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Far Eastern Sberbank: to the region and to the people

Chairman of the Far Eastern Sberbank Andrey Cherkashin on the specifics of banking in the Far East, the challenges of the pandemic, and the financial behavior of the Far East.

Far Eastern Sberbank: to the region and to the people
Photo: EastRussia

- Andrey Alexandrovich, a year has passed since you have been the chairman of the Far Eastern Savings Bank. What during this time has become key for you, what for the bank, and what, perhaps, for the entire region?

- Thanks for the question. I have been here for about 10 months and the whole Far East is new to me, so the main thing that happened to me during this time is that I got to know all the regions. I visited our Far Eastern regions several times, met with our employees, clients, and regional leaders. We started cooperation at a new level. This is the first thing.

Second, the VI Eastern Economic Forum was held this year. We signed several agreements, agreed on new projects. The Forum is always a big bright event. It was the first VEF for me, so it left a special mark on my memory.

The third big change that is going on throughout the country and here in the Far East is the transformation of the Sberbank branch network. We have opened several offices this year, and there will be several more branches before the end of the year.

12 offices of a new format have been opened in the Far East today, 4 of them will soon appear in Kraskino, Novoshakhtinsky, Tungur, Shebunino.

By the end of the year, small offices will be launched in the village. Sobolevo and Rybachy in Kamchatka. Full-fledged offices by the end of 2021, branches will open in Blagoveshchensk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Nakhodka, Ussuriisk, Magadan and Elizovo.

An office of a new format is a place where you can not only receive financial services, but also immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Sberbank ecosystem, learn about the benefits products and services. They represent the SberDevices zone, the SberLogistics zone, there are fitting rooms, ATMs resembling smartphones with a system face recognition, etc.

- What point became the farthest in your trips or the most exotic?

- I visited Chukotka and this is our farthest region. There I visited our clients who are engaged in reindeer husbandry. Never been to a place like this before! It was interesting to know how they live, how they manage the household.

If we talk about the south of the Far East, then I visited not only Vladivostok, but also Ussuriisk, and Nakhodka, besides this - in Birobidzhan, Blagoveshchensk, Magadan, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, in every region. And everywhere has its own peculiarity.

- You literally read my next question - "Have you been everywhere in the Far East", and what did you see? After all, they are very different. The Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East was even going to split them into four economic provinces, because the north has its own life, its own way of life, its own economy, there is the south, where there is more industry and more movement. What did you see? What inquiries did the regional authorities ask you?

- What are the common and what are the differences? The common thing here is huge spaces, almost every region, with the exception of the Amur Region, the Jewish Autonomy, Transbaikalia and Buryatia, has access to the sea. Accordingly, the tasks facing each subject are infrastructure, the development of those sectors of the economy that are determined by the location, the natural resources that the subject possesses. The common thing for everyone is the creation of comfortable living conditions, doing business for those who live here, for those who want to come here.

With each subject we move individually, in each subject due to the structure of the economy and its size - different tasks. We have done a lot of joint projects both in Khabarovsk and in Primorye, in almost every region.

All year long they ask me the question: "How do people differ here, how does business differ here?" It seemed to me that there are a lot of such enterprising, caring people here who are already doing business and are ready to open new business areas. And if we talk about residents, it seemed to me that there are independent, responsible people who are developing, and many are not going to leave anywhere. There are two categories here - someone came to work, and many live here and are going to continue to connect their lives with the Far East.

- Regions, for sure, often ask for money. What is Sberbank's interest in this? Let's give an example - just the last region you visited, what was the discussion, what was the project, what did the region want, what is the interest of Sberbank?

- Money is the blood of the economy. Although it is possible to implement many projects without money, but, as a rule, if we are talking about the creation of infrastructure, about the creation of new industries, about reconstruction, then money is required.

Of the latest interesting examples, one can say about the Khabarovsk Territory. We are now helping the region to make a digital development strategy, this task is relevant for all regions. For example, in the Jewish Autonomous Region, we will now help build a large school on a concession basis.

