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Instant transfers now possible 24/7 at majority of financial institutions across Japan

Top officials of the Japanese Bankers Association (JBA) attend a ceremony to mark the introduction of a new system that enables instant money transfers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 9, 2018. (Mainichi/Kei Tsuchiya)

TOKYO -- Money can now be transferred to other bank accounts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a new system run by the Japanese Bankers Association (JBA) that began operations on Oct. 9.

Over 70 percent of Japanese banks have signed up to use the new system. Same-day money transfers were previously only possible during the daytime on weekdays, but instant bank transfers can now be made through more than half of Japanese banks throughout the day, including Saturdays and Sundays. The finance industry has high hopes that the new system will encourage cashless payments.

Bank-to-bank transfers are done through the "zengin system," managed by the JBA. Previously, operating hours were from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. If a transfer was made outside of those hours, on weekends or national holidays, the money was sent to the other side on the next business day.

Out of the 1,275 financial institutions using the zengin system, about 500 banks and Shinkin banks, except Norinchukin Bank, applied for the new system. Sixty-four megabanks and local banks started 24-hour, seven-day-a-week bank transfer operations from Oct. 9. Other financial organizations will expand their operating hours from 9 a.m. to nighttime, including Saturdays and Sundays. Mizuho Bank Ltd. plans to use the new platform after next year when its system is updated.

Both the sender and receiver need to use a bank that has adopted the new system in order to make an instant bank transfer. Transfers of salaries, bonuses and funds over 100 million yen are excluded from the system.

Instant bank transfers are becoming available 24 hours a day, seven days a week across countries in Europe, North America and Asia. Behind the development is the increasing number of people wanting to transfer money from smartphones for online shopping and for other online transactions, both day and night, including weekends. Services such as ones that connect mobile numbers and bank accounts emerged in Britain and Singapore, which both allow money to be transferred just by entering the receiver's mobile number.

"If bank transfers become convenient, it encourages a cashless society," Mizuho Bank Managing Executive Officer Akihito Mochizuki commented at a ceremony for the launch of the new system in Tokyo on Oct. 9. MUFG Bank Senior Managing Corporate Executive Hironori Kamezawa spoke about the wave of new market entrants from outside of the industry, "Payment services are undergoing remarkable change. The new system will lead to innovative changes in business."

(Japanese original by Kei Tsuchiya, Business News Department)

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