Sberbank chief Gref has a new toy: Uber

By bne IntelliNews September 3, 2015

Jason Corcoran in London -


Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender with 46% of the nation’s deposits, is getting into bed with the controversial taxi sharing app Uber.

The CEO of Sberbank, Herman Gref, is known for his love of technology and getting turned on by the latest fads. The former economy minister under President Vladimir Putin previously had his execs tied in knots with his love of crowdsourcing and the crypto-currency bitcoin. Incidentally, his passion for bitcoin didn’t go down well with the central bank governor, Elvira Nabiullina, who was once his protégé.

One former senior executive at Sberbank said Gref often displays certain classical symptoms of ADD, or attention deficit disorder. He would become infatuated with some technology, convinced every time it was the biggest thing since sliced bread and then drop it months later for some other gizmo.

The former Soviet piggy bank and California-based Uber on September 3 announced an alliance to “explore the co-development of financial technology with global potential.”

Uber is apparently considering how Sberbank’s “innovative and business-friendly entrepreneur banking’’ could make it easier for self-employed drivers to get into biz. In turn, Sberbank could offer Uber drivers vehicle-financing opportunities. Niall Wass, Uber’s senior vice-president, described Sberbank as being “at the global forefront of financial technology” and the company is excited to be working with the Russian banking giant.

Uber, which recently slashed the price of a fare to Moscow city's three airports to RUB1,000 ($15) from RUB1,500, has provoked the ire of Moscow’s infamous gypsy cabs and the established legitimate cabbies since arriving in Russia – much the same has it has done wherever in the world it appears.

Cabbies came out on strike this summer in Moscow and St Petersburg against Uber and other ride-sharing apps like Yadex.Taxi and Get.Taxi for the price-cutting. The union of taxis wrote to the Kremlin, demanding Uber drivers be required to register with the state and receive official status for transporting passengers or face criminal liability.

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