Four financial institutions belonging to the Mitsui group announced Friday they will establish a consulting company to help firms implement a Japanese version of the U.S. 401(k) pension plan.

Sakura Bank, Mitsui Marine & Fire Insurance Co., Mitsui Trust & Banking Co. and Mitsui Mutual Life Insurance Co. will establish the new firm soon after June, when the government is scheduled to come up with a draft of the legislation related to the planned introduction of the pension plan, officials said.

The four companies have already decided to invest in a separate company, to be established by the Industrial Bank of Japan and Nomura Securities Co., that will develop a customer management system for the pension plan.

The new consulting firm will help companies introduce the pension plan as well as train its employees on asset management.

The four firms are now considering tieups with foreign financial institutions versed in the operations of the 401(k) plan in the U.S., they added.

Under the 401(k) plan, or the defined-contribution pension plan, individual participants can select and change their investment products, with returns varying depending on investment performances.

The plan, slated to be introduced in Japan as early as fiscal 2000, is expected to fuel the growth of the pension market here.

The IBJ-Nomura group is competing fiercely for investors in client management systems with a group of financial institutions led by Sumitomo Bank and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

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