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Keeping Up with the Fast Pace of Business: PayPay Corporate Group’s Strategy for People, Goods, and Money

Az

06/03/2022

Interview with PayPay Leaders is a series of interviews with PayPay top executives showcasing their personalities and perspectives. Masanori Sode, Director, Managing Corporate Officer, CAO&CHRO / Group Head of Corporate Group and Division Head of Management Promotion Division

Masanori Sode

Director, Managing Corporate Officer, CAO&CHRO / Group Head of Corporate Group and Division Head of Management Promotion Division

After graduating from university, Sode-san joined The Nippon Credit Bank, Ltd. in 1986. After working in fund securities, corporate sales, and a German bank subsidiary, he launched Netrust, Ltd., an online payment company. Netrust was an in-house startup that kicked off in 1999 when the bank went bankrupt in 1998, followed by SoftBank becoming a major shareholder the following year. Sode-san has been consistently involved in payment finance since joining the Yahoo! JAPAN group in 2002. He joined PayPay a month before its launch (right after the Golden Week holidays). He was asked to create a company, and without further ado, he did just that on June 15, 2018.

About PayPay Corporate Group

Please tell us about your responsibilities

Since its inception, the Corporate Group has consistently been responsible for resolving people, goods, and money issues. My mission is to work closely with Kagechika-san to lead the company to a better condition. As of January 2022, Kagechika-san has been appointed as CFO and is in charge of management and finance strategy.

The Corporate Group is in charge of managing people, goods, and money. We set the priorities for where the company should make its future investments.

People

Goods

And last but not least,Money

Mobilize the Entire Company to Win the Gold Medal

People, goods, and money are often collectively referred to as corporate governance. It is said that a company fights through the power of corporate governance. I believe that at PayPay, we need to fight by playing on all of our “strengths,” be it the power of the product, sales, funds, or governance.

So who are we fighting against? Well, cash.

Cash is a pretty tough opponent to play against. Cash has a long, domineering history that spans hundreds to thousands of years. That is what we are up against. So we have to mobilize all our strengths from product, sales, assets, and governance. In that sense, what we have to do is clear and straightforward.

So the Corporate Group handling people, goods, and money must have the mentality to keep up with the fast pace of the business. Each player needs to bring their A-game if they want to win the gold medal, much like in mixed martial arts.

I’ve heard that the English word “company” is derived from the word “one who eats bread together.” Similarly, a Japanese saying goes, “We all eat from the same pot.” So, each of us must make the same effort to win as a team when working in a company.

So you see, although the Corporate Group acts as the back office, we are entirely in sync in spirit with our fellow colleagues of the sales team fighting on the front lines.

From the World of Finance to PayPay

Ending up in PayPay after a long career in Finance since graduating college

It’s been a long road… (Laughs).

After graduating from university in 1986, I joined a bank as a new graduate and experienced working overseas and in sales. When the bubble economy burst in 1998, the bank was placed under public control. I returned from Germany and worked in retail banking. I set up a call center, then worked on the mass market. In 1999, SoftBank became a shareholder, and it got me thinking about what can be done as a non-bank. So I launched Netrust, an online payment company, as an in-house business venture. Yahoo became the parent company in 2002, and I’ve been involved in payment finance ever since before landing in PayPay.

Setting his heart on PayPay while another project was about to launch

But to be honest, I initially turned down the offer.

At the time, I was in charge of a joint venture project with a certain company, and we were at a turning point in the project, whether it would launch or not.

Given my position on the project, I knew it would be tough if I left. Besides, I also wanted to see the project through until it properly took off. After all, it was something I got involved with in the first place.

So given the circumstances, I declined, saying, “I really appreciate the offer, but it would be terrible if I don’t stick with the other project.” I was being sincere.

Then, after Golden Week, I was approached again.
“We just can’t find anyone else…”
“Really, no one?” And so I was told,
“Sode-san, you just got to set your heart on doing this.” I didn’t want to come off any more of a sissy by continuing to refuse.

So, I braced myself and decided to go for it. But at that point I knew I had less than a month to go.

From  “Sir, that’s out of the question!” to establishing PayPay in one month

I was told to create a company on June 1.
So I was like, “Oh no, anything but that. Sir, that’s completely out of the question!” That’s how the conversation went (laughs).

Nonetheless, I braced myself for the worst and hassled and set up the company on June 15, practically in only one month.

Connecting the dots, unable to make an organic move

The company was established, but we hadn’t connected the dots yet.
There were folks from SoftBank, Yahoo, and Paytm. And none of them were connected with each other. Most of them didn’t even know who the president was. So I was desperately trying to unite all of them.

What’s more, I was first told that it would be a sales company, so I thought in earnest that about 20 people would be enough for the corporate department.

It’s not my nature to spend a lot of money, so I was stingy and worried about spending too much. I thought it would be okay to rent an office at Yahoo, but somewhere along the line, someone announced, “Hey, we’ll be renting from WeWork!” They sure kept me on my toes (laughs).

The beginning was an era of secondees: Recruitment started in 2019

From there, there was a period of most employees being secondees. But we started recruiting as PayPay in 2019. I believed there was no way the company could grow without hiring its own people.
The biggest key to business growth is people, human resources, right?
If that were the case, I thought we needed to gather people who see the potential in PayPay’s business and be in it together.
So I started recruiting actively.

The company was still in such an early stage when I set my mind on hiring. We’d just run a massive campaign in December 2018 and had to shut down the overloaded systems.

A Message to Future PayPay Buddies!

We have a set of values and organizational culture that we cherish at PayPay called PayPay 5 Senses. Among the 5 Senses, I believe the most important one is “Believes in our PRODUCT & TEAM. Enjoy growing together and believe in our product, our teams and that we will be the number one FinTech company in the world.” I welcome kindred spirits willing to compete with cash.

Apart from having the skills and experience, the most significant asset is determination. In other words, you are of no use if your heart is not in it, regardless of how good you are.

What we are looking for in our employees is a team player in, say, mixed martial arts and have the gumption to go for the gold medal.

Editor’s note:
I’ve always had absolute trust in our boss, Sode-san. He is always cool-headed, calm, and reliable. But I was amazed by the episodes that followed once he set his heart to setting up the company. Despite initially turning the offer down due to his wish to commit to a different project on the brink of takeoff, he was given a second one. Then he followed through with consistency to establish a company in a quick turn of events… Hats off to our boss. “Sir, that’s out of the question!”

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Author/Editor: Az (PayPay Inside-Out Editorial Team) / Photo: Tak / Translator: Philline / Translation Editor: Justin
*Employees’ affiliations and other information are those of the time of the interview.