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Japan's financial regulator to ease rules on regional banks to boost growth

Japan's Financial Services Agency is considering a number of changes to rules governing regional banks as a means to boost the ailing sector, the Financial Times reported Jan. 13, citing the regulator's commissioner, Toshihide Endo.

The plans include allowing regional banks to engage in new business models and participate in areas outside their core business, enabling them to transform themselves into management consultants or trading companies in order to bolster profit.

Regional banks should engage with customers and help them grow, Endo said, suggesting that banks can get directly involved in marketing clients' products by setting up regional trading companies.

The financial regulator is also considering making it easier for regional banks to merge. Endo said branch closures, the combining of IT systems and cuts from the back office that result from mergers would create "financial space" that lenders can then use to provide new services to regional companies,

In addition, the regulator plans to abolish its inspection manual that requires banks to provide for bad loans based on previous experience. Banks will have to make adequate provisions based on the riskiness of their loan books, subject to the regulator's oversight, Endo said.