HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Josefina "Jo" Kuramoto is a business teller at the Ala Moana branch of Bank of Hawaii, where she posed earlier this month for a photograph.
Bankoh business teller has a few stories to tell
Josefina "Jo" Kuramoto is the face of the bank for customers who prefer to do their business in person
Josefina "Jo" Kuramoto
Title: Business teller
Job: Handles transactions for business customers of Bank of Hawaii's Ala Moana branch
Josefina "Jo" Kuramoto says she's not tempted by the money she handles every day as a business teller at Bank of Hawaii
's Ala Moana branch. But she has been on the job when others have tried to take it illegally. Kuramoto also doesn't mind the occasional upset customer -- they're "very few" in number, she said, and it's usually about "the system," she added, so she doesn't take it personally. Her main focus is to provide friendly and efficient personal service to the bank's business customers, which she has been doing for the past nine years.
Kuramoto joined Bank of Hawaii after working for F.W. Woolworth Co., including as a loss-prevention auditor at its Waikiki store. She also worked for about a year as a teacher at Ala Wai Elementary School, after moving to Hawaii in 1980. She moved here from the Philippines, where she also was a teacher, after growing up in Pampanga and earning a bachelor's degree in education from Republic Central Colleges in Angeles City. Kuramoto, in her 50s, is married, has a son, and lives in the Honolulu area.
What is your job title?
Josefina "Jo" Kuramoto: I'm a business teller.
Q: Is that different from a bank teller?
A: It's just the same, but I do the business side -- the business people, not the regular customers.
Q: How long have you been a business teller?
A: Very long. (Laughter) More than nine years.
Q: Was it always with Bank of Hawaii?
Q: Was it always as a business teller?
A: In the beginning, maybe about five months, I was in the regular line. And then, after that, I moved into business.
Q: What were you doing before you joined Bank of Hawaii?
A: Oh, I was working with ... I don't know if you remember Woolworth's, but I was working in its Waikiki store. I was the loss-prevention auditor.
Q: How long did you do that?
A: I was there very long, too. (Laughter)
Q: Why did you decide to become a bank teller?
A: Well, when I came to Hawaii (in 1980 from the Philippines), I was a school teacher. I had a bachelor's degree in education, so I went to teach at Ala Wai Elementary School, the special-ed school, for about a year. Then after that I decided, hey, I would like to go to the bank. Something different.
Q: But you went to Woolworth's first.
A: Yeah, because I just tried, and they said, 'Hey, we like you.' At first I was in customer service; then I got promoted and became a supervisor; then I became an assistant (in) personnel, in human resources; then the loss-prevention auditor; and then we closed.
Q: So then you applied at Bank of Hawaii?
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Josefina "Jo" Kuramoto has been a business teller at the Ala Moana branch of Bank of Hawaii for nine years. Above, she took a moment earlier this month to show off her work station. At her right is teller Myra Tanigawa.
What are your basic responsibilities at the bank each day?
A: Well, we take care of customers, yeah? Customer service. We take care of their deposits, taking cash, taking care of their many problems.
Q: Are you always seated behind the customer counter, or do you get to walk around and do other things?
A: Well, we do the back work after we close the bank, before we go home.
Q: But mostly during the day, you're seated at the counter?
Q: About how many other bank tellers are there at the Ala Moana branch?
A: Maybe about 15.
Q: Are bank tellers still mostly women?
A: Mostly women. I don't know what happened to the men. Maybe we have, like, one right now.
Q: Have you ever worked at other Bank of Hawaii branches?
A: Long time ago, I used to relieve at (the) Keeaumoku or Manoa (branches), maybe two or three days a week.
Q: What kinds of transactions do you handle most often?
A: Mostly deposits.
Q: You must see all kinds of people coming in to make transactions.
A: Oh, yes, all kinds of people.
Q: Who comes in on behalf of the businesses, mostly?
A: Oh, mostly their workers, their managers; they run errands before they open their businesses or stores or whatever.
Q: Are some of your customers ever hard to deal with?
A: Oh, some. Very few.
Q: What, they get mad?
A: Sometimes they're kind of wondering what happened to their account and everything, but I know they're just sometimes upset at the system; it's not personal. I don't take it personal.
Q: Do you ever get nervous when a particular customer is moving real slowly, and there's a line of other customers waiting?
A: Oh no, no. I been doing this for long time, so I'm used to it already. (Laughter)
Well ... in the beginning, yes, when I just get started, I would get real nervous. Especially the first time they put me in the window after I graduated from teller school. But after you've been doing it for long time, it's like nothing already.
Q: So you had to go to teller school?
A: Yes, we did. We have to graduate, yeah?
Q: How long did that take?
A: I think it was about two weeks. You must graduate.
Q: Was that an internal kind of school, like from Bank of Hawaii?
A: Yeah, the teachers are all employed by Bank of Hawaii.
How have ATMs and online banking changed your job?
A: It did not really affect actual tellers, because a lot of people still want to see tellers, to come to the bank and do business the old-fashioned way.
I guess they use the ATM when the bank is closed. They have no alternative to get their money, so they use the ATM. But while the bank is open, they'd rather come in and use a teller. Even though they have those ATM cards, they still want to see us.
Q: Do you have any favorite customers?
A: Favorite customers, yes, of course. (Laughter)
Q: They bring you chocolates and stuff on holidays?
A: Not really.
Q: What are your busiest hours?
A: Before going-home time, I believe. Like an hour before we close, all these people last-minute kind. (Laughter)
Q: What do you do if there are no customers in the bank?
A: I have to do my backwork, like count my money, wrap coins, do my mail.
Q: Looking at all that money every day, do you ever entertain bad thoughts?
Q: Are you ever tempted?
A: Oh no. Not at all.
Q: Have you ever been at work during an armed robbery?
A: Well, I was in a branch when it happened, but personally it wasn't me (who was being held up).
Q: Did you get nervous?
A: Yeah, because it could be me, right?
Q: What are you told to do if someone comes up and demands money from you?
A: Well, you just have to give them what they want. Cooperate, yeah?
Q: What's your favorite part of the job?
A: Meeting new people, making friends, like that.
Q: What's your least favorite part of the job?
A: When we have to work on holidays, like state holidays.
Q: Do you have any aspirations to become a bank officer or executive of some sort?
A: Not at this point.
Q: Do you have plans to retire from the job any time soon?
A: No. I plan to be around for a few more years.
Q: About how many transactions a day do you think you do?
A: Oh, plenty. Maybe less than 300.
Q: Is it hard keeping track of all the paperwork?
A: Not really.
Q: What happens if you don't balance?
A: Well, we just have to, you know, have the supervisor count for us, and then we close from there, and we will see the final result when accounting takes care of it. Because sometimes we just did something kind of stupid. We didn't actually give away the money. It was just our paperwork.