The personal touch
Anna Loevskaya, managing director of digital corporate bank, Sberbank of Russia – winner of the Top Digital Innovation and Best Use Of IT In Corporate Banking awards – talks to FinTech Futures about the bank’s reinvented approach towards corporate digital banking and the role of content in selling software-as-a-service (SaaS).
Ten years ago, Sberbank launched its first digital corporate bank. Since that time the system has changed only once and became one of the most popular and well-known corporate banking apps in Russia.
Its share of the market is about 40%, and almost 90% of its clients represent the small-medium enterprise (SME) segment. In 2018, Sberbank Business Online won the title of the best digital corporate bank in Central and Eastern Europe (Global Finance award) for its variety of functions, online services and features. In 2019 it was relaunched. As it stands, almost 2.5 million companies are using it in their routine operations and business daily activities.
Congratulations on winning two awards! One of the wins was for the best use of IT in corporate banking for your unique API, tailored for building a digital ecosystem for your corporate clients. How did the previous version compare to the update?
The previous version was quite ok in terms of functionality it provided. But if you asked whether it was good as a daily-use service, the answer would be obvious: definitely not. The system became too large, too slow, too complicated. One more problem was that it couldn’t sell anything except core banking products such as loans, deposits and so on. That’s why we decided to make a decisive step forward to change our approach.
Given that the previous version wasn’t perfect, why did you not conduct a complete overhaul? Did you conduct any research showing what direction to take for the change and how long did it take to complete?
We’ve realised that such a radical renovation could make our clients feel uncomfortable. Just imagine that our clients make nearly 2.5 million transactions per day. Our system is one of the most highly loaded in its class. That’s why we created our own division of CX-research. They conducted a very extensive level of research, which involved proof checking every important decision, every control and every major design change. Thanks to that, the relaunch was very fast and painless. In six months, we invented, designed and launched the new digital corporate bank; in four months we switched all our clients to the new system.
What is the most significant change for the new version of your online bank?
To make sure that all the necessary services are available in our online bank, we used a mixed approach: we developed services inside Sberbank group and brought external companies into our marketplace.
Speaking of the latter, we selected the best fintech partners providing online services for enterprises and offered them an opportunity to join our ecosystem based on Sberbank Business Online technological platform. To do that, we invented our own fintech API solution. It is the most advanced ecosystem API in Russia. The number of product methods, the speed of technical components, the number of integrated products and services and the number of customers, using the capabilities, are unique for our country.
Bank clients using traditional banking services and new ecosystem services now enjoy an identical client path when working with a variety of products, unified standards of service and advanced features due to the synergy of ecosystem members.
To date, more than 1.5 million technical requests are processed daily using fintech API capabilities, and more than 50,000 unique clients use products and services integrated through the fintech API on a daily basis. Thanks to our API solution, we have already switched 42 partners’ services and 20 integration methods.
You also won the award for top digital innovation. What did the Bank of Business Partners do, in your view, that captured the judge’s attention and differentiated you from your competitors?
The idea was to give users something better than the usual tool for transferring money, paying taxes and looking through more than 60 services in the standard catalogue. We’d studied best practices, spent enough time on researching global trends and finally decided to offer our clients some interesting content in the format of ‘Stories’ (the feature popular social networks use a lot today). It looks like Instagram inside a digital corporate bank. The difference is that it’s all about business: how to make money, how to grow your income, how to develop your company or idea into something big and so on.
In our Stories we use short videos to tell users interesting hacks and tricks they have never known, share news highlights and even greet them with upcoming national holidays. These Stories make a personal impact: they are targeted with the help of AI, which calculates if it’s the right moment to expose a story to a user. How to earn and how to spend? How to hire new staff? How to enable one of our services? As a result, our sales have grown at least twice. Approximately one million companies have enabled our online services.
Can you highlight any specific innovative features of your product?
The new Sberbank Business Online tool isn’t only about the sales and content. The innovative technological platform lets us drive breakthrough changes. We were the first here in Russia to present such features like: a dynamic main menu with a customisation mode; an interactive tutorial; QR-pay; quick B2B payment services and so on. Our digital bank fits your needs, whether you own a large corporation or a small family business. You can complete almost any task there, from getting a loan online, to building your own internet site and promoting it online.
If you are facing some serious loss or risk, the bank will warn you in a smart and timely way. You can get everything you need to make your own flower shop digital, switch to an online customer relationship management (CRM) system, enable subscription for online bidding abroad, make escrow payments and order salary or business plastic cards online, without leaving the corporate bank. If you’re stuck for a moment, doubting what to do to complete the task, you’ll see a pop-up tooltip or a special “how-to” story, explaining how to complete it. Every time you need it, our virtual and real assistants in online chat are ready to help. That’s what we call “comprehensive support”. The point is that all digital corporate banks have much in common. We want to offer our clients something truly innovative and comfortable – an online space, where they can feel our care and personal touch.
This article is also featured in the February 2020 issue of the Banking Technology magazine.
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