Japan’s Mizuho Financial Group will start a venture next month to create new fintech businesses and catch up with its rivals, according to Reuters.

As Banking Technology reported last month, Mizuho Financial Group, Mizuho Bank and IBM Japan teamed up to build a blockchain-based trade financing platform – and so edged commercialisation ever forward. So this new venture development is not a massive surprise.

Reuters says Mizuho Financial Group, Japan’s second-largest lender by assets, has already 20 projects in the pipeline for the venture, using the aforementioned blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) programmes in non-fintech areas such as farming and travel.

In fact, last year Banking Technology reported that Mizuho Bank carried out testing for new banking services through the Facebook bot and Amazon Echo. Also in 2016, Mizuho Bank revealed it planned to use a new robotics platform developed by IBM Research-Tokyo for the bank’s customer service-oriented robots.

Daisuke Yamada, Mizuho’s chief digital innovation officer, told Reuters that the challenges were cultural as well as technological, as truly new business models required a break from Japanese banks’ conservative, overly risk-averse attitudes.

For that reason, he says the bank would limit its stake in the yet-to-be named venture to less than 15%, though Yamada would be its president and the bank would send staff.

“If we try to pursue business innovation within the bank, we have to ask around for permission from people in risk management, compliance and others. It takes forever,” he says in the Reuters interview. “It’s not like building nuclear reactors or railway systems. If projects flop, all the costs wasted will be labour costs, we can move on to the next ones.”

Yamada does not offer more details about the projects in the pipeline but says the venture planned to conduct an export trade transaction next month using blockchain, “allowing all parties to exchange necessary documents online instead of waiting for hard copies”.