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Agency may give banks weekdays off

The Yomiuri Shimbun The Financial Services Agency is considering a plan to allow bank branches to close on weekdays, sources said, a move aimed at supporting branches with worsening business performances in depopulated areas.

Permitting weekday holidays is expected to improve banks’ flexibility regarding branch operations, allowing them to implement measures that take into account the circumstances of each region and customer base, such as focusing on consulting services for asset management on the weekends.

The changing role of over-the-counter services at banks and the advent of online banking have prompted a revision of business practices. The Banking Law’s enforcement order and other regulations require banks to close their operations on weekends, national holidays and other periods such as the end and beginning of the year.

This is due to the belief that allowing banks to decide branches’ days of operation could inconvenience customers who want to withdraw money and companies conducting transactions. In recent years, however, money transfers and other transactions can be conducted through online banking services.

As a result, the number of customers visiting branches has drastically declined. Depopulated areas in particular face grave circumstances, prompting the consolidation or closure of branches to reduce operating costs.

These developments have spurred the FSA to discuss allowing banks to close on weekdays in a manner that minimizes the inconvenience to customers. It will further study preconditions for banks to close on weekdays, with a goal of implementing new measures next year. Preconditions will likely include the existence of a nearby branch at which a company can quickly procure funds if the need arises.

If the proposal is implemented, branches in depopulated areas will be able to stagger business days — for example, opening one branch on Monday and Tuesday and another from Wednesday to Friday. Such a scheme would require bank employees to work at different branches depending on the day of the week. However, the resulting cost savings would put a brake on branch closures and consolidations.

Currently, branches that do not manage checking accounts used for corporate transactions can close on weekdays. As most branches deal with such accounts, however, many in banking circles have called for updated regulations.

These developments have spurred the FSA to discuss allowing banks to close on weekdays in a manner that minimizes the inconvenience to customers. It will further study preconditions for banks to close on weekdays, with a goal of implementing new measures next year. Preconditions will likely include the existence of a nearby branch at which a company can quickly procure funds if the need arises.

If the proposal is implemented, branches in depopulated areas will be able to stagger business days — for example, opening one branch on Monday and Tuesday and another from Wednesday to Friday. Such a scheme would require bank employees to work at different branches depending on the day of the week. However, the resulting cost savings would put a brake on branch closures and consolidations.

Currently, branches that do not manage checking accounts used for corporate transactions can close on weekdays. As most branches deal with such accounts, however, many in banking circles have called for updated regulations.Speech

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