Most of the largest Russian banks, including systemically important ones, have joined or are planning to connect to Sberbank’s payment service by QR code. As a result, since the beginning of the year, the turnover of payments in the service has grown fourfold, and the number of transactions has grown sixfold. This is only four times less than the Fast Payment System (FPS) of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Experts believe that the tool could ultimately become a “real alternative” to the SBP and partly to the Mir payment system, but they doubt that the regulator will so easily give up a significant part of the market, and expect a “new round of competition” with the introduction of the digital ruble.
As Kommersant found out, Alfa Bank, MKB, MTS Bank, Rosbank, Sovcombank, Tinkoff Bank, Uralsib and Fora Bank are already connected to Sberbank’s Pay QR service. Gazprombank, Pochta Bank, PSB and HKF Bank plan to connect in the near future, Kommersant’s sources in the market clarify. RSHB and Ak Bars are also considering this possibility, they say. Otkritie Bank has already officially reported this (see Kommersant, July 10). Zenit Bank clarified to Kommersant that they are studying the possibility of connecting to the service at the beginning of 2024.
Thus, among systemically important credit institutions, only 3 out of 13 banks did not connect to the Pay QR service and did not explicitly indicate that they were considering it: Raiffeisenbank and Unicredit, which simply cannot cooperate with sanctioned banks, and the second size in the country VTB. In the latter, Kommersant only explained that in general they “are using and considering expanding the use of various payment options using QR codes” and are in favor of creating a “single payment QR code for individuals” in Russia. “This will allow Russians to pay contactlessly for goods and services, and users will be able to choose a payment method convenient for them, regardless of who owns the QR,” explained VTB.
As Sberbank told Kommersant, since the beginning of the year, the turnover of payments using “Pay QR” among banks connected to the platform has grown more than four times, the number of transactions has grown six times, and the number of clients who started using the service has more than tripled. “Connecting other large banks to payment by QR code significantly expands the audience of users of the service; now about 10 million people a month already use it, and taking into account the expansion of the number of partners, this number is growing steadily,” says Sberbank. MTS Bank says that they joined Sber’s “Pay QR” service in July, and in October, the total number of all payments using a QR code (not only through “Pay QR”) among MTS Bank clients increased by one and a half times.
At the beginning of November, the head of Sberbank, German Gref, noted that almost 40 million transactions per month are made using the Sberbank QR code, which corresponds to approximately 120 million transactions per quarter. For comparison: in the alternative SBP controlled by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, which also provides payments using QR codes, 470 million transactions were made in the third quarter.
Sberbank believes that customers are attracted to its service “including the opportunity to take advantage of loyalty programs” – when paying using a QR code, SberSpasibo bonuses or cashback are awarded according to the rules of partner banks, as when paying by card. The bank said it is exploring opportunities to provide clients with a payment service abroad, although “it is too early to comment on what exactly it will be.”
According to information from independent expert Maxim Mitusov, in Sberbank’s “Pay QR” service “the interchange is exactly the same as with cards.” Due to the commission from acquiring, Sber receives an increased reward (since the scheme does not have card systems) and gives part of the received commission to users in the form of cashback, he explains. As a result, according to Mr. Mitusov, Sberbank “has actually formed a payment system alternative to Mir and SBP.”
However, Roman Prokhorov, head of the board of the Financial Innovations Association, believes that “Sber’s attempts to compete with the regulator are unlikely to be successful.” “We should not forget,” the expert emphasizes, “that we will face another round of competition among payment services when the digital ruble is launched, when the regulator will again dictate the price parameters of services to the market.”