Interview with PayPay Leaders is a series of interviews with PayPay’s top executives showcasing their personalities and perspectives. This time, we invited Hiroshi Okada, CIO and Division Head of the System Division.
CIO & Division Head of System Division
He joined PayPay in 2019 after working as a development engineer for business systems, founding a web application development company, and heading the IT department of a mobile gaming company. He was appointed as PayPay’s CIO in April 2022. His goal is to link IT and business management in order to build the world’s best digital workplace.
Mindset as PayPay’s CIO (Chief Information Officer)
I became the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in April 2022 and later became Division Head of the System Division on August 1, 2022. I engage in my daily work with the personal mission to “contribute to the growth of the company by connecting IT and business management.”
Creating a Cloud-Native Environment in Less than a Year
In my opinion, there are different stages to corporate growth: the phase from 0 to 1 is about the product, 1 to 10 is business, and for 10 to 100, the growth of corporate functions becomes crucial. When I joined the company three years ago, PayPay was already closing in on 10 million users in less than a year after the service was launched and there were a couple hundred employees. Normally, the phases I mentioned requires a few years each of growth. But PayPay skipped that and succeeded in achieving a near-vertical growth rate, so before I joined the company I was wondering as an outsider how on earth they were running their internal operations, systems, and security measures.
When I joined the company in October 2019, I found that there were still many inefficient operations relying on manual work across the board, without the various systems and mechanisms that a company of equal size would have in place. There were many mistakes, much confusion, and exhaustion.
Immediately after joining PayPay, we drew up an exhaustive six-month roadmap for the core corporate systems, such as the HR and internal approvals systems, as well as the IT infrastructure including authentication infrastructure, device management, security measures, and office network. Based on that, we rapidly developed the IT environment to match the equally rapid expansion of the organization.
Shortly afterwards, in March 2020, a state of emergency was declared, and PayPay began restricting its employees from coming to the office. The company switched from a work style based on coming to the office to one based on telecommuting (the WFA system which started in September 2020). Fortunately, we had already completed creating a full cloud IT environment at that point, so the transition to fully remote operations went smoothly with little confusion in the company.
CIO & CISO: Relationship Between the Two Teams
The smooth development of such an environment was made possible by Kato-san, our CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), who heads our security. Our job on the systems side is to develop new systems, introduce new tools, build IT environments, and take on other hands-on tasks. On the other hand, the CISO decides our security policy. There is a nice separation of roles between decision-making and execution, so it’s great we don’t have to worry about making judgment calls. Some companies have one person taking on both the security and systems roles, but by separating the two in PayPay, we are able to speedily and reasonably move forward.
What We’re Aiming to Become
PayPay’s organization and business are growing rapidly, and as CIO, I want to build a top-notch IT environment, communication environment, and establish business operations that can compete with the best tech companies in the world—all this without slowing down our decision-making speed.
I want us to become an organization where even if PayPay has 20,000 or 100,000 employees, we can work without losing this swiftness.
About the New System Division Established in August
- Development and management of corporate systems (human resources, accounting, internal approvals)
- Development and management of business systems (sales management, screening operations, management operations, etc.)
- Establishment and management of a company-wide data analysis infrastructure
- Operation of anti-fraud systems
- IT governance maintenance, support of various audits, IT cost control
Creation of a New Division to Accelerate Operations
Previously, the team served as the Enterprise Engineering Department. But as of August 1, 2022, we made a new start as the System Division.
The background to this is, as the company’s overall size has grown, requests for the development of new systems from various departments have increased significantly. So by creating new departments for operations that meet the company’s current situation, we are improving the speed of operations and decision-making.
As a company grows, the tendency for sectionalism also grows, causing barriers between departments or hindering communication between management and the teams on the ground. The key to success is how to solve these problems with technology and structure. I might quit my job when people start saying that our system is the absolute best in the world (laughs). Jokes aside, but if that happens, I will probably feel that I’m done with my role. Of course, we are only halfway there.
Accelerate PayPay’s Business Speed Through Systems
I think generally, people have the impression that as a company or the organizations it comprises grows, operations slow down. But being in charge of managing the internal systems of PayPay, which has 50 million users, we need to be able to work super quickly even as the company grows. I try to be as ingenuous as possible and proceed through trial-and-error.
