A second supercomputer and artificial intelligence (AI) upgrades form part of Sberbank’s enhanced offerings of digital services such as cloud computing and virtual assistant software, Chief Technology Officer David Rafalovsky told Reuters on Wednesday.
Russia’s largest lender is investing more in non-banking services as it shifts towards offering more technology systems, even last year dropping “bank” from its logo. On Thursday it unveiled the Christofari Neo, a second supercomputer, to meet internal and external AI demand that has exceeded expectations.
The supercomputer was named after the bank’s first ever customer 180 years ago, Nikolai Christofari.
The lender, alongside other Russian firms including Yandex and Tinkoff, is developing a so-called ecosystem of services beyond its core business, something Sberbank says is needed to combat traditional banks’ shrinking margins.
The central bank has said banks would have to create additional buffers if ecosystem investments exceed 30 percent of their total capital.
But Rafalovsky said Sberbank, whose ecosystem includes e-commerce, cyber security, and cloud services, had room to continue investing hundreds of millions of dollars in technology.
“We are not constrained in terms of ability to invest, in terms of capital,” Rafalovsky said in an interview. “We are investing more now (than a year ago). Our investments in core IT infrastructure and products overall went up.”
He said Sberbank’s primary technological constraint was attracting the best information technology (IT) talent.
Sberbank needs that talent to further expand its technological arsenal. The most “commercially significant” update, Rafalovsky said, was ML Space Private, an AI development toolkit that third parties can use without fully connecting to SberCloud.
This, he said, was significant for the many state-linked Russian firms that may be unable to run sensitive government data through Sberbank’s commercial cloud platform.
Sberbank, majority owned by Russia’s government, has assets of RUB 36.8 trillion (roughly Rs. 38,52,305 crore) and a market value of about $113 billion (roughly Rs. 8,41,700 crore).
Chief Executive Officer German Gref on Tuesday said Sberbank was eyeing expanding its digital offering in other European countries while Rafalovsky hinted that spin offs of digital assets were possible in time.
“We are set up to be able to do it when the time is right,” he said. “The timing of doing this is as important as having something to spin off.”
© Thomson Reuters 2021