Sony Bank, an Internet bank owned 80 percent by Sony Corp., said Thursday it will open for business on June 11 in hopes of luring deposits of 1 trillion yen in five years.
The electronic giant’s subsidiary said it hopes to attract 600,000 Web accounts in five years, and to secure a profit in the fourth, mainly through securities investments and interest charged on loans. Customers will be able to open savings and mutual fund accounts and secure card loans at the outset.
By fall, pink Post Pet characters – popular as Sony Communication Network Corp.’s Internet mail software – will help guide customers organize their financial records on the Web site. By year’s end, customers will be able to access their accounts via Sony’s planned “Air Board” portable computer device.
“We want to create a bank that says, ‘Sony,”‘ Sony Bank President Shigeru Ishii said during a Tokyo news conference.
“‘Sony-ness’ is defined by the company’s technology, its product conception capabilities and its focus on entertainment,” Ishii said.
While Sony Bank boasts a powerful image, it is not clear whether it will be able to collect the number of accounts it needs when the interest rate it plans to offer on savings accounts – 0.05 percent – is only marginally higher than the 0.02 percent at major banks.
But Ishii insists that Sony Bank is different from conventional banks in concept.
“I would just like to change the image of banks as a kind of safe, and create a bank that helps customers think about how to put their money to work,” said Ishii, who rose to head the Planning Division at Yamaichi Securities Co. before the major securities firm failed in 1998.
One part of that strategy is its plan to design competitive mutual funds, to be divided into categories of basic, standard, and professional, depending on customer needs.
Sony Bank will also provide online suggestions on financial instruments for investment, Ishii said.
Prospective customers will be able to open accounts through their computers by visiting Sony Bank’s Web site – sony-bank.net – and will be issued cash cards to use for deposits, withdrawals and remittances at 7,600 automated teller machines at branches of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and am/pm Japan convenience stores.
Although interest rates on regular deposits will remain low, at about 0.05 percent, Sony Bank will be the first Internet bank to do away with an account maintenance fee.
Other Internet banks, like SMBC’s Japan Net Bank and Fuji Bank’s Em-Town charge fees for accounts whose total balance fall below a certain level.
SMBC also owns 16 percent of Sony Bank, with the rest held by JP Morgan of the United States.
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