Sony has seen an opportunity to capitalize on its strong brand and existing customer relationships to build a new business, amid widespread disillusionment and declining trust in Japan's traditional banking institutions. The move reflects a change in attitudes towards financial services companies and 'big brands' that extends well beyond Sony and its domestic market.
Until now Playstation 2 and savings accounts have not had a huge amount in common. But this has changed with Sony's decision to launch an eBank targeted at its existing customers. Sony has spotted what it sees as an opportunity to exploit the widespread disillusionment and distrust in Japan's incumbent banking institutions, combined with its own strong brand and existing customer relationships. This also fits neatly with Sony CEO Idei Nobuyuki's vision for developing deep relationships with all the Corporation's customers, summarized in his "digital dream kids on the network" slogan.
The success of the business, however, will be fundamentally tied to the ability of Sony to stretch its brand into this new area among its existing customers. In many ways Sony is well-placed, given the fundamental role trust plays in financial relationships - Sony is ranked the world's eighteenth most valuable brand by Interbrand, partly because it has a reputation for manufacturing products that are both innovative and reliable. If it can translate these values of trust, innovation and reliability to the financial services sector, it is sure to find willing converts, particularly among younger consumers.
Even though Sony has stated it intends to focus on its domestic market for the time being, the move reflects a significant shift in the way consumers across the globe view both financial services companies and 'big brands'. Increasingly consumers are showing a propensity to buy products and services from brands they trust and with which they identify, rather than opting for companies that have a track record of expertise in a particular industry or sector. Financial services companies globally should take note - Sony is not going to be the last 'big brand' to enter financial services, nor is it likely to confine itself to Japan if the venture proves successful.