“Why so glum husband? I thought things were going very well for us,” Huian said.
“Ah, I can never hide my moods from you,” Chen said, with a sigh. “Indeed as I was telling you yesterday things are going very well for us. Our security cooperative has a lot of work, and T has been generous sharing the profits from a number of his enterprises. I feel much more secure financially than when we arrived on Home. No, I feel sad because the gentleman we visited in Myanmar, Chan Aye, was taken by this horrible flu. He had a couple more names, but that was what he always invited foreigners to call him. I’d hoped to disperse some of our new funds to him and when I called I was informed of his death. I counted him a friend too.”
“Oh… Did he have life extension to be particularly susceptible?” Huian asked.
“No, he was deeply suspicious of the treatment. He’d asked before what the down side was, because he said there was always a down side. As it turned out he was right for many people. But, no,” Chen said, “he just was one of the many older people that died from this flu, as flu has always killed some.”
“Did you still have funds on deposit with him? Is that a problem?” Huian asked.
“No, given the uncertainty when we were fleeing I asked to withdraw all our funds. And it was quite accommodating of him to allow it on such short notice. But then I was quite frank with him about our situation. I was looking to deposit monies again. We have funds in both Home banks, and still have deposits in a few Earth institutions, but we saw the advantage of having assets dispersed when we had to leave abruptly.”
“They are not continuing the family business?” Huian asked surprised.
“Do not be offended wife, but they are a very traditional household. The man had no sons and he never trained a daughter to the business. They have his books, literal books as well as electronic records, he always said the memory of computers is too ephemeral. I’d joke with him that others found it entirely too hard to erase. I’ll miss the back and forth with him,” Chen said.
“So, they are just going to pay the funds out and shut down?” Huian asked. “I hate to see a business die almost as much as a person. Their means of living will vanish.”
“Chan Aye left them well provided for. His wives are of an age like his, and he was looking at retirement soon. His daughters will be provided for amply when they marry. I spoke briefly with his eldest wife and she was in no distress like they would be homeless or scrambling for a bowl of rice. A lot of their customers died in the epidemic too. Some of the accounts will never be demanded. She would have appointed another relative to handle dispersing funds, but the only uncle who was a traditional banker and takaful agent died too. She and her co-wives are managing their funds. They are mature women, experienced in life, they won’t do anything stupid with his wealth.”
“Could you not ask them to take you funds and continue as before?” Huian asked.
“I speak with you candidly, and ask your opinion, I value it highly. To do so new for us, and is even rarer in their culture. I’ll be honest that I’d feel very uncomfortable to do business with them. It was awkward just the short conversation we had, because I know women of their household do not interact with men who are not closely related.”
“And yet the young woman who entertained me while you dealt with the banker had no trouble at all speaking with you after, when you asked her help to outfit me,” Huian remembered.
“Yes, that was Myat, he often bragged on her. But she is of the younger generation. She is more comfortable with outsiders, and I admit I’m more comfortable with her, knowing she is different.”
“Would the sum you intended to entrust to him break us, Husband?”
“Not at all, that was the intent, to disperse our holdings, so no one part would be a catastrophic loss. I’d intended to send the equivalent of two ounces of gold to his accounts. Either by electronic transfer or the physical metal transferred by courier as two Solar, if he wished.
“Let me propose something, Husband. Allow me to call Myat. I thought very well of the young woman Although she was not that young. Like you, I can talk to her easier than the older women I never met. I’d like to offer to put the funds on deposit with the family, since they still have funds, and are managing them. She can do the talking to the older women for me. I remember she said she was the daughter of his second wife. If they are brave enough to accept the challenge then surely there are many other new widows down there who have funds to safeguard. I wonder how many of them lack male relatives they wish to act for them now, and would be very comfortable dealing with another woman. The young daughters like Myat are of an age now to be useful. Surely they have the assets to continue Chan Ayes work if they chose to.”
Chen didn’t reply for so long she thought he might not, or if he did he’d certainly decline.
“The way we’ll do this, is I’ll start an account with the System Trade bank in your name,” Chen said. “That way you are approaching Myat to handle the funds for another woman. That is even easier for them to accept than you merely as my agent. I’ll do this periodically and you may invest the funds with them, or wherever else you think it wise. You may want to confer with Tetsuo’s wife, Lin, on occasion as I know he has directed her to manage a separate fund in just this manner.
“I confess, the first time I knew of that it made me uncomfortable, but given his success in everything the man touches, how can I second guess him?” Chen asked.
“Thank you for your confidence, and expanding it,” Huian said.
“There are things you need to know,” Chen said. “You have to speak to them in the terms their traditions allow for financial services. You may think that it’s a silly way to do the same thing as western banking and insurance accomplishes, but the distinctions are real and important to the way they think.
“For example, they do not pay interest in the same manner a European or American bank would. Rather you are sharing profits in an enterprise, which can mean you may be called on to share in losses if that’s the way things go. Now we are not believers, but I always made deposits with the understanding that we’d accept that risk the same as them. It’s no different than other western investment vehicles that have no guarantee. But it has frequently been a source of conflict between Muslim bankers and western bank regulators, who insist on the deposits being completely insured. Now, anybody would know that is an illusion and a lie, because their insurance never has the funds to cover a total loss. But they demand that face to the public. Similarly insurance in their system accomplishes the same thing, but they describe it differently as a form of shared risk. It matters when you speak with them, because they regard the way they accomplish that as moral, and the way westerners do so as a violation of their religious law.”
Huian nodded every once in awhile, and maintained eye contact. Once Chen got in full lecture mode like this he could go on hours. Sometimes she thought he’d have made a better college professor than a spy. He was however an engaging speaker. Not one of those fellows who droned on in a monotone. He was really getting enthused to his subject, and she really did need to know these things, which helped make them interesting.
She might have to force him to stop for a meal in a couple hours, or he’d press on oblivious to the passage of time. But best not to stop him while he was expanding on what he’d granted. The more he built on the idea the less chance anything would undo it. Even though she was just itching to call Myat and get started. She suspected Myat would be much more forgiving of any gaps in her knowledge and gently correct any cultural gaffes she made. One tended to be patient and forgiving with a person when the money was flowing from them to you. Just like she was right now.
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