The next step in evolution came about 5 years ago, and that was the development of the bank business. It's now legally a separate company. We call it Prudential Gibraltar Financial. It is operated as part of, from a reporting perspective, as part of Gibraltar. But it's operated as a separate company, run by Tanigawa-san, who will speak to you this morning.
Now Tanigawa-san came from POJ. He was a Life Planner, a very successful one. He became a sales manager, an agency manager and then a regional sales vice president. So all of those principles of quality, of differentiation by being focused on having the best people of delivering service, not being dependent on price, he carried that over into the bank channel. The very first challenge there was how to catch up with companies that had been spending the last 5 years building banking relationships selling variable annuities, which we had abstained from doing because of their focus on profitability. And what he was able to do was to craft a value proposition that said, "We won't then send you just a product. We'll send you a product, and we'll send you a person. And that person will actually be a former POJ Life Planner, and among the very best in the industry."
And as a result of that, he was able to create a relationship with the #1 mega-bank in Japan, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, which at that point was representing virtually 100% of the sales. Even today, it has grown to the point where it's still 50% of the sales. One of the principles that, that emphasizes is we focus more on the quality and getting the penetration so we get the profitability, as opposed to having large numbers. Yes, do we want more banks? Sure, and that's growing. But having a quality relationship is a foundation to build upon profitably. Then the numbers will follow. So some of those same principles of how do we design a value proposition that's truly different and better, that's based not on price leadership, even in third party, where price or commissions or interest rates frequently drive the discussion and are the foundation of value proposition. Do we have to pay attention to that? Absolutely. We have to be in the game. But you will see in here, as you have already, details that show that's not the basis on which we compete. The fact that our regional founder was an actuary is not lost on the organization. The focus has always been to not be distracted or seduced by growth in the top line but see it rather more as a driver to get to growth in the bottom line. In a captive agency system, that can be controlled. In a the third-party system, that can be tougher to accomplish, but with the proper focus with the right value proposition, very doable. And even more recently, this has come about with an independent agent channel. Some of you will have noticed that we had started that just before we did the acquisition, which was ironic timing. We had just started a small independent agency channel. But there again, the value proposition was quite different. In an industry known for competing based on paying a higher commission, we stayed away from that. And the need -- the initial contacting conversation is focused around what is the vision that this independent agency has, and does it line up with what we have in mind? And to the extent that they want to focus on training and educating so that they can deal with the more complex products and a more challenging marketplace, then we have a basis for working. You will notice that we inherited 4,000 or 5,000 of these relationships. Today, that number is smaller. The number of bank relationships we inherited is smaller. The number of life consultants we acquired is smaller. That's because, just as with POJ, our initial focus is always going to be on quality. If we can get that foundation correct, then we are confident that over time, the numbers will come, but with a foundation that's based on profitability and a value proposition that's sustained.
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