Japanese bank boss Jun Ohta has died aged 65 – Financial Times

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Jun Ohta, chairman of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and the driving force behind the bank’s recent wave of expansion in the United States and Southeast Asia, has died at the age of 65.

Ohta’s death last week, which the company announced on Monday, followed a four-year stint at the helm of SMFG, Japan’s second-largest bank by market capitalization, after a career that saw him rise through the bank’s ranks.

In addition to building on its recent reputation for aggressive overseas expansion, Ohta also steered the financial group through one of its most painful recent episodes: a scandal at its SMBC Nikko brokerage unit over alleged market manipulation.

The scandal, which led to multiple arrests and an ongoing trial against several executives and traders, centered on block trades and the way information was improperly shared between SMFG’s main banking division and its brokerage unit.

In November 2022, Ohta, along with SMBC President Nikko, formally apologized at a press conference after the Financial Services Agency issued a business improvement order.

Like many bankers of his generation, Ohta spent much of his career navigating Japan’s long period of economic stagnation and deflation, during which many companies learned to rely less on bank loans. Japan’s population also began to shrink, forcing banks to look abroad for growth.

Ohta, who spent part of his career in Singapore after joining the bank in 1982, was part of SMFG’s leadership that drove expansion into India, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian economies.

His move to expand SMFG’s presence on Wall Street centered on an alliance with Jefferies Financial Group in 2021, with SMFG agreeing to take a 4.9 percent stake in the US group.

This year, SMFG announced it would triple the size of its stake by purchasing Jefferies shares on the open market.

Montage image by Yoshiaki Murakami (left) and Yoshitaka Kitao

SMFG’s alliance with Jefferies is part of a broader effort by Japan’s largest banks to capture more of the lucrative business in the United States. During the 2008 financial crisis, Japan’s largest banking group, Mitsubishi UFJ, formed an alliance with Morgan Stanley, which has become one of the country’s most formidable forces in investment banking.

This year, Mizuho, ​​Japan’s third-largest bank, announced it would buy Wall Street M&A advisory boutique Greenhill to compete with its two rivals.

The SMFG said it would decide on Ohta’s successor in a timely manner and that deputy president Toru Nakashima would become acting chief executive in the interim.