• Bloomberg


Japan’s second-largest bank wants to change the mindset of its staff.

It made a start by upending its dress code — a revolutionary move in an industry dominated by dark suits and formal wear.

But that’s not enough, according to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. President Jun Ohta.

“I am telling them: ‘Change your ideas, don’t just change your clothes,'” Ohta said Thursday at Bloomberg’s Year Ahead conference in Tokyo.

Sumitomo Mitsui introduced one of the most relaxed dress codes of any major Japanese financial institution in September, allowing its Tokyo headquarters staff to wear jeans and sneakers to work. Those working in the branches can dress down if their managers approve.

Ohta, 61, said he introduced the new rules as part of his effort to transform the bank to meet various challenges, including the entry of technology firms into financial services. Since taking the top post in April, he has warned that Sumitomo Mitsui customers may be lured away by new, more nimble competitors.

“We have 100,000 employees worldwide. We cannot change unless we change the mindset of each one of them,” said Ohta, dressed in a dark suit and blue tie.

Other banks have made limited steps toward more casual attire at work, but they are usually confined to the departments working on technology initiatives.

While Ohta was speaking, photos of Sumitomo Mitsui staff arriving at work wearing shorts, backpacks and casual footwear were displayed on the screen behind him.

“Well, this is awful,” Ohta joked.

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