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Yaroslav Popov

Moscow-based interactive marketing agency Engage (, a member of Digitas network, works with Russia’s Sberbank to modernise everyday banking. Yaroslav Popov, the company’s Managing Director, explains how advanced interactive technology improves customer experience and the perception of the brand.Yaroslav Popov

With 25,000 branches, nearly 300,000 staff and 70 million customers (this equals to half of the Russian population), Sberbank is the biggest bank in Russia and one of the biggest in the world. It’s now also the country’s most popular bank, although this hasn’t always been the case.

Historically, the Russians didn’t trust banks. In the last two decades, we had several banking and financial crises, when people lost their savings every single time. Most, therefore, didn’t keep their money in a bank for any length of time – they would simply go to an ATM as soon as their salary arrived, take the money out and keep it somewhere in their homes. On top of that, even though the Sberbank branches could be found anywhere and everywhere, they were ramshackle, with long queues, rude staff and bureaucratic processes. For most Russians, going to the bank was like going to the doctor – you only went when you had to.

The bank started to modernise in 2008 and, after three years, they reduced the queues by 38%, became the lead card issuer in Europe and invested in new, high-tech branches. Some branches featured 3D face scanning at ATM machines and, in terms of such new technologies, two years ago Sberbank were already way ahead of Europe and perhaps the rest of the world, too. But, although the bank now turns around 80% of all Russian money, the revolution isn’t over and both the bank and the government are continuing to try and position Sberbank as the most modern institution of the Russian economy. To achieve this, further work is required on remodelling the consumer behaviour and improving the customer experience at branch level.

The Office of the Future on Russky Island
By employing the latest in digital technologies, we’ve helped the bank design and create a thoroughly modern branch. Officially called The Office of the Future, it opened in September 2012 on Russky Island in Vladivostok, the largest Russian port on the Pacific Ocean. At the time the city was hosting the 24th Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the heads of the international delegations, including the United States’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visited the branch before it opened to customers.

The whole concept is based around the customer ‘journey’ (how the customer acts and moves within the branch depending on their needs – for example, the ‘steps’ they ‘take’ when they come in to open an account differ from the steps they take when they just want to make a money transfer), and implements interactive technology to make this ‘journey’ easier and better.

At the beginning of their ‘journey’, what the customer sees even before they walk inside the branch, is a high-resolution interactive video wall displaying Russia’s landscapes of lakes, hills and snow-capped mountains, different time zones and the weather. Against this backdrop, infographics present financial information such as the Central Bank’s exchange rate, the MICEX stock prices and the precious metals rate chart, and the customer can get more detailed information by touching on any of the charts.

When they enter the bank, they are greeted by a touch-screen robot assistant. It’s a terminal that looks a bit like Wall-E from the movie Wall-E: it has eyes, it smiles and shows emotions. Customers can do simple internet banking at this terminal or, for more complex transactions, they get allocated a number in an electronic queue and move to the waiting area.

While waiting, they can sit at interactive multi-touch tables, with an Internet browser, access to Sberbank online and specially created games pointing to a catalogue of Sberbank’s products. For example, there’s a game that takes you travelling and, of course, you will need a credit card, card protection and travel insurance – all these products are integrated into the game, which helps facilitate cross-selling.

When the waiting area screen shows it’s their turn, the customer is directed to another terminal, this one with two interlinked screens. On one screen they carry out transactions, on the other they can see a human assistant who helps them by answering their questions or by showing them remotely which buttons to push. This bank clerk can be based in a call centre anywhere in the world. If this terminal doesn’t fulfil the customer’s needs, they can see a bank clerk within the branch, but the emphasis is on meeting most of their needs with clever, yet still user-friendly, technology.

Happy customers and more cross-selling
By implementing these latest interactive technologies, Sberbank has updated its once-conservative and stuffy image, and brought the customer experience well into the 21st century. Its customers now interact with the bank more openly and more frequently, and have fun doing it. They also buy more financial products from Sberbank, which was the second objective of this exercise – when you already have 70 million customers, it’s not so much about attracting new ones but about increasing cross-selling to the existing ones.

We are now discussing with Sberbank how to roll out the technologies implemented on Russky Island on a larger scale across Russia. Obviously, the investment into this showcase branch was considerable and may not be repeated elsewhere, but we can scale the technologies down to serve the same task: encouraging customer interaction and cross-selling.

Finally, are the Russky Island’s customers happy? The bank certainly thinks so. After all, some of the cameras installed measure their happiness levels.

