Historic optimisation: Sber staff to be replaced with robots and stores

In 2022, the bank has cut a record high number of additional offices in Tatarstan

Historic optimisation: Sber staff to be replaced with robots and stores
Photo: Oleg Tikhonov/ realnoevremya.ru

As Realnoe Vremya found out, this year the number of Sberbank offices in Tatarstan has reduced by more than 73. This is the biggest cut in history of the banking sector in Tatarstan. With this indicator, the republic is in the lead among regions in the bank network optimisation. The offices are closed because banks are switching to online service, experts say. It is unknown how many workers have become jobless.

Record-high cut

In September, Sberbank reduced the network of office by 527 banks at once — to 12,400, by 868 since the beginning of the year. According to head of BCF bank’s Analytic Department Maxim Osadchy, Tatarstan became one of the leaders in office reduction where the bank closed 48 offices at once in September. Only Krasnodar Krai outperformed the republic where 64 additional offices closed.

“This is the biggest cut in history of the banking sector in Tatarstan,” Maxim Osadchy estimated. “In March, Sberbank closed 16 additional offices, 9 in April, fewer offices later. Last year in general Sberbank closed 42 offices in Tatarstan, 31 — in 2020.”

Osadchy says that Krasnodar Krai is first in number of all additional offices of the bank in Russia (1,080 as of 1 October), Tatarstan is second (863). Sberbank says that the current network of its offices in Tatarstan includes only 300 offices. So the Sberb network in the republic in 2022 has reduced by 20%.

The analyst thinks that Sberbank is closing its offices to cut costs. Most banks are switching to remote service channels, the office network is steadily shrinking, especially actively in provinces.

In reply to Realnoe Vremya’s request, Sberbank didn’t deny Osadchy’s calculations noting that it “keeps the availability of its services at a high level.”

“We regularly audit the network, and if a city office has a low turnover and there is another, bigger one within a walking distance where a lot of workers work and a wider range of services is provided, the services of such an office are transferred to the bigger neighbouring one,” the press service of Sberbank commented for Realnoe Vremya.

One can be provided all key banking operations in Sber’s mobile offices, the bank added. Nowadays such points service about 15 district of Tatarstan. Also, people can pay for utility bills and withdraw cash in its partners’ sales points (more than 200 in small settlements). It is stores the bank started to cooperate as early as 2019 when it started to receive payments for mobile network and utility bills at cash registers.

74 million people monthly use the mobile app Sberbank Online, and the countryside isn’t an exception where Sberbank Online is very popular.

The information about how many workers worked in the bank’s closed offices isn’t revealed. It is assumed to be hundreds of people.

An echo of 2016

However, this isn’t the first historic optimisation of Sberbank. In 2016, the bank cut its staff by 5,600 people at once — to 325,075 people. Then the bank’s CEO Herman Gref noted that the development of remote bank services would lead to a twofold cut of the Sber staff. By late 2021, the number of employees of Sberbank group was 288,000 people.

The “negative growth”, moreover, a record high one of Sberbank offices has two foundations — organic and non-organic,” says blogger and economist Albert Bikbov. “The organic foundation is that banks are going online now, and especially those working with the population. The concept of the financial supermarket in smartphones is a global tendency today. And Sberbank not only follows this trend but also creates its digital ecosystem at an accelerated pace by making huge investments in it.”

Sberbank invested $1 billion in the companies of its ecosystem in the first half of 2021 alone. It invested the same amount to develop the ecosystem from 2017 to 2019. With such an approach, the need for offline service channels like classical offices rapidly goes down. Consequently, the number of offices is decreasing.

The non-organic foundation (this applies not only to Sberbank), according to Bikbov, is the shocks that came down to Russia’s banking system due to the special military operation in Ukraine. Sberbank and some Russian banks have been imposed various sanctions by leading financial countries of the world.

“The list of sanctions on Russian banks is long and unprecedented. There are also facts of Russians withdrawing cash from their bank accounts because of alarming uncertainty both after the start of the special military operation in Ukraine and the announcement of partial mobilisation,” the expert enumerates.

Also, there is some pressure on Russian banks’ financial health because of the ongoing mobilisation or, more precisely, the financial assistance measures for mobilised men announced by the state (different benefits on loans taken out earlier — deferment, write-off and so on), Bikbov reminds us. At the moment the banks are taking these support measures at their own expense, which doesn’t help improve their financial state.

Yulia Garayeva