Create Your Own Space

Back to Contents of Issue: April 2006

Tokyo to New York in six hours by 2025.

by Eri Minagawa

Financial products and services targeting women are on the rise as Japanese banks try to out-differentiate one another to woo the "single woman," who is packing considerable purchasing clout these days.

J@pan Inc. took the initiative in putting together a lifestyle seminar entitled "Creating Your Own Space," in cooperation with Resona Bank, to provide valuable information on investment for this increasingly important group of consumers.

Why target the Single Woman?
"Single woman" means "an unmarried woman" in English, but in Japanese the term shinguru uman embraces divorcees and single mothers as well. As it now refers to a broad demographic, it has long lost any negative connotations. The Japanese single woman is generally 25 to 49 years old, has a career but is not self-employed, is affluent and sophisticated, and a person who seeks to create her own space, both physically and psychologically.

According to the Annual Report on the Labor Force 2005, women made up 40.4 percent of the workforce in non-agricultural industries in Japan in 2004, with the breakdown as follows: 43.48 percent for women aged 25 - 29 years, 38.39 percent for women aged 30 - 39 years and 42.04 percent for women aged 40 - 49 years. Further breakdown of those figures reveals that there was a substantial increase of 15.25 percent for those in the 30 - 39 year age bracket, which is deemed as the most ideal age group to target by banks because of their potential ability (in terms of savings and stable income) to service a loan. Just look at the table and you find that although the average annual income of a female worker is pretty modest, and is about 20 - 40 percent lower than her male counterpart's, the savings rate doubles as women get older. This alone is enough to get banks rethinking their target customer base.

A Lifestyle Seminar
Interestingly, the investment seminar for women held in Japanese had an agenda very different from that of the loan seminar that J@pan Inc. co-sponsored with Shinsei Bank last year. The former required a peripheral component, a lifestyle seminar, to attract the audience, in addition to the boilerplate investment talk.

The Speakers
We were very excited about the lineup of speakers at this event. We had Eiji Hosoya, President of Resona Bank Ltd., give the opening address, followed by Ms. Ayako Azegami, who is in charge of home loans at Resona Bank. She gave a keynote speech on "My Home -- Mortgage Plans for Women." We also had the honor of presenting two distinguished guest speakers. The first was Fujiyo Ishiguro, President and CEO of the Netyear Group, who gave us an insight into her lifestyle as a management executive both in America and Japan, as well as nuts-and-bolts advice on buying a property in Tokyo. Readers of this magazine may recall that Ms. Ishiguro was featured twice, in the December 1999 and April 2000 issues, as a successful entrepreneur, well known for her net business solutions in Silicon Valley. Our second distinguished guest speaker was Rei Taniguchi, who gave a fascinating talk on the importance of "home physiognomy,"or kaso, on one's overall well-being.

At the post-seminar dinner reception, like-minded women got together to network and share information on home mortgages and career paths. Adria International, a premium Italian Wine importer, provided prizes for a lucky draw. One hundred and ten women participated in the event, with an overwhelming majority indicating that they would attend similar events in the future.

If the non-Japanese readers who attended the last mortgage event are wondering if Resona, or any other Japanese bank apart from Shinsei, provides home loans to non-permanent residents, we're sorry to say that the answer is no. However, we have already seen Resona Bank team up with Lehman Brothers Inc. to provide residential mortgages, so we are confident things will change as more innovative offerings appear on the horizon.

Please check our website and newsletters for upcoming events. JI

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