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State Banks Eye Russia's $740Bln Plastic Card Market

Published: April 4, 2014 (Issue # 1804)



  • Sberbank's offer to create a national payment system was not supported by the Central Bank.
    Photo: Ekaterina Kuzmina / For Vedomosti

As top government officials speed up the birth of a national credit card system in an asymmetrical response to U.S. sanctions over Russia's incorporation of Crimea, major state banks are eyeing their share in the multi-billion dollar financial transactions market.

President Vladimir Putin has supported German Gref, the CEO of Russia's largest lender Sberbank, who offered to create a national payment system based on the existing Universal Electronic Card, or UEC.

Putin ordered the prime minister to review all the possibilities of using the UEC, followed by a corresponding decree of the Cabinet to the key ministries. Officials are to report of the results of their evaluations by mid-April, Kommersant reported Thursday.

The UEC started to be issued to Russian citizens beginning from 2013 and initially was meant to replace the existing internal passport. Besides carrying all the necessary personal data, it is possible to make payments with the card as with a regular plastic. About 300,000 of these cards, powered by Sberbank's PRO100 payment system, have been issued so far and they are accepted by most cash machines and acquiring terminals across the country.

Top government officials have repeatedly said the national payment system was a must-have as a necessary means of security against sudden malfunctions of international payment systems.

At the end of March, Visa and MasterCard stopped providing services for payment transactions for the clients of Bank Rossiya and SMP bank, co-owned by brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, allegedly Putin's close allies. The taken measure was reportedly part of U.S. sanctions against the Russian annexation of Crimea.

"National payment systems exist in many countries and Russia should think of one as well," said German Gref following the incident, adding that Sberbank has own system that is up to the task. He said the system could be applied across the country within several months after adjusting legislation.

Currently, Visa and MasterCard take up, respectively, 60 and 35 percent of Russia's credit card market, which according to the Central Bank saw almost 26 trillion rubles ($740 billion) worth of transactions in 2013.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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