For example, the identity verification (eKYC) screening system was one significant project in the past six months. Before the project*, identity verification was a complicated process for users. They had to take a photo of their driver’s license and a selfie. Now, though, it takes only a few minutes to complete the screening process by scanning the IC chip on the driver’s license or My Number Card. We created a screening system behind a series of processes in which the data of a user’s ID scanned by their smartphone is reviewed and approved. It used to take several days for the screening to be completed, but we were able to greatly reduce that.
*You can learn a little more about the project in this article.
In addition, the System Division is responsible for monitoring fraudulent transactions, as well as the backend systems for monitoring, together with the Anti-Financial Crime Office that is in charge of anti-fraud measures. You may have noticed, but from streamlining operations in administrative departments, such as human resources and accounting, to developing apps and systems behind the scenes of our business, our division takes on quite a wide range of work. It’s quite difficult to bring the different departments together because what one is doing is completely different from the other, but we are working together with all teams to systematize the work so that operations can run smoothly.
Organizational Theory as Division Head
I believe that team building is all about communication. When you are focused on your own work and tasks, it is easy to lose sight of how others think while working. I have experience developing as a programmer and running my own company, so I have some idea of the mindset of each employee on the engineering, sales, and corporate side. So when I lead an organization, I try to be the middleman and “interpret” a little to convey the message between each organization.
What I think is unique to PayPay is that it brings together people from a broad variety of backgrounds, including our powerful sales team in which folks from SoftBank are also present, and development engineers from around the world who belong mainly to the product-related divisions. Regarding collaboration between IT and management, or between various teams and the System Division, I can draw on my experience of studying at an overseas business school after quitting the company I joined after graduating university. After going abroad, I came to believe that nationality and language do not matter at all if you are excellent at what you do, and I think I am able to see things as they are, without bias or preconceptions.
How do we arrive at a solution which satisfies both what “they” want and what “we” want? It’s not that we’re looking in opposite directions. As a company we are all looking in the same direction, so I try to change the way we “hold hands” or change our methods. I try to find a point where we can all agree upon by going up or down or sideways, or something like that.
For Those Who Want to Join PayPay
No Need to Be Polished, Those Who Learn from Their Mistakes Are Strong
I think there are many things that can go wrong or unexpected in the real world. In fact, I myself failed with my own company. However, failure is not a problem at all. It is actually extremely important to know how to rise above it and make the most of it the next time. Rather than people who have experienced spectacular achievements or successful projects, I would like to see people who’ve experienced major setbacks or insurmountable challenges and have learned important lessons from them.
When I make the final decision on whether to hire someone, I always ask myself, “Can I trust this person with my keys?” If it turns out that I shouldn’t have, that just means I wasn’t a good judge of character! I take full responsibility for that. Do I trust the current members? Of course I do.
Be Sincere to Be Professional—What I Like about PayPay
As for welcoming new members to the System Division, I would like a person who can empathize with the PayPay 5 Senses to join us. Personally, I like the phrases “Be Sincere to Be Professional” and “Be sincere and work as a professional without making any compromise. Create new opportunities and values. Go through till the end.”
Surprisingly, there are a lot of diligent people at PayPay. Before I joined the company, I was afraid that there might be conflicts, confrontations between departments, or organizational barriers because there are people from various countries and backgrounds. But there was nothing like that, and I found people to be frank with each other. Because many of our employees are like that, when we ask folks to do something for us, even when they are busy many of them are ready to cooperate. That’s another aspect I like about PayPay. We have many types of members, but they are all at the core honest and professional. I would say “Be Sincere to Be Professional” is the most accurate description of PayPay employees.
Okada-san showed up for the interview looking breezy in his brand new Oasis T-shirt. He loves working out, playing games, and Oasis, and was most recently in a social network gaming company. He was comfortable at his previous job and was not proactive about switching companies, but with the encouragement of the words, “Let’s build Yahoo! again,” he went to PayPay. Having witnessed up close and personal a major turning point in the history of Japan’s internet industry, he was convinced that the fintech area was next and thought, “I have no choice but to go there.” At PayPay we are blessed with a timely leader heading the internal business system development to support new financial services.
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Special Thanks: Hiroshi Okada / Editor: Kona（PayPay Inside-Out Editorial Team）/ Photographer: Hinako&Mina / Translator: Justin / Translation Editor: Kye
*Employees’ affiliations are as of the time of the interview.