The Innovators 2020: Central And Eastern Europe

Sberbank is combining automation, AI and data analytics to create a “smart ecosystem,” while Asseco delivers a new level of customer insight.

Customer experience comes first, regardless of industry. For companies that want to ensure sustainable growth—all of them, presumably—the speed, convenience and quality of the services they offer form their main competitive advantage, says Anatoly Popov, deputy chairman of Sberbank, this year’s Most Innovative Bank in Central and Eastern Europe.

To get there, businesses of all sizes and profiles need to digitize and automate their processes and customer interactions, and their banks need to take the role of reliable partner, guiding their clients into a world of new solutions and technologies. “Very soon,” says Popov, “there will be no room for hard-copy document flow, as all operations should be available to bank customers remotely in any channel they currently find convenient, be it a desktop or a mobile application.

Sberbank has been pushing to provide customers with more of these choices every year. “Today, sole proprietors can enjoy a fully remote account-opening option,” says Popov, “while for customers working with large volumes of cash, we’ve rolled out an entire online platform for remote control of the collection and self-collection processes.”

Payment-processing innovation and artificial intelligence are also major trends in Central and Eastern Europe. “We’re confident that combined with Big Data, this will lead to the creation of new services in managing liquidity and financial flows that customers and banks will be able to enjoy in the coming years,” says Popov. “Even today, with the help of the SberPay for Business platform, payments within Sberbank are available 24/7.”

Sberbank’s corporate customers have access to an AI-based online commission-calculation tool and business-to-business settlement instruments. “We believe that this area will see a revolution in Russia in the coming years,” Popov predicts. “B2B settlements should be as instant and simple as business-to-consumer ones. Very soon, paying a partner back will be as easy as buying a cup of Starbucks coffee or paying for the cab. Here, technologies from the B2C world come to the rescue, such as direct debit, subscription models and many more options we are already actively offering our customers as additional services.”

Popov expects smart assistants and voice control to increasingly replace traditional models of interaction with customers. AI and natural language processing (NLP) technologies will either replace human advisers or, in some cases, augment the adviser’s service. “We actively apply this approach in different areas of the bank’s operations,” says Popov. “This year, for example, a smart chatbot has been launched on Sberbank Markets, an online foreign-exchange trading system.”

With growing expertise in numerical data analytics, Popov believes now it is time for banks to leverage content including voice, images and texts to achieve a deeper understanding of information and, as a result, better client profiling and product offerings. Fintechs are stepping up to help.

Case in point is Asseco, this year’s Most Innovative Fintech in the CEE region, which has developed a solution that predicts customer behavior. Asseco Customer Intelligence gathers both transactional and behavioral data and with the help of machine learning and AI, helping banks develop products that better match customer needs. Asseco also earned recognition this year’s for its corporate finance innovations.

“Financial institutions are undoubtedly turning into smart ecosystems that successfully work with technology startups,” says Popov. By creating open platforms, banks can deeply integrate partner services, he says. Sberbank has six groups of APIs for developers, and as a result, Popov says, “customers enjoy convenience without noticing how they switch between the usual online banking environment and partner services, as well as cutting the number of actions for payments and other operations to a minimum.”