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A digital only bank that is almost a universal bank

Japanese neobank Rakuten Bank functions like any other universal bank, but with efficiency level that is synonymous with digital banks:

Rakuten Bank is Japan’s digital only bank that provides all the banking services, including deposits, loans, exchange transactions, investment trusts, securities, credit and cash cards, ATM deposits as well as lottery tickets. Incorporated in 2000 in Tokyo, it is part of Rakuten Group, the Japanese global technology conglomerate. It has some 15 million customer accounts and a market value of 322.2 billion yen. In Japanese, Rakuten stands for ‘optimism’.

The neobank is well-accepted in the country as its services are easily accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In recent years, the bank, in spite of its tag as a digital only bank, is being chosen as a main bank by a majority of its customers. A unique product is Rakuten Pay, an app that allows instant payment service from a Rakuten Bank account to any account, maybe at a store or a fuel station or a restaurant, using a smartphone anywhere, anytime.

BIZ SUPPORT SYSTEM

The neobank’s other unique services include its business support program, which offers select business services free of charge to corporate customers, as well as the Rakuten Bank Business Debit Card, which features cashback of 1%. There is also the Rakuten Bank account for direct deposit of salary and bonus payments.

HAPPY PROGRAM

The bank’s Happy Program is a loyalty program that offers customers a variety of business opportunities by linking their bank accounts to their Rakuten ID. Membership is assigned on the basis of either the customers’ Rakuten Bank account balance or the number of transactions. Depending on the tier, a customer can make up to 7 transactions per month on ATMs and make up to 3 transfers to other banks per month without any charges. Happy Program is Japan’s highest-rated points program.

Customers can earn Rakuten super points on a target transaction basis simply by entering the program. Rakuten super points can be used on a target transaction basis simply by entering the program and these points can be used for paying bank transfer fees, debit card payments and prepaid card charge fees.

The Money Bridge service offers preferential interest rates on ordinary deposit accounts up to 100 times higher than other major banks, when users link their Rakuten Bank account with their Rakuten Securities account. The Convenience Store Payment Service allows users to complete convenience store payments anytime, anywhere with the Rakuten Bank app.

The neobank has recently partnered with Dai-ichi Life Insurance to launch Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) digital bank services.

PLUS POINTS

Some of the salient points that make Rakuten Bank more acceptable to customers than regular banks are:

  • The bank is available 24 hours a day from ATMs in convenience stores. In addition it can be accessed through some 90,000 ATMs across Japan.
  • Deposits and withdrawals are possible at ATMs up to 7 times a month.
  • Fund transfers to other banks are free up to 3 times a month.
  • The Happy Program allows customers to earn and spent Rakuten Super Points.
  • Almost all its services are available on the Rakuten Bank app.
  • Higher rates of interest on deposits and by becoming a member of the Money Bridge program.

VARIOUS LOAN PRODUCTS

Unlike other digital only bank, Rakuten Bank offers card loans, home loans, university education loans, travel loans, bridal loans as well as mortgage loans. It also functions as a total solutions partner for corporate customers, offering business loans, international remittance services, MailMoney Mass Payment and salary and bonus transfer services.

The neobank has the Rakuten Bank Business Debit Card, which features cashback of 1%.

It is also the first internet bank to offer reverse mortgages and inbound payment services to tourists. The service supports overseas QR code payment systems like Alipay, WeChat Pay and Kakao Pay.

Although belonging to the Rakuten Group, the neobank had spun off from its parent company in April 2023 through an IPO. It raised $625 million.

CONSOLIDATION PLAN

The Group has recently announced that it plans to consolidate its bank, insurance, securities and card businesses and other fintech businesses into one entity. This is envisaged so that the member units can enhance collaboration across the fintech business, including prompt and flexible decision-making, along with the deepening of the collaboration including data integration and AI utilization.

The Group has also announced that it proposes to develop its own proprietary AI language model. It will be a large language model, or LLM, which uses huge algorithms that are trained on massive data sets that underpin AI applications. The Group has a large amount of ‘very unique’ data to train its LLM on. It will use developed the AI model internally to improve operational efficiency and marketing and may offer it to third-party businesses to build on.

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This article has been compiled based on publicly available information on the web, particularly the bank’s own website.


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