Dressing down proving a smart move at Sumitomo Mitsui

Bankers at Japan’s second largest bank are now allowed to wear jeans, shorts and sneakers to compete with cool fintechs.
By: | December 13, 2019


Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Japan’s second largest bank, is loosening up. The first major step is allowing staff to dress down. While many firms already allow this, it’s a big step for a Japanese bank more accustomed to dark suits and ties.

The bank’s president Jun Ohta said relaxing the dress code was just the start. He also wants to change the mindset of his staff. At a conference he said: “I am telling them: ‘Change your ideas, don’t just change your clothes.’”

Ohta wants to transform the bank to meet a host of challenges, including the threat of financial technology firms (fintechs). Allowing staff to dress the same way as fintech employees is a smart (or smart/casual) move on his part.

“We have 100,000 employees worldwide. We cannot change unless we change the mindset of each one of them,” he added.

The move closely follows Goldman Sachs’ new relaxed dress code, announced earlier this year.

But Japan is still very traditional compared to its Western counterparts. Casual wear at work is confined largely to tech workers, while women are under pressure to wear contact lenses and heels in the office.