Govt must act firmly to stabilize Mizuho Bank’s computer systems

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Financial Services Agency. In Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, November 3, 2020.

The government has said that it will strengthen its surveillance of Mizuho Bank’s computer systems. It is absolutely necessary to find out the cause of the repeated system failures and this time to make sure that the system glitches do not happen again.

The Financial Services Agency has issued a business improvement order to holding company Mizuho Financial Group Inc. and to Mizuho Bank, which has had seven system failures since February this year.

The FSA has asked them to examine whether to update the system and submit by Oct. 29 a work plan, including how to deal with customers in such emergencies. Moreover, the financial watchdog stated that it will urge the implementation of more proper management through closer information sharing.

The current situation in which problems frequently occur has raised concerns among the bank’s users. As Mizuho has failed to come up with effective measures to prevent a recurrence, it is understandable that the government is deepening its involvement even to the extent of stepping into the way the system is managed.

Mizuho Financial Group also experienced large-scale system failures in 2002 and 2011. Reflecting on the system glitches, it unified the systems of Mizuho Bank’s predecessors — Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Fuji Bank and the Industrial Bank of Japan.

In 2019, the financial group introduced with much fanfare its new core banking system called Minori at a huge cost of about ¥450 billion.

It has been pointed out, however, that this new core system was built by multiple systems companies that had been contracted by the three former banks, complicating the management and operation of the system and making it difficult to identify the causes of any trouble, among other issues.

When the fifth system glitch happened on Aug. 20, Mizuho branches nationwide could not process over-the-counter services, such as opening bank accounts or transferring money. Data transfers from a broken device to the reserve unit failed, but the exact cause has yet to be determined.

The FSA believes that there could have been a problem with the core system itself. Mizuho reportedly has not acknowledged the flaws of the core system.

The FSA should thoroughly investigate the case and, if necessary, ask for drastic changes to the system.

It is also essential to fundamentally change Mizuho’s attitude of disrespecting its customers.

In the case of the system failure on Aug. 20 in which the bank was unable to do business at its branches, it disclosed the problem on its website 30 minutes before the branches opened at 9 a.m. that day, in spite of the fact that the trouble occurred at night on Aug. 19. Some customers reportedly were already heading to the branches. The delay in responding to the trouble was glaring.

The trust in Mizuho Bank as a megabank, which is responsible for a wide range of the public’s funds, has eroded. The business management system itself is being questioned. It is essential for Mizuho’s management to clarify its business responsibility at a point when the bank judges that it will be able to properly take actions to prevent the recurrence of similar problems.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 23, 2021.