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Initiatives to Become "Barrier–Free"

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The Mizuho Heartful Project

Banks That Anyone Can Use Conveniently

In Japan, the population is aging demographically at a rapid pace. According to forecasts, by 2035, one in three persons will be senior citizens who are 65 years of age or older. Another strong social need is to promote the active participation of disabled persons in society and the economy.

Moreover, Japan's New Barrier–Free Law*1 was passed, and there is a growing social need for increasing the accessibility*2 of various facilities to wider segments of the population. To meet these needs, MHBK has been promoting the Heartful Project since November 2005 with a view to becoming a bank that is easy for anyone to use regardless of age, gender or disability.

  • *1:The Law for Improving Accessibility for the Elderly and Disabled
  • *2:Ease of usage

This project goes beyond simply making bank branches that are barrier–free for everyone, to adopting universal design principles for bank branches that will satisfy all. In moving this project forward, we are focusing on improvements that mitigate any sense of inconvenience or dissatisfaction that customers may feel in three key areas: facility–related initiatives covering branches, facilities and equipment; service–related initiatives covering customer forms and documents and Internet content; and psychological initiatives involving education and training to improve customer relation skills.

In view of the Heartful Project initiatives of MHBK since fiscal 2013, MHTB and MHSC have been moving forward with activities to promote barrier–free interiors and universal design projects. As a consequence, unifying MHBK, MHTB, and MHSC are working to further the Heartful Project.

Internal and External Cooperation

Taking the Opinions of Many People into Account in Improving Facilities and Services

Moving the Heartful Project forward involves holding working group meetings attended by managers from the relevant divisions at appropriate times to allow them to ascertain the current state of progress and share information. It also involves cooperation and dialogs with specialists in universal design from MHRI.

We ask customers for their actual views on what they find inconvenient when they use the bank, and where they would like to see improvements made. Taking these opinions and advice into consideration, we then strive to improve our facilities and services. We have designated the Roppongi, Yokohama–Ekimae and Ofuna branches as "Heartful Project Model Branches," and after conducting new experiments, we steadily reflected the results in other branches.

For example, we installed ATMs that give wheelchair users sideways access at the Roppongi Branch on an experimental basis. This allowed us to confirm that electric wheelchair users can actually approach and use the units without difficulty, that our approach to providing preferential guidance and anti–crime measures such as privacy–protecting displays function as expected, and that accessories such as interphones and emergency buttons are all installed in easy to use locations. Similar ATMs have been installed in the Toranomon and Nakameguro branches and, as a result of reviews, we positioned them centrally between partitions and at the ends of rows of ATMs.

We also invite experts and persons with disabilities to visit these model branches and actually use the facilities. We then make improvements according to their frank views on, for example, whether the toilet buttons are difficult to use, or whether signs displayed in the bank are difficult to read.


Using Outline Fonts Makes Signs Easier to Read


Wheelchair Users Also Find These Open/Close Switches Easy to Use

Barrier–free Status of Each Branch Indicated at the Branch Entrance

Service marks displayed at branch entrances promote awareness of Mizuho's barrier–free and universal design initiatives, and let customers know that a particular branch has taken physical accessibility measures, installed ATMs for the visually impaired, or implemented other steps to promote accessibility.


Barrier–free Status of Each Branch Indicated at the Branch Entrance

Details of the barrier–free and universal design status of individual branches are provided at the Website's "Guide to Branches and ATMs" to keep customers notified at all times.