Yaroslav Popov is MD at Engage (, an interactive marketing agency. Founded in 2010 in Moscow, Russia, and affiliated with the leading international network Digitas, the agency provides a mixture of digital creative, strategy and technology. Its current clients include Nissan, Sberbank, Bayer, Amway and Sanofi Aventis.






Study of 50,000+ UK banking app reviews reveals customer ‘frictions’ among prominent retail banks



Study of 50,000+ UK banking app reviews reveals customer ‘frictions’ among prominent retail banks 1

o   Login and user authentication: Nearly a third (30%) of digital banking app customers had issues with logging into the app through their devices, and 1 in 5 (20%) cited problems with username and password or passcode authentication

o   Customer service:

§  Nearly a quarter (24%) of customers felt like they were waiting too long for customer support

§  Over 1 in 5 (22%) were unhappy with the customer resolution

§  Over 1 in 10 (16%) customers cited that the support over chat was unavailable or not useful

o   Notifications: Almost a quarter (24%) cited that the wrong operation – or none at all – was performed when they clicked on the notification icon. 23% didn’t receive notifications for payments while 1 in 5 (20%) received too many notifications

 Today Mobiquity, a full-service digital transformation enabler, launches a ‘Friction Report to benchmark UK & NL mobile banking apps,’ identifying ‘frictions’ within the UK digital banking app customer experience.

The study of 50,000+ UK customer banking app reviews within the Google Play Store and the App store shows the main ‘frictions’ across prominent UK retail banks.

One of the key issues was with login and password authentication. Nearly a third (30%) of digital banking app customers had issues logging into the app through their devices and 1 in 5 (20%) cited problems with username and password or password authentication.

Another ‘friction’ was customer service; nearly a quarter (24%) of users felt like they were waiting too long for customer support.

Almost a quarter (24%) cited problems with notifications. Either the wrong operation was performed, or no operation was performed at all when they clicked on the notification icon. 23% didn’t receive notifications for payments while 1 in 5 (20%) received too many notifications.

Meanwhile, over 1 in 5 (22%) were unhappy with the customer resolution, and over 1 in 10 (16%) customers cited that the support over chat was unavailable or not useful.

Commenting on the report, Matthew Williamson, Vice President of Global Financial Services, Mobiquity said: “As the use of digital payments increases during the pandemic, so has mobile banking usage. The launch of Mobiquity’s Banking Friction Report helps banks to identify the ‘business frictions’ in their mobile banking experience to help align with evolving customer expectations.”

“An interesting observation that can be made is that most of the banking apps in the Google Play and App store score highly, but when you only account for reviews where people actually leave comments regarding an app feature, i.e. feature ratings, scores are quite low. This can be attributed to users no longer having to proactively go to the Google Play or App store to rate an app, but now are prompted to review an app while they are using it.”

“Nowadays, banks cannot risk treating their customers as passive observers, building products and features that do not take their feedback into consideration. Looping customer feedback into the decision-making process is key as banks get real-time information regarding which aspect of the app customers value the most, and where they find the most friction while interacting with the app.”

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The future of offshore banking



The future of offshore banking 2

By Granville Turner, Director at Turner Little.

Despite its misconceptions, the popularity of offshore banking is growing. Not only is it a perfectly legal way of holding your money, but with the right professional advice, it is also reassuringly simple to open an account.

This ease-of-use is prompting many offshore banks to change their offering to compete and make overseas banking even more accessible. No longer is it limited to just the super-rich.

So, what does the future look like for offshore banks? We’ve compiled a list of the top fundamental changes happening in the realm of offshore banking.

Catering to niche markets is the future

Rather than managing account holder’s money in general, offshore banks are tapping into how they can best serve different demographics. Essentially, it is about taking a more bespoke approach to managing money at various stages of life.

But catering to a variety of markets doesn’t just stop there. Many overseas banks are now accepting crypto as a form of currency to appeal to digital, tech-savvy generations.

Cryptocurrency is also attractive for those who see the security benefits it can offer.

Paper chains are fast becoming a thing of the past

As banks move away from paper in favour of digital, security is on everyone’s minds. This is because information is an important asset to many businesses, so protecting it is vital. As such, banks are securing data with the most vigorous encryption security standards.

For account holders, this means digital bank transfers and communication become less of a risk and the smarter thing to do. Paper chains are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Instant access, day or night

In today’s digital world, you don’t need to travel overseas to open an offshore bank account; everything can be done online or over the phone. And like most UK standard current accounts, many offshore accounts now offer online and mobile banking features. So account holders can manage their offshore finances and investments while transferring funds with ease.

