One of Russia’s top providers of digital corporate banking solutions, Sberbank created a comprehensive business banking ecosystem driven by AI and big data. Anna Loevskaya, Sberbank’s Director of Digital Corporate Banking, discusses the bank’s strategy for rising digital demand, self-service digital UX, and omnichannel integration, and how Russia’s largest bank is fast becoming one of its leading tech innovators.
Global Finance: What are the competitive advantages of Sberbank’s digital corporate platform?
Anna Loevskaya: Sberbank Business Online is one of the largest digital banking services for business in Russia with nearly 3 million clients. Launched in 2010, it’s evolved into a multifunctional toolkit that business owners rely on for solutions at every stage of the business cycle.
This past year, Sberbank launched a new technology platform that expanded banking and non-banking services for corporate clients and provided seamless navigation to Sberbank Ecosystem services. We are integrating state-of-the-art technologies in all products and processes, and SberBusiness – our online and mobile app – is the key channel for corporate customers. Nearly 80% of corporate banking products are online, and our clients have access to our huge banking ecosystem through the SberBusinessID solution. We’ve redesigned the online corporate banking experience as a proactive, fully self-service system. Thanks to AI, our loan processes are now completely online and loan deposit time is reduced to 2-7 minutes.
GF: How did COVID-19 impact Sberbank’s digital business strategy?
AL: Sberbank faces new business challenges every year, but this year COVID-19 presented us – and the world – with a completely new reality. We had to revise our strategies and plans, as corporate clients needed digital channels to work with banks. Even with our IT units working from home, we had to work faster to meet the rapidly increasing digital demand from corporate clients.
In a matter of days, we extended help to Russian businesses, offering as many high-speed, effective, and affordable digital services as possible. No papers, no visits to the bank, no complicated scenarios.
With the lockdown in Russia, thousands of businesses were struggling financially, particularly those relying on offline sales, such as the retail, service, and food & drink industries. When the government launched financial assistance programs, we were among the first to support them. As a result, 62% of all applications for the government’s “at 2%” program was submitted via SberBusiness, and we had 87% of applications for the Paycheck Protection Program. Our online loans grew to 90% under the “at 2%” program and reached 80% under the Paycheck Protection.
Since the start of the pandemic, Sberbank has broken records for online and mobile app traffic as we add digital services, peaking with 2.1 million visitors to the SberBusiness website on April 30, 2020. Monthly active users now reach 2.3 million, 300,000 more than in 2019, and our mobile app saw 972,000 MAU, up by 20% year-to-date.
GF: How is Sberbank innovating customer service for digital business clients?
AL: Our corporate digital banking platform is designed as a self-service system. But no matter how simple and intuitive our digital system is, we know customers need support and want solutions as quickly as possible.
Last year, Sberbank introduced a new smart “Help” section based on AI and customer data. The “Help” page is a smart wiki portal, customized to each user’s interaction with the system. A video-tutorial library has guides to the most popular functions, including a tutorial teaching new customers how to use the digital banking system. Smart hints were added for functions users most frequently need help with. We also introduced proactive pop-up hints during user sessions that point to the “Help’ section and educate clients on alternative self-service solutions.
The “Help” section is a platform solution, synchronized and aligned with our other support channels, so call-center operators have the same knowledge base and provide clients with consistent information. Around 25% of Sberbank Business Online users have used “Help” and we actively promote the “Help” function to increase usage. On average, customers use “Help” for 2.5 minutes compared to 8 minutes with call centers. More than 60% of users who visit “Help” don’t need additional call-center support. In one year, our self-service “Help” system increased our Client Satisfaction Index (CSI) metric to 77.7 from 68.7.
Today, the Sberbank Business Online “Help” section is one of the most detailed and comprehensive digital banking tools in Russia. We expect our self-service approach to lower call-center demand by up to 20% by the end of 2022.
GF: Does Sberbank have omnichannel banking for corporate customers?
AL: Not yet, but we are developing cross-channel-products and omnichannel processes. Right now, everything customers need to run their businesses is available online from desktops and from their mobile phones. The features and services on our web platform are slightly different from the mobile app – this is by design based on customer demand. We found most users of the online bank are primarily business advisors, such as accountants, HR services, loan specialists, and financial managers, while users of the mobile app are mainly business owners and executives. That said, we are constantly expanding the functionality of our mobile app so our customers can use it instead of the website.
GF: Could Sberbank corporate banking be a mobile-only service?
AL: Sberbank will continue to offer business clients a perfect mix of both web and mobile banking. A mobile-only UX is good when customers need to make purchases or payments or surf between services. But the web version is better for complicated business processes, such as toll payments, cargo transfers, and development. Currently, the reach rate of mobile-only users is approximately 46%, so almost half of our mobile-app clients still use our web bank version. We expect this number will change as we add mobile app features.
GF: What’s next for Sberbank’s digital corporate banking platform?
AL: In our new digital era, all companies want to give their customers an ultimately seamless experience and, as a result, need to digitize and automate their own processes. To help our customers meet this goal, Sberbank is rapidly building its digital business ecosystem and launching new digital services with no branch visits, rapid payments & transfers, and 24-hour customer support.
New products, like SberBusinessAPI and SberBusinessID, meet all business needs and provide the best possible customer experience. Today, we have more than 140 products and services for business clients: from education for aspiring entrepreneurs to advanced services for managing and growing your business. Going into 2021, we are focused on developing our distribution capabilities, omnichannel integration between platforms, deep integration of non-financial services, voice control, and embedding AI in all processes.