Q&A With Tinkoff Bank VP Maxim Evdokimov

Advanced technologies help banks be competitive and retain customers. Maxim Evdokimov, vice president of Russia’s Tinkoff Bank, a digital leader that took several regional awards, explains how technology and lifestyle banking will drive the industry.

Global Finance: How do you ensure superior customer service?

Maxim Evdokimov: Ever since its inception, Tinkoff Bank has been running a branchless model, serving its customers through remote channels only. This is a common practice today, but when we started back in 2007 there was a significant amount of distrust and suspicion in the market. Many experts from traditional banks were skeptical about the eagerness of people to confine their interactions with a bank to online and mobile channels only. Our state-of-the-art customer service was critical in helping us to break these stereotypes. Once a customer tests a top-notch online banking service, they never want to go back to a branch.

In 2018, the online model is gaining traction even among the traditional high street banks, and many peer banks are seeking to develop their own digital capabilities.

GF: How do you deploy technology?

Evdokimov: In modern banking, the role of technology is crucial. Tinkoff Bank is less of a traditional bank and more of an IT company with a banking licence. Over 70% of our HQ staff are IT professionals rather than bankers. The pace of technological advancement is so fast, though, that it is often difficult to predict the evolution of any given solution.

To test the efficiency of our solutions, we use a “test and learn” approach. If the innovation proves successful, we roll it out, scale it up and make it available to all our customers. For example, we recently switched to our in-house voice-biometrics technology, as it turned out to be significantly more efficient than similar products available in the market.

GF: What role can data analytics play in helping banks serve customers?

Evdokimov: You need to have a deep understanding of your customers to fully satisfy their needs. Surprisingly enough, many people do not realize themselves what they really want. This is why analysis and big data often prove to be more efficient tools than surveys and focus groups. Understanding customer behavior and their patterns for using banking and other related products helps us identify their unmet needs and suggest new solutions.

GF: Why is social media important to consumer banking and how do you devise a successful strategy?

Evdokimov: Social media is a powerful customer communication tool. People spend a lot of time staying in contact with a select circle of co-workers and friends on social media—and brands too can be part of this context. This comes as a great opportunity to increase loyalty, build trust and attract new customers.

Our SMM [social media marketing] strategy sees customer acquisition and financial literacy as its top priority. All our platforms are highly customer-focused and are designed to fully meet the customer needs. We have a dedicated SMM team, which works 24/7 in social media servicing our customers.

We engage the best customer-service employees, who meet strict internal criteria to work with our customers on social media and deal with a variety of tasks—ranging from the online content management (we write a lot about financial literacy and give advice on the use of banking instruments) to the provision of quick and top-notch customer services.

GF: How can banking as a service meet the evolving digital needs of your customers?

Evdokimov: A new era of banking is coming, and it will rely heavily on ecosystems built around banks not only to address customers’ financial needs, but also to offer a variety of complementary lifestyle services. Basically, there are two types of transactions people make: 1) commodity transactions (or obligatory ones), such as paying bills, transport, food, etc., and 2) lifestyle transactions, or value-added transactions (non-obligatory ones), such as traveling, entertainment, investing, etc.

We try to make the commodity transactions as easy, seamless and automated as possible and offer our customers a variety of options to make lifestyle transactions. This is the kind of ecosystem that we are building at Tinkoff. In addition to banking, we offer insurance, retail stock-trading products, air tickets, reservations at restaurants, concert tickets, etc. The elements of our ecosystem are closely interlinked and perfectly complement each other, with the synergies helping the customer stay fully immersed in the ecosystem.