Branchless banking

Offshore banks are following the same route of challenging onshore banks by going branchless. This offers substantial benefits for account holders, as branchless offshore banks don’t pass on as much overhead costs to the customer. Ultimately, this means customers can earn better interest rates and other returns on their investments.

Happy to help

At Turner Little, we work closely with offshore banks to provide you with quality service tailored to your needs. With over 20 years of international banking experience and specialist expert knowledge, we will assist you with your enquiries, no matter how complex. And every account we arrange comes with internet banking, card facilities and the ability to transact internationally.

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Hong Kong’s First Multi-Cloud Challenger Bank Goes Live with Temenos



Hong Kong’s First Multi-Cloud Challenger Bank Goes Live with Temenos 3
  • WeLab Bank designed, built and launched using cloud-native Temenos Transact in less than 10 months
  • WeLab offers next generational digital services for the 7.5m people in Hong Kong to access from their mobile phones
  • Customers can open accounts remotely in just 5 minutes with bank reporting 10,000 account openings within 10 days of launch

Temenos (SIX: TEMN), the banking software company, today announced that WeLab Bank, Hong Kong’s first homegrown virtual bank, has publicly launched using cloud-native Temenos Transact to provide a range of next generation digital services for customers to enjoy 24/7 from their mobile phones. Designed, built and launched in less than 10 months, the fully digital bank has seen rapid take up with a reported 10,000 account openings within the first 10 days of launch.

WeLab Bank is powered by cloud agnostic Temenos Transact for core banking along with Temenos Analytics and Financial Crime Mitigation. Implemented on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, WeLab is the first multi cloud digital bank in Hong Kong. Operating on multiple clouds at the same time gives WeLab increased operational resilience and disaster recovery capability and is a regulatory requirement of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for new digital banks. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit 2020 report for Temenos, 81% of global banking executives surveyed believe a multi-cloud strategy will become a regulatory prerequisite.

Developing a cost-effective and scalable core banking solution was paramount for WeLab. Temenos cloud native software is built for the digital age using API-first and DevOps principles and engineered to deploy in containers and microservices. This makes it easy for WeLab to scale for future business growth efficiently and eliminates the need to provision for peak processing volumes so that the bank only pays for its actual usage, yielding significant cost savings.

Critically, with NuoDB the solution delivers a cloud-agnostic, distributed relational database that enables WeLab to deploy an active-active on-demand database across multiple cloud providers with near zero downtime failover.

Temenos Transact is a preconfigured system and so requires very little coding and with Temenos model bank to address local practices and regulations, WeLab was able to bring its service to market faster and extend its innovation with more than 400 out-of-the-box APIs.

With Temenos, WeLab bank is set to transform banking in Hong Kong. In as fast as 5 minutes, customers can remotely open a WeLab Bank account with $0 monthly fees and start enjoying differentiated services such as time deposits with competitive rates, an interest-bearing deposit account with an instant virtual Debit Card, and real-time payments powered by Faster Payment System (FPS). Everything can be done on a mobile phone, simply and effortlessly.

Adrian Tse, CEO at WeLab Bank, commented: “WeLab Bank was born from an initiative to reimagine the banking experience for the 7.5 million people of Hong Kong. From the start, we knew this vision needed the most advanced cloud native technology and a partner that shared our vision for digital transformation. With Temenos we have efficiently built WeLab Bank from scratch, free from any legacies, with innovative features that proactively help customers to take control of their money and their financial journey.”

Max Chuard, Chief Executive Officer, Temenos, said: “Congratulations to WeLab Bank on the launch of their trailblazing new digital bank. Building and launching a licensed bank in such a rapid timeframe is a fantastic achievement and we are proud to have supported them in becoming the first multi-cloud digital bank in Hong Kong. Temenos cloud-native, cloud-agnostic strategy means we can satisfy the needs of the most innovative and ambitious neobanks like WeLab Bank to run on multiple cloud providers. We know this is just the beginning for WeLab and we are excited to be part of their story as they revolutionize banking for people in Hong Kong.”

Bob Walmsley, CEO of NuoDB said: “We are excited to be partnering with Temenos to help WeLab Bank achieve their aggressive launch timelines and deliver innovative banking services to its customers. We were inspired by the technical vision of WeLab and knew that executing an on-demand, multi-cloud strategy was a perfect fit for NuoDB. Our enterprise-class, distributed SQL database combined with Temenos’ cloud-native technology helps banks of all sizes around the globe migrate to the cloud to improve agility and reduce costs.”

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