There are very different examples, in a wide variety of industries. Sber helps to find partners and partially finances the construction of schools and other socially significant facilities. These can be sports facilities, objects for cultural events, palaces of culture, and so on.

- You have already mentioned the people of the Far East - their character and entrepreneurial spirit. What about their financial behavior? How do they manage the funds?

- If we compare Sber's clients here in the Far East with other regions, they are more likely to take loans than, for example, in the central part of Russia. Here, many clients take out a mortgage, because families have not yet fully resolved their housing issue. From the point of view of costs, there are no big differences - the main share is accounted for by food, food is the largest category. Other daily necessities follow: these are clothes and everything connected with it. Well, part of the money, people, of course, save for the future for the implementation of some large purchases.

The volume of new consumer loans in the Far Eastern Bank is growing rapidly.

For 9 months of 2021, it increased by 34% and reached a volume of over 114 billion rubles.

For comparison, for the same period last year, it amounted to more than 85 billion rubles. 

The leaders in terms of growth rate are Primorye, Khabarovsk Territory and Sakhalin.

In 2021, clients began to invest 62% more money, than in the same period last year.

- What about investing? Sber offers its products. You said that people save money - is it some kind of conservative saving? Have an account with a fixed interest rate? Is it accumulative insurance? 

 - We are seeing serious changes here - if three years ago the lion's share of savings was in traditional deposits, now customers are increasingly using different options - this is accumulative insurance, and the purchase of shares, the purchase of bonds, including government. 

- One gets the feeling that this year is passing under the sign that some new Sberbank products are constantly being fired. Maybe not weekly, but monthly - for sure. SberStrakhovanie, SBER EAPTEKA, SberAvto. Do customers use this, or are you just occupying a niche for now, reserve it for the future?

- There is a product called SberPrime, which provides access to a wide range of our services. Now every day hundreds of customers become subscribers to this service.

The most massive of our relatively new services is SberMarket, which orders products at home and the order is made online. It seems to me that already, probably, every inhabitant here in Khabarovsk, in Primorye, in other regions has used it at least once.

The SBER EAPTEKA, which you mentioned, has appeared with us since September in Khabarovsk and in Primorye. There will be other regions next year as well.

We try to create and offer customers the products they need to meet their daily needs in various areas. Many of these services are now available online. There is no need to come to the office every time, clients really love it. Therefore, more and more residents of the Far East are taking advantage of opportunities that allow them, on the one hand, to save time, and on the other hand, to solve everyday tasks and problems.

- We are now talking with you literally at the exit from the lockdown, in some regions it continues. One of the most affected categories from the restrictions caused by the coronavirus infection are entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses. Did Sberbank somehow support them, help them stay afloat?

- Working with clients is our main business. We have been working with clients for 180 years and we are looking for solutions in every situation. The pandemic has created problems for everyone, but in past periods, clients who found themselves in difficult situations for objective reasons, we have always helped.

As for the past 2020, and the current year 2021, we were participants in all forms of state support and continue to be. These are loans for salaries, and subsidies from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Economic Development, and we have an interesting program with the Ministry for the Development of the Far East.

In addition, Sberbank has its own loan restructuring programs for our clients who are in a difficult situation. Moreover, both for entrepreneurs and individuals. Therefore, I can tell each client that there is no need to go somewhere in the shadows, it is necessary to indicate the difficulties that have arisen. We will individually find solutions with each client on how to resolve the situation. Without a client, there is no bank, so our task is to help both clients and society as a whole. 

During the pandemic in 2020 in the Far East, small and micro-business enterprises received more than 7 thousand loans worth 7,8 billion rubles, which were then written off due to state subsidies, provided that the client retained the number of employees in the organization.

In 2021, about 500 loans worth about 800 million rubles were issued to support and restore current activities to small and micro-businesses. as part of small business support programs. Now the next wave of this program has been launched, for which more than 600 applications have already been accepted.

- Maybe there is some data - it becomes less, more? Precisely from the entrepreneurial class?

