Sony launches online bank

Japanese consumer electronics company Sony Corp. doesn’t just want to own your living room, it wants all of your money too. The company launched Monday its latest push into consumer finance with the opening of Sony Bank Inc.

The new bank, in which Sony holds an 80 per cent stake, operates solely online and was established with offline Japanese banking giant Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which hold stakes of 16 per cent and four per cent, respectively. The product of banking sector deregulation, it is the second bank in Japan to be opened by a non-financial company following the establishment in May of IYBank Co. by supermarket chain operator Ito-Yokado Co.

Sony Bank hopes to attract 400,000 customers within its first three years of operation and 600,000 by its fifth year in business, according to a Sony statement. Customers will be able to use the extensive ATM network of Sumitomo Mitsui to deposit and withdraw cash, while JP Morgan has supplied a financial management software tool that users will install as part of the service.

In addition to yen-based accounts, the bank will also offer investment trusts, loans, automatic payments and other services, the statement said. Within its first year of operation, the bank also hopes to launch foreign currency-based deposit accounts, credit card services and housing loans.

Using this combination of intelligent software, the bank’s Web site and the ATM network, Sony Bank is targeting deposits of 500 billion yen (US$5 billion) after three years and 1 trillion yen after five years in business.

The financial business is nothing new for Sony. In the fiscal year to the end of March 2001, Sony reported revenue of 426.9 billion yen from its insurance business, which includes Sony Life Insurance Co. Ltd. and Sony Assurance Inc. The revenue was 12.3 per cent higher than the previous year and represented 5.8 per cent of total revenue. Sony also operates a leasing and credit financing business in Japan, Sony Finance International Inc.

The company is hoping to be able to use the Internet to tie these services together and reach out to its customers in the same way it hopes home networking will tie together electronics products and the network will allow its content business a direct path to consumers.

Sony Canada, in Toronto, can be reached at