August 10, 2022
Sberbank unveils Christophari Neo, second supercomputer to meet internal, external AI demand

Chief technology officer David Rafalovsky told Reuters on Wednesday that a second supercomputer and artificial intelligence (AI) upgrade is part of Sberbank’s increased offering of digital services such as cloud computing and virtual assistant software.

Russia’s largest lender is investing more in non-banking services as it moves to offer more technology systems, even removing “bank” from its logo last year. On Thursday it unveiled a second supercomputer, the Kristoffee Neo, to meet internal and external AI demand that has exceeded expectations.

The supercomputer was named after Nikolai Christopheri, the bank’s first customer 180 years ago.

The lender, along with other Russian firms including Yandex and Tinkoff, is developing a so-called ecosystem of services beyond its core business, Sberbank says, to deal with the shrinking margins of traditional banks.

The central bank has said that banks will have to create additional buffers if the investment in the ecosystem exceeds 30 per cent of their total capital.

But Rafalovsky said Sberbank, whose ecosystem includes e-commerce, cyber security and cloud services, has room to continue investing hundreds of millions of dollars in technology.

“We are not constrained in terms of our ability to invest in capital,” Rafalovsky said in an interview. “We are investing more now (compared to a year ago). Our investments in core IT infrastructure and products increased overall.”

He said that Sberbank’s primary technical barrier was attracting the best information technology (IT) talent.

Sberbank needs that talent to further expand its technical arsenal. The most “commercially significant” update, Rafalovsky said, was ML Space Pvt, an AI development toolkit that third parties can use without having to fully connect to SberCloud.

This, he said, was important to the many state-linked Russian firms that may be unable to run sensitive government data through Sberbank’s commercial cloud platform.

Russia’s government-owned Sberbank has assets of Rs 36.8 trillion (about Rs 38,52,305 crore) and a market value of about $113 billion (about Rs 8,41,700 crore).

Chief executive German Greif said on Tuesday that Sberbank is looking to expand its digital offering to other European countries, while Rafalovsky indicated that a spin-off of the digital asset was possible at the time.

“We are ready to be able to do it when the time is right,” he said. “The timing of doing this is just as important as getting something to spin.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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