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Internet bank's accidental author is by no means an accidental Sony manStaff writer Hiroki Totoki is a Sony Bank director and an accidental author.Hiroki Totoki talks about the launch of Sony’s online banking venture.When he launched a weekly e-mail magazine in late January describing the making of the Internet bank, he did not expect his column to gain more than 13,000 registered readers in four months, let alone be published as a book.His amusing anecdotes — one of which tells how he surprised an official at the then Financial Supervisory Agency by simply asking how to obtain a banking license — eventually attracted about 10 publishing firms.Shueisha International Inc. published the 143-page collection of 18 episodes, which hit the mark

et in early July as “Bokutachi-wa Ginko-o Tsukutta” (“We Created a Bank.”)Totoki, one of the bank’s founders, said in a recent interview that his online column was intended to give the bank “a human face,” because it would have no physical form.Sony Bank, which opened June 11, is one of the nation’s three Internet-based banks, the others being Japan Net Bank and eBank. As of July 31, it had 28,000 accounts and outstanding deposit

s of 15.9 billion yen. In recent weeks, Sony Bank has been receiving about 200 applications for accounts daily.The mostly anecdotal book does not detail every step taken to create the bank, but simply offers a few glimpses of how Sony’s flexible corporate culture helped.For ex

ample, it reveals that Shigeru Ishii, president of Sony Bank and a former manager of the now-defunct Yamaichi Securities Co., joined Sony Corp. as a temporary staffer in 1998 at an hourly rate of 3,000 yen. It says Sony wooed Ishii, who had no p

lans to work again after Yamaichi collapsed in 1997.Totoki was assigned to assess the future of Sony’s financial business in 1997 when he was working in the finance section. The electronics giant already had a life insurance subsidiary. Ishii’s role on the team

helped form the concept of an Internet bank.But Sony froze the project in late 1998, a decision Totoki believes was partly made because his team did not have a clear vision and partly because of the worsening business environment following the Russian financial crisis.Half a year later, Ishii and Totoki “voluntarily unfroze” the project. Totoki became so personally committed to it that he considers it “the work I did most aggressively on my own initiative.”He underwent many hardships that he said would make for “a long story,” but the book mostly skips over those serious episodes. “Bragging about hardships would be boring,” he said.T

he biggest challenge for him was getting the green light from the board to launch the Internet bank. He said some executives were skeptical, with one of them mentioning the word “kane-kashi,” a derogatory term for a moneylender.But the book describes his meetings with company executives in a humorous manner. It quotes then Chairman Norio Ohga as saying that Totoki looked like Carlos Ghosn, president of Nissan Motor Co. Ishii, who was in the meeting, misheard Ghosn as Go and asked Ohga if he meant Hiromi Go, a popular Japanese singer.The series of columns was Totoki’s longest writing “since my graduation essay at elementary school,” he said. Some pieces took 5 to 6 hours each, adding to his workload during the hectic months before the bank opened, he recalled.The link between the column and the bank’s popularity since its opening is not clear, he said. Sony’s brand image is believed to have helped jump-start the subsidiary.But he modestly admitted that the column laid some groundwork, because inside stories like his are almost unheard of. Indeed, creating a bank from scratch was almost unthinkable in postwar Japan until several years ago.Although the bank has now opened, with Totoki assuming a directorial position, a step up from his former role as a Sony soldier, he said some things remain unchanged.“My salary hasn’t changed at all,” he said. ̶0;It’s the same as last year.”But it doesn’t seem to matter as long as he works in the Sony group. After all, he is not an accidental Sony man. Since his school days, he has been a great fan of Sony — from the Walkman to the late cofounder Akio Morita — and he never thought twice about it before joining in 1987.TwitterFacebookLinkedInGET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESIN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5Mail the editorError ReportRepublishingCommenting PolicyJOIN THE CONVERSATIONLATEST BUSINESS STORIESWorkplace equality 'decades away' in Britain as men dominate top jobsEquality for women at work is decades away in Britain, according to a study released Monday that found just 6 percent of chief executives at leading companies are female, with representation in som...Tsai's election victory set to bolster Taiwan's buoyant marketsA winning run for Taiwan's financial markets is set to be reinforced by Saturday's landslide election victory for President Tsai Ing-wen.That's the view of market watchers and analysts, with th...Ex-drug company execs face reckoning in opioid bribery caseThe founder and former top employees of a pharmaceutical company are facing a reckoning for their role in a bribery scheme that prosecutors say boosted sales of a powerful, highly addictive painkil...

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