Message from the Chief Sustainability Officer
Enriching customers’ lives through financial services
Promoting financial inclusion in Asian countries
Starting with Hong Kong in 1987, we have been expanding our overseas business mainly in Southeast Asia, in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, offering community-based financial services to our local customers. Currently, we are operating in 11 countries in total, including Japan.
In recent years, the governments of Asian countries are working on a national level to achieve "Financial Inclusion". "Financial Inclusion" means "Helping all the people who are economically insecure and left out of financial services due to poverty, discrimination and the like, to gain access to basic financial services". Looking back on our past 35-years of operating overseas, we believe that "Financial Inclusion" is exactly what we have historically been active in.
When we started our business in Hong Kong, the starting salary for university graduates was around 40,000 yen, while Japanese TVs were sold for 200,000 yen. Nonetheless, people seemed eager to buy TVs and were glued to them at the store all the time. From this, we were able to confirm that bridging the gap between income and aspirations is what "credit business" is all about, and it marked the beginning of our business in Asia.
Although income levels in Asian countries have been rising, and there are more and more people who are financially well-off, there is a need to provide financial services for purchasing home appliances, furniture, and cell phones, which are in high demand due to the largely young population demographics in Asia; or for purchasing motorcycles, which are needed as a means of commuting due to the slow development of public transportation. In Malaysia, we have grown to the point where about 30% of new motorcycle registrations are our customers.
Going forward, we will expand our range of financial services and further promote financial inclusion while improving customer convenience through digital services, e-money, and integrating our point program with AEON Group retail stores.
In November 2021, we clarified social issues that impact the Group and identified key issues (Materiality) that need to be addressed. Recognizing these key issues as a mid-to long-term management concern, we newly established the "AFS Sustainability Policy" as an action guideline to resolve them. In addition, along with renaming the existing "CSR Committee" as "Sustainability Committee", the structure for advancing these matters was revamped to involve management from each group company to better accommodate working on resolving the issues together. As the chair of the committee, I'm responsible for providing specialized input and make overall decisions on the implementation plan; including considering sustainability policies and setting KPIs and KGIs for materiality. In order to implement the plan, the Group Sustainability Department was newly established as part of the organizational reform in September 2021. The mission of the department is to gather expert knowledge and information from a global perspective and oversee and support implementation of the plan.
Under this new organizational structure, we will provide customer-centric financial services in Japan and overseas, and work as a group to solve various social issues including financial inclusion. We would like to thank all of our stakeholders for their continued warm support.