 79 million Japanese users. Line Pay, moreover, is already reportedly supported at 1.3 million stores.
Mizuho is thus reportedly further pursuing a partnership strategy with Alibaba’s Alipay to help J-Coin Pay gain traction with stores. It also plans to charge merchants lower transaction fees than credit card services, which typically range between 2 to 5 percent.
As previously reported, Mizuho first announced its digital currency plans in late December 2018.
In January 2018, another Japanese banking giant — Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, the world’s fifth-largest bank — unveiled its own plans to launch a yen-pegged stablecoin, dubbed MUFG Coin. MUFG also plans to launch a blockchain-powered payments system, in partnership with United States content delivery network Akamai, by H1 2020.