- The number of clients is growing. But the scale of support over the past two years is also impressive. Last year, several billions were channeled in various directions to support small, medium and large businesses in the most important industries. And this is also continuing this year. Therefore, in addition to the fact that there are enterprising people here in the Far East, they also deal with risks very correctly - both thanks to their own actions, and thanks to the help of the state and Sberbank.

- How to deal with risks correctly?

- Anticipate. There are not always good times. You need to have a "safety cushion" or a margin of safety, make decisions in a timely manner on what costs can be waived, or transferred to the future.

Search for new forms of work: now the situation in 2020 and this year has accelerated the use of digital technologies, the provision of online services to customers in any industry. There is probably no such area left where it would be impossible to offer online services to customers or to do a combination of online and offline formats.

- A special case of a loan is a mortgage, and in particular, "Dalnevostochnaya". It seems that banks are now competing - initially it was issued at two percent, then offers were sent - at one percent, at 0,1%. What is the meaning of this? How does Sberbank behave in this regard? 

- What is the Far Eastern mortgage for? We see that the population outflow continues, and in order for clients to solve their housing issues here, and not somewhere in another region, the Far Eastern mortgage was invented. In order to help clients solve their housing issues, such preferential conditions have been created. Many people in the Far East like such programs, and moreover, now this program is extended to secondary housing in some regions. After all, unfortunately, not all regions build enough primary housing, and people need to decide their living conditions.

For 9 months of 2021, under the Far Eastern Mortgage program, Sberbank approved more than 5 thousand applications, Primorye, Khabarovsk Territory and Sakhalin are in the lead. The amount of disbursements under this program amounted to over 21 billion rubles.

In 2021, Far Eastern Sberbank issued more than 650 loans for all programs for individual housing construction, amounting to over 3 billion rubles. In general, for housing lending: more than 29 thousand mortgages in the amount of over 97 billion rubles. 

- Let's move from people, from our fellow countrymen from the Far East to large corporate concepts, which are still a novelty for many. Abbreviation ESG, it seems to me, have already heard everything at least once, but what is behind it, many perceive rather vaguely. It is "something good and something green." Sberbank was one of the first and quite actively began to introduce this philosophy, and it sounded at the EEF. What is Sberbank doing in this area now? Is this something disposable? Have we done something, have we checked the box, or is this an endless path?

- ESG can be compared to the industrial revolution, there were several of them. In scale and impact, it can be compared to digitalization. You cannot call it an event or an event - it is a whole culture, a philosophy that is aimed at sustainable development. We on Earth have a limited amount of those benefits and resources that were created by nature. In order for the world society to develop further, we all need to work together to ensure that these benefits remain, and that we can live interestingly, do business, and do our own personal affairs. For this, it is now necessary to take special measures. If earlier the industry and business developed without much attention to what is happening around, then this comes to a limit.

How does the abbreviation stand for?

The letter "E" - environmental - is just about ecology, but in a broad sense. When we build factories, carry out reconstruction, then we must build treatment facilities, we must not have a negative impact on the environment. When you and I use paper, water and other resources at home or at work, we must also treat them with care.

The second letter "S" - social - is generally about the state, about the fact that we should have a person-centered and customer-centered interaction for any services: banking services, government services, and all that are available. We must have an equal opportunity for all clients, including those with mobility limitations. Everyone should be able to enter public transport, enter institutions.

And the third letter "G" - governance - is such a humane management of teams, collectives, enterprises, so that there are no restrictions for the most different categories of employees, residents, members of society. Therefore, speaking about whether this is a company or for a long time, this is a large program that has indicators.

Recently, the President of our country said that Russia plans to achieve carbon neutrality in a few decades - this is an indicator that will characterize whether we are moving towards ESG.

What is "carbon neutrality" - it means that the harm that we all together and individually inflict on nature, our society, our planet, must be compensated for by certain measures.

- Who will pay for all this? All these activities, whenever we start doing something more environmentally friendly, more careful - it all pours into money. That is, growing vegetables is environmentally friendly - without fertilizers - it costs more. It takes more labor, more effort, more waste. Heating with coal is easier and cheaper than installing these windmills or using other environmentally friendly fuels. And what, we now have to pay more for what we used to be cheaper?

