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UPDATE 2-MUFG promotes managing director Hanzawa to bank unit CEO

(Adds Hanzawa’s comment)

TOKYO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc named its managing director Junichi Hanzawa, 55, as the head of its core banking unit, as it seeks to rejuvenate its business amid a tough lending environment.

Hanzawa, who has mainly worked in the bank’s corporate planning division, will become the first managing director to take on the CEO position at MUFG Bank, Japan’s biggest lender, effective April 1.

Outgoing CEO Kanetsugu Mike, 64, will become group chairman, according to the bank.

The appointment comes as other financial firms like Resona Holdings have recently picked relatively younger officials by Japan Inc standards to the top management position.

Banks in Japan are seeking to transform their operations by overhauling their branch networks and promoting digitalisation amid ultra-low interest rates.

“We have to keep running, otherwise we will not be able to adapt to a rapidly-changing era. I think that’s why a younger person like me was chosen,” Hanzawa told a press briefing on Thursday.

The move marks the latest management reshuffle at MUFG after the April appointment of a new group CEO, whose predecessor had been in the post for only a year.

For the Japanese public, Hanzawa’s name is likely to bring to mind the Naoki Hanzawa series of bestselling novels adapted into a TV drama about a banker.

Hanzawa and Jun Ikeido, the writer of the novels, were at one time contemporaries at the bank. Ikeido, who has denied any connection between his character and Hanzawa, congratulated Hanzawa on the promotion.

“While Junichi Hanzawa and I joined the bank at the same time, I hardly know him. I hope he, like my character Hanzawa, will blow a fresh wind through the finance industry,” Ikeido tweeted on Wednesday following media reports of the promotion. (Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by Chris Gallagher, Himani Sarkar and Tom Hogue)

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