Initiatives Win Awards

With its aim of creating a bank that is easy for anyone to use, the Heartful Project has been very well received. Since 2006, we have won praise for our multidimensional barrier–free initiatives and have had our efforts recognized with prizes awarded by local governments and organizations. In January 2011, we also became the first financial institution to receive the "Award for Promoting Barrier–Free" by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Awards Received
Date Sponsor Name of Commendation or Award
Dec 2006 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Won the commendation from the Governor of Tokyo in recognition of its contribution to welfare services for 2006.
Mar 2009 Aichi Prefecture Won the "14th People–friendly Town Planning Prize"
Nov 2009 Kanagawa Prefecture Won the "Second Barrier–free Urban Development Award"
Jan 2010 Hokkaido Won the "Welfare Community Development Award for 2009"
Feb 2010 Japan Facility Management Promotion Association Won the "Fourth Japan Facility Management Grand Prize (JFMA Prize) Encouragement Award"*1
Jun 2010 Nagano Prefecture Won the Fiscal 2010 Social Welfare Prize (Barrier–free urban development category)
Jan 2011 Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Won the "Fourth Award for Promoting Barrier–free"*2
Mar 2012 Hyogo Prefecture Been named the first recipient of the "Hyogo Prefecture Citizens Universal Facility" certification
  • *1This prize is sponsored by the JFMA with a view to spreading facility management concepts throughout Japan. Facilities management (FM) aims to respond to social changes and the new corporate environment by contributing to dynamic corporate activities through the effective and appropriate planning, improvement, operation and management of buildings and other facilities from a managerial perspective. The prize is awarded for activities that incorporate FM activities and papers on FM–related techniques, among other things.
  • *2In accordance with the provisions of the Law for Improving Accessibility for the Elderly and Disabled, implemented in December 2006, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is promoting the general and integrated introduction of barrier–free design concepts in public transportation, roads, structures, and other areas of their regulatory domain. By presenting awards to individuals and organizations recognized as having made exceptional contributions to the advancement of barrier–free design concepts in areas under its purview, the Ministry is also trying to promote the broad propagation of these initiatives.

Facility–Related Initiatives

Tackling Improvements Based on Its Own Original Specifications

Using the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Barrier–Free Building Ordinance as reference, MHBK has drawn up its own "Branch Improvement Standards" and is adopting universal design principles for its branch facilities. These standards have established eight priority items known as the "Eight Basic Specs." Improvements are implemented after surveys to ascertain the status of all branch facilities under each specification.

Since launching the facility–related initiatives in fiscal 2006, facility improvements have progressed steadily. For example, ATMs for people with visual impairments have already been installed at all branches (excluding branches comprising simplified ATM corners alone). At branches where it is feasible, we have completed the installation of elevators, toilets, and other facilities designed for wheelchair users. We will continue to improve branch facilities to become a bank that is kind and convenient to customers.

In addition, activities are under way at MHTB and MHSC to provide for facilities appropriate for differing branch and other office types.


Doorways Have Been Widened and Doors Automated to Improve Access for Wheelchair Users


This Counter Provides Ample Room for Wheelchair Users


There Are no Steps En Route to the Branch Entrance, and the Door Is Automatic

Eight Basic Specs: Adoption Rates (Work completed at 454 manned* branches as of March 31, 2015)
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  • *The total does not include branches where these facilities are not required, such as single–story branches.

Introduction of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

In fiscal 2012,AEDs were installed in all branches of MHBK and all branches of MHTB (excluding joint branches with MHBK). Every year approximately 7,000 employees participated in first aid training programs that included explanations of how to use AEDs. Similar training sessions will be held continuously thereafter, plans call for annually implementing such training in branches.

Service–Related Initiatives

Progress in Introducing People–friendly Tools

Branches (MHBK, MHTB) have now made available various tools for the sight– and hearing–impaired. For the hearing–impaired, for example, "Mimi Mark" (Ear Mark) signs are displayed to welcome customers and inform them that provision has been made for writing and other communications needs, including whiteboards. There are also "Communication Boards*1" which describe transactions and procedures using pictures and symbols.

We are also revising documents for customers by making them easier to view, understand and write. MHBK, MHTB, MHSC's website offers the convenience of three character size options—large, medium and small—so that even people with presbyopic eyes can read and is compatible with a sound browser so that people with visual impairments can use the Website.

  • *1:"Communication Boards" are only available in MHBK branches.


"Mimi Mark" Signs and Whiteboards for Written Communications


Communication support in pictographs showing content of transactions and procedures

Conscientiously Serving the Needs of the Disabled

MHBK and MHTB regulations now formally specify that customers with visual or other impairments must be assisted in completing procedures at service counters by having Mizuho staff read or write on their behalf.