- When we say the word "pay", we immediately associate with money. But now we also pay with our health. Therefore, if we want to live more comfortably and happily for a longer period of time, perhaps we will pay more for some products, goods, services, but we will receive more in return. I would not draw such a direct analogy that a more comfortable environment will cost more.

You need to move in parallel. It is necessary to develop new areas of the economy, provide better service, earn more - both at the level of companies and at the level of individuals, and spend more so that in each specific case and in general, people live happily. Then everyone will benefit from it. And now we are paying for the environment that we have. We pay including health, time, perhaps something else.

- I hope we have a happy future, and we also have a Green Day. What is Sberbank preparing for this - special - "Green Day"?

- This year Sberbank celebrates 180 years, and for the fourth year on Bank Day we have been running the Green Day campaign. These days, for our clients - both private and corporate - we will offer products and services on more favorable terms. There is a very large list - I invite everyone to see on the Sberbank website.

These are discounts on our devices, on our products, such as SberPrime, preferential terms for loans and deposits. I think that everyone will find something interesting for themselves these days. Plus, on Green Day, our clients, our partners in their products and services, also present discounts on their services, including even lower prices for the purchase of primary housing.

- When you think about 180 years, about this period of time, about how the Sberbank looked, how the bank looked - you are drawing a picture for yourself, or maybe you even know how it looked?

- I think that you and I can go back even 30 years ago, and the savings banks of that time were very similar to the first savings banks that were opened 180 years ago. This was a very limited set of operations. The main transactions that were offered were deposits and payments in order to pay for an apartment, for something else. It all happened manually.

- Yes, I also remember these passbooks, they wrote numbers by hand!

- Yes, they wrote by hand - both in the documents for clients and in the documents of the bank's internal reporting. If we compare the number of our offices and branches, then of course 180 years ago there were fewer of them than now than it was 30 years ago. The service was not available to all residents. It all started, as usual, from large cities, from the center of Russia. Then the bank moved across the country, to small settlements.

Now financial services and other services that Sberbank has are available 24/7. Many services can be obtained at home, in a convenient place, walking down the street, on weekends - at any time. Previously, in order to perform any operation, it was necessary to come to the bank. And not just to the bank, but exactly to the one in which you had an account, because there were no unified databases, there were no centralized systems, everything was done manually, took a lot of time, and was not always convenient. These are the comparisons I could make.

- What will happen? For our parents, televisions were still a gimmick, now you won't surprise anyone with video communication. If we talk about Sberbank and banking, will we also expect such a sharp leap in the next 30-50 years, or will it be a progressive development? What will Sberbank be like in 30 years?

- The question is interesting, but it is impossible to say 100% what the Sberbank will be in 30 years. What exactly will happen, I think, Sberbank will use all the advanced technologies that will be available at that point in time. We will continue to develop online services. I think there will be other new ways of communication. For example, the SberbankOnline application appeared a long time ago, and the built-in voice assistant appeared relatively recently, about a year ago. 

Perhaps some more virtual assistants will appear in the future. I think that the combination of online and offline services will continue, other services from other industries will appear, in which Sberbank is not yet represented. All operations will take place instantly, and already now a lot is taking place instantly.

There will be many different pre-approved services that the client will be able to control by voice, or, for example, by blinking an eye to confirm their decision, their choice. I think that Sberbank will also develop intensively, meeting clients halfway, helping clients realize their aspirations and dreams, will be a pioneer in a variety of innovations that are useful both for a specific client and for society as a whole. As now, Sberbank will share its expertise with the entire society.

- Thank you very much for the conversation, for the detailed and thorough answers, I hope that those who see this interview will learn a lot of new and interesting things for themselves and will know what to do on Green Day.

- In conclusion, I would like to say "Thank you" to all our clients, we are always glad to see you, we are waiting for you both in our offices and in all our online services. We will continue to delight you with new opportunities and look forward to your feedback on our services. Be healthy!        

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