Don't Bank On It
mp3/ bank accounts - sarah slean
Banking is fun! It's even more fun in Japan! Let's banking!
I got to spend a day doing it yesterday, and all I wanted to do was open up a personal bank account, and get an ATM card.
For those of you who have never been to Japan, and had the pleasure of dealing with a Japanese financial institution, it should be mentioned that they are probably the Number 1 pet peeve of foreigners living here. Why?
- They have never heard of the term "customer service".
- They close at 3pm.
- ATM's at your own bank charge you after 6pm.
- ATM's close after 7pm.
- ATM's close on weekends and holidays.
Don't ask me why, I have no answers for you.
Things are slowly starting to change now. A few North American financial groups have moved in and started opening up new banks with longer hours, 24 hour ATMs, and great customer service. Two of them are Tokyo Star Bank and Shinsei Bank. Both of these banks offer modern, welcoming interiors; 24 hour ATMs; and no ATM fees. A far cry from my old-school Tokyo-Mitsubishi account. I decided on these as my first choices, and headed into Yokohama with my friend Yayoi-san.
Tokyo Star Bank was first.
Great website (complete with bowing OL, just like the ATMs). Ikea-like open-design decor. Too bad they were racist, discriminating motherfuckers!!
As Yayoi and myself sat in air conditioned coolness surrounded by wall-mounted flat panel screens displaying the latest Bloomberg news and stock quotes, a well-heeled manager approached and proceeded to tell us that they couldn't open an account for me if I couldn't read Japanese. Not even the corporate Big Boys (Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Mizuho etc) do this! Considering all I wanted was the account and a bank card, and that I had no need to really come into the branch at all after (companies deposit to my account, I happily withdraw it from an ATM...), AND the fact that Yayoi-san was with me precisely for this purpose--I was a little incensed. I asked the fellow for his meishi (business card). We left. I tried to cool down outside in the 32 degree humidity. I called my brother who was thinking of moving his business account over to Tokyo Star. He said he had never heard of this before and that I should bring the meishi home and he would "talk to a friend of his".
I calmed down a bit, but decided that it couldn't be left like this. We went back in and explained the situation again, stating that Yayoi was prepared to explain everything written in Japanese to me, and that I would still sign the legally binding agreement.
Nope. They won't do it. "Too much of a risk," he said. "Maybe later if (I) have some problem, (I) will say that I didn't understand."
Now Yayoi was upset, listening to another Japanese person blatantly discriminating against me--and without so much as an apology! Yayoi asked if this was Japanese law (after I mentioned writing to the papers and speaking with a lawyer). His response?
Here's a little background on how Tokyo Star came to be, from the Financial Times:
This treatment from an American influenced bank!
After its president and chairman were arrested in May, 2000, for illegally inflating asset values, Tokyo Sowa Bank came close to collapse. U.S. investor Wilbur L. Ross Jr. had shown interest in acquiring it, but his company backed out. ``We felt we couldn't invest in a bank that had those kind of business practices behind it,'' says Tatsuo Kubota, a New York-based executive at WL Ross & Co.
Kubota and others may wish they had been a little more daring. In January, 2001, U.S. private equity firm Lone Star made a bet that it could find value in Tokyo Sowa: It bought the bank from the Japanese government for $339 million.
Now, after an aggressive restructuring by Chief Executive L. Todd Budge, a former Mormon missionary, the bank, renamed Tokyo Star Bank Ltd., is one of Japan's most dramatic turnaround stories. Tokyo Star earned $107 million for the 12 months through Mar. 31, 2003, up 60% from a year earlier and a vast improvement over the $2 billion loss it reported 24 months before. Its books look healthy, too, showing a ratio of net income to total assets that's four times higher than giant Sumitomo ......
I implore anyone out there looking to open an account in Japan to BOYCOTT TOKYO STAR BANK! And if anyone else has had this happen to them, I would love to hear about it.
So, now I'm pissed. Yayoi-san is pissed. I decide to try Shinsei Bank. They also have 24 hour ATMs with no fees, another of the 'new breed', but now I am fully expecting to be treated the same.
We head down the block, and walk in. It is located adjacent to a Starbucks--as a matter of fact, it looks as if it is PART of the ubiquitous coffee chain. I take a deep breath, relax, and head to the counter with Yayoi.
"Konnichi-wa," the man at the counter says to us both.
Yayoi explains that I am looking to open an account.
"Ah-so!" he says, and turns to me. "How are you this afternoon, sir? Do you have your gaikokojin torokusho (alien registrations card)?"
"Of course," I say, already taken aback by his friendliness. Meanwhile, he has already pulled out the necessary English application forms. I am guided to a chair. A lovely clerk slides a table up and hands me a pen. I am asked to choose a design for my ATM card (I choose plain black with absolutely no kawaii amime characters or corporate logos). I fill out the application in 8 minutes and the girl returns to go over it with me, double checking my info. That's it. I'm told to come back in half an hour or so to pick up my card and account details.
So we go have a double tall non-fat coffee frappucino light with a sprinkle of vanilla powder adn return. It's all ready, no waiting. 24 hour ATM, cool black card, free use at 7-11 conbini, as well as the other banks' machines, international money transfers, online banking, branches open til 7pm, and the girl apologizes to me for not being able to speak better English. I tell her she doesn't need to, it's my Japanese that needs improving. And we're outta there.
Take that Tokyo Star Fuckers!
Next time I'll tell you about my new 007 kei tai...