President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Gref, we maintain close communication, but I would nevertheless like you to update me on Sberbank's most recent performance.
Before we begin, I would like to point out – and I am pleased to do so – that despite major difficulties and issues that arose as a result of the events that we are well aware of and the difficulties that they attempted and are still attempting to create for us in various areas, including finance, the professionalism of our banking community and government agencies, as well as the Central Bank efforts, we have managed on the whole, I want to emphasise this, we have managed on the whole to overcome these challenges.
I would like to thank you and your entire team. Not only has Sber worked through this difficult period, but it has rebuilt its work almost in full. Its operations are profitable, steady and unfaltering, which is another sign of our financial system’s stability. Sberbank is a leader and a bedrock foundation of this system. Its steady operation is a very good indicator.
As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. After all, this is a powerful step towards greater economic and financial sovereignty, which is crucial. Importantly, the economy and the bank's clients should know that Sberbank is stable, which sends a strong message to the entire economy and a large number of bank clients.
I am aware that you are working hard to improve customer services and to introduce innovative technology, which creates a significant effect. I believe – you will probably describe it in more professional language – the solutions implemented earlier helped the bank navigate this difficult period.
CEO and Chairman of the Management Board of Sberbank German Gref: Mr President, thank you very much for your assessment.
Indeed, it was a difficult period for us, but we did not stop working for a single day or for a single minute despite the unprecedented attacks against us. We are the most attacked entity in the country. We have never seen attacks of such magnitude and complexity before.
However, so far, we have managed to remain absolutely stable. We learned from these attacks and became more experienced. We are upgrading our security models, and I hope we will be able to provide the full range of services to our retail and corporate clients even in the most challenging circumstances.
Mr President, you have already mentioned our financial stability. We are past the period of losses, which was an incredibly difficult time for us. We incurred a major loss since we lost almost all of our foreign assets, except in the CIS countries. Without a doubt, the SDN sanctions made it impossible for us to operate on exchanges in any currency, be it US dollars or euros.
So, over the past period, we have fully formed the reserves to cover all existing issues. We are beginning to operate as usual, and there can be no doubt about our sustainability, since we will show financial results. With the Central Bank’s permission, we began to disclose our financial results, because we want everyone to see that all our problems are in the past.
We have ensured the bank’s functioning in challenging conditions, meaning the border areas, as well. I traveled around our border areas, and saw that our employees continue to work in extremely difficult circumstances. Most amazingly, not one of them left their job. We are the only core bank for the people in the small towns in the Belgorod, Kursk and Voronezh regions. A situation where we stop providing financial services is unimaginable and we will continue to provide the full range of financial services there.
In this sense, you are absolutely correct and the groundwork that we created by building our own platform based on proprietary solutions led to the fact that, in general, we are unscathed by the vendors’ departure from the market, since 80 percent of our solutions are based on in-house IT products. In 2023, over 90 percent of the services that we use will be our proprietary services.
Vladimir Putin: You probably have more IT specialists than financial specialists. How many do you have?
German Gref: We now have 38,000 software engineers working at the bank, which makes us the country’s largest IT operation. We completed an unprecedented cost-cutting programme shortly after the special military operation began. All of that gave its effects.
We feel confident, given the Central Bank’s backing, which provided the banking sector with unprecedented timely and much needed support. We worked very closely with the Government, and the Government adopted the necessary decisions instantly as well. I believe this well-coordinated work helped us navigate this period with the maximum effect.
Vladimir Putin: Very good. Congratulations.