We have also taken steps to provide enhanced services to the visually impaired, who cannot easily use an ATM for cash transfers, and customers in wheelchairs by confirming their needs when they arrive at a branch and then responding to them at a service counter. At the same time, a new lower cash transfer service–fee level, similar to the ATM usage fee, is charged for the provision of these services. (Eligibility for application of this fee may be confirmed by inspection of the customer's physical disability certificate at the time of the transaction.)

Psychological Initiatives

To Raise the Awareness of Each Employee, We Provide Training to Encourage Employees to Think on Their Own

As psychological initiatives, we strive to use ingenuity and thoughtfulness when we contact customers and make the relationship between Mizuho Bank and its customers better and more heartful. Through the "Mizuho Heartful Style" initiative, we are promoting efforts to improve our customer care. Mizuho believes heightened awareness among individual employees is essential for being a bank that satisfies all customers. We, therefore, have created our own manual, the "Mizuho Heartful Manual," to clarify procedures for assisting customers with disabilities, elderly customers, pregnant customers, and others with special needs. Every employee receives a copy of this manual and undergoes training using video and other instructional tools. In addition, we have incorporated the contents of the Mizuho Heartful Manual in the "CS Basic Manual" to emphasize, and practice, its procedures as a part of our basic customer relations.

Tailoring to the characteristics of individual branches is the hallmark of the training we conduct. For instance, the age range of customers who visit each branch differs depending on location. At each branch, employees discuss and determine the appropriate initiatives. Furthermore, Lobby Concierges of MHBK are recommended to obtain the Care–Fitter Level 2 certification. This qualification involves practical skills such as the operation of wheelchairs. From training and test taking to success, we provide consistent support. As of March 2015, 303 Mizuho staff had acquired this certification.

To gain the trust and satisfaction of elderly and disabled customers, MHTB conducts periodic training to all staff for welcoming and waiting on disabled customers.

At MHSC, initiatives are conducted to improve the manners and responsiveness of staff to enable them to give proper services to customers, including the elderly. To enhance the level and responsiveness of services at branches, which are the interface between MHSC and its customers, a "Branch Operations Manual" has been prepared, and, to give guidance on proper customer treatment, MHSC has issued a guidebook entitled "Basic Business Manners." In addition, for customers who have special issues that need to be addressed, MHSC also conducts workplace training to enable its staff to respond politely and to make improvements related to various issues with an understanding of the customers' perspective. Also, in each of its offices and branches, MHSC has identified issues related to customer satisfaction (CS), and, through holding periodic discussion sessions, endeavors to increase awareness among employees and work toward improvements.


Training in Operating Wheelchairs and Other Customer Relation Skills

In addition, as part of efforts to improve capabilities for responding to the needs of seniors and other people with special needs since fiscal 2012, we have implemented within bank facilities "dementia supporter" training courses that include such practical content as role–playing training drills. Training for lobby staff and lobby concierge staff as well as bank counter staff members was implemented, and 3,049 staff members participated.

Development of "Heartful Business"

MHBK is taking its Heartful Project to the next level by developing its "Heartful Business." Through our participation in the University of Tokyo's "Gerontology"* industry–academia consortium, we have gained valuable insights, and university and business contacts, that we will use in offering products and services. In so doing, we will provide financial support to help corporate customers grow and individual customers enjoy prosperous lives.

  • *The University of Tokyo is promoting activities that seek to address the various issues facing Japan as a super–aging society by bringing together people from industry and academia who are interested in developing a vibrant long–lived society that, through new social systems and values, as well as new products and services to serve new social needs, allows people to live with a sense of security.

Action Plans

Since the issues of declining birthrates and demographic aging of the population that have arisen in Japan will also emerge rapidly in countries around the world, including those in Asia, it will be essential for financial institutions, which have a public mission to perform, to take initiatives to make available services that are easy to use for all customer segments, including senior citizens. Also, looking ahead, Mizuho is aware that it will be important to offer financial support for corporate and individual customers, who are working aggressively to respond to the impact of these demographic trends.

Based on the initiatives of this project, we intend not only to take the lead in encouraging greater use of barrier–free and universal design elements by society, but also to provide support for customers who are working towards the same end or who need support in these areas. In this way, we aim to contribute to the realization of a society where anyone can live with a sense of security.

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