SberBank is the historical successor of Savings Offices, which were established by the decree of Emperor Nicholas I, and later the State Labor Savings Offices. Below are the milestones in the bank’s history, which is closely linked with the course of Russian history.
On November 12, 1841 Russian Emperor Nikolai I orders the formation of savings bank branches “in order to make savings in a reliable and profitable way therethrough.”
Nikolai Christofari, a Loan Treasury officer from St. Petersburg, becomes the first customer of the nation’s first savings bank branch, depositing 10 rubles with a 4% annual interest rate on March 1, 1842. This deposit interest rate is maintained until 1857. By late 1850s the number of depositors reaches 90,000.
On October 16, 1862 Alexander II adopts a new savings bank charter, mandating that such savings bank branches should be created “in all cities, posads, and settlements.” As a result, the offices grew from two small establishments featuring 20 employees in St. Petersburg and Moscow into a nationwide network. By 1895, as many as 3,875 branches are opened holding savings worth RUB 368 mln. This is referred to as the Russian banking sector’s age of flourishing.
In 1895 a new savings bank charter is passed guaranteeing commercial secrecy to customers. New deposit types, like a child trust account, are offered. In 1905, savings bank branches get authorized to sell insurance policies. Since 1915 savings bank branches get opened at post offices in villages.
In 1919 savings bank branches are merged with the People’s Bank of the RSFSR, while in 1925 the network in its entirety is reorganized as USSR’s State Labor Savings Offices. During the New Economic Policy era savings bank branches start issuing bonds that the government uses to finance its industrialization efforts. It was then that savings bank branches started making money transfers and dealing in interest-bearing securities.
During World War II savings bank branches help finance military programs. Four military loans under the tagline “Everything for the front, everything for victory!” gather RUB 72 bln, helping cover 15% of the country’s military expenses. Over the post-war years the number of savings bank branches gets restored to 40,000 in 1951, from 30,000 in 1946.
The banking sector in the USSR makes a giant leap, as the number of savings bank branches doubles to 79,000 from 40,000 to keep up with a 12-fold growth in the number of deposits and nearly a 100-fold growth in their aggregate value. After 1963 – when the branches started accepting housing and utility, tax, insurance and other payments, as well as paying wages to workers and employees of enterprises – almost every USSR citizen becomes a customer of the savings bank offices.
In 1987, the savings bank branches are reorganized into Savings Bank of the USSR under perestroika. SberBank launches its first ATM in 1988, with the massive ATM rollout following suit in 1989. The bank introduces new types of deposits: time deposits, deposits for youth and children, savings accounts. From that moment forward, it’s the bank, rather than the government, that initiates changes to the interest rates. SberBank launches currency exchange services for the first time.
In 1990–1991, Savings Bank is turned into a joint-stock bank. In 1996, shareholders approve the bank’s development concept by 2000, which is intended to transform the institution into a universal commercial bank. The first payment cards are issued and Non-state Pension Fund of SberBank is founded. SberBank’s first step on the global stage is the acquisition of a subsidiary bank in Kazakhstan in 2006.
Herman Gref is appointed as Chairman of the Executive Board of SberBank in November 2007. As soon as next year, the Supervisory Board approves a new development strategy by 2014, which dramatically changes the image of the largest bank in Russia and determines its further development, as it turns from a conservative organization into a hi-tech financial institution.
The bank becomes customer-oriented, as its business processes are transformed systemically, labor efficiency is increased, and innovative approaches are introduced. Centers to process customer transactions are put in place and online services are launched. SberBank is included in the Top 20 of largest financial groups by market capitalization; the bank’s brand becomes one of the most expensive ones in the world. The bank expands its footprint by entering the markets in several countries, including Belarus, and acquires assets of former VS Bank in nine countries of Central and Eastern Europe.