Sony Preps Online Bank Launch In Japan

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Sony Corporation is planning to start an online bank labeled Sony Bank Corp. in Japan by June.

The electronics giant applied for a banking license and intends to open the bank upon approval from Japan's Financial Services Agency. The bank will provide Japanese consumers with yen deposit account services, the ability to process loans and investment trust account services. Consumers will also be able to pay for their online shopping through the bank. The company does not plan to charge maintenance fees for these services.

"While online banking is not very popular in Japan today, as the Internet use grows, it will gain in popularity," said Hiro Takahashi, director of corporate communications at Sony Corporation of America, New York. He said that the wireless Web use is expanding rapidly in Japan, but added that Sony has no definitive plans yet for making the services available via wireless devices.

Consumers will be able to access their online accounts via the bank's Web site or through a network of roughly 5,000 ATM machines provided by Sakura Bank Ltd., a partner financial institution in the venture.

Sony projects that it will gain 400,000 accounts having deposits of roughly 600 billion yen after three years and 600,000 accounts having deposits of approximately 1 trillion yen within five years of the launch.

Takahashi said Sony has not yet established marketing strategies for the new venture.

While Japan's online banking industry is in its infancy stages, companies such as Japan Net Bank, which began in mid-2000 are gearing up for the growing online population.

Sakura Bank Ltd., a Japanese retail bank, will take a 16 percent stake and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will take a 4 percent stake in the online bank.

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