Sber at Sibos: beyond banking to technology


Sber expects the banks of the future to be built on a multimodal architecture using voice, touch, gestures and computer vision interchangeably for an incredible user experience.

Few bankers openly admit that banks are “strange organizations,” let alone add “proud to be,” but few think of banking like David Rafalovsky, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Sber.

In fact, the executives of Sber, formerly Sberbank, Russia’s oldest and largest bank with over 100 million customers and 3 million corporate customers, would rather you didn’t even call it a bank. “We are an e-commerce company,” Rafalovsky insisted this week at the Sibos annual conference.

Instead of talking about transactions, personal loans and mortgages, the traditional types of banking services provided by most banks, including Sber, Rafalovsky talked about his three virtual assistants, who look and behave alike. same way on all channels of the bank and can follow and help. customers with difficult transactions, like recommending a soundtrack to buy if they’re watching a movie.

“It’s a different way of thinking about how to help customers make choices,” he noted, in a small group conversation with Wired UK’s founding editor-in-chief David Rowan. .

It doesn’t stop at the bank. Sber has built its own cloud-based platform, SberCloud; an autonomous car called FLIP, which she describes as the taxi of the future; and SberMarket, which helps customers find jobs, order food, access healthcare, send a package, or order a ride. It’s all part of the bank’s continued reinvention as a technology services company. Around the same time last year, he was talking about his “robot lawyer,” an AI system to verify a company’s legal status and associated risk elements, and gimmicks like SberBox, a TV streaming device; and SberPortal, a smart speaker voice recognition system with display. His virtual assistants compare themselves to Siri and Alexa.

The development of such non-bank or bank-adjacent services puts Sber in direct competition with deep-pocketed tech companies like Apple, Deliveroo, Tesla and Uber. But Rafalovsky believes that the (old) bank doesn’t really have a choice: “We have to face everyone. It’s a question of survival. “

“Name me a very profitable European banking institution,” he told Sibos. “You would be hard pressed. Pure banking is a very difficult business to keep making money. We don’t see it continuing in the same form as in the past. “

One need only look at the rise of integrated finance – companies integrating financial services (credit, payments, loans, insurance) into applications or product offerings as those services are consumed – to realize that services banking and transaction services become public services. “It is not enough to have a banking app,” Rafalovsky commented. ” You have to give [the customer] something on an emotional level. While the advisory and service part of financial services will survive, transactional activity will become a commodity. “

Rafalovsky expects the banks of the future to be built on a multimodal architecture, interchangeably using voice, touch, gestures and computer vision to deliver an incredible user experience. “We want the emotional attachment between the product and the customer to be with us,” he explained. “This is why we have invested in a family of virtual assistants. “

Over the next five years, virtual assistants could take on an even more comprehensive, hologram-like form, he said, that clients could “trust, stroke and interact with.” He expects the man to rely more on “a lot more assistance from various devices.”

Such a future raises important questions about data privacy and security, which Sber will leave to the market. “Each customer will decide how much data they provide to us based on the value and usefulness we give them,” Rafalovsky said. “If, as an industry, we keep inventing useful services, and in return we ask for a little more data, customers will be ready to provide us with more personal data.

So how did Sber turn into a tech company in such a short time? At the end of the day, it’s a matter of corporate culture. “We don’t have a separation between IT and business. IT is business, ”Rafalovsky explained. “We didn’t call ourselves a tech company and didn’t do anything. We build the technology.

“And our engineers are very happy to be in this environment,” he added.

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