Sovcombank on Financial Inclusion: Banks Meet Surging Demand for Digital Access

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Poverty is a global problem with a uniquely personal solution. Access to banking products and services is widely regarded as an important step to reducing poverty, as it empowers individuals and families to obtain credit, access payment services, invest and participate in the digital economy.

There is significant room for improvement, as about 1.7 billion adults do not have a bank account, according to the World Bank. While basic financial inclusion is a crucial first step, financial institutions must expand their focus from access to usage, to ensure new banking customers have access to a rich array of services that fulfil their evolving financial needs. 

Boris Albert Alexandrovich, Deputy Chairman, Sovcombank shares his thoughts on how banks can meet the surging demand for digital access to products and services.

Boris Albert Alexandrovich, Deputy Chairman, SovcombankBoris Albert Alexandrovich, Deputy Chairman, Sovcombank
Boris Albert Alexandrovich, Deputy Chairman, Sovcombank

Technology is a quick and effective way banks can ensure continued financial inclusion as more of the population gains access to financial services. Sovcombank has seen significant advancement in digital services and products that use technology to increase access to financing. 

Homeownership is a key area of digital growth – the volume of electronic registration for mortgages has tripled compared to last year. Sovcombank, jointly with Russian registry agency Rosreestr, launched the electronic registration service for real estate purchase mortgages at the beginning of 2019. The service provides a simplified method of submitting documents to Rosreestr to register mortgages, enabling individuals to register the transfer of ownership remotely, without a personal visit to a government office. The seller and the buyer meet at a bank branch to sign a contract of sale and complete the transaction while applying for registration of the transfer of ownership and mortgage online. Registering electronically takes just over half an hour and the registration period itself is reduced to 3-5 days, compared to 10 days or more when registering through traditional methods. The service also allows real-time tracking of registration stages and provides the ability to send additional documents on request. The electronic registration service is chargeable, and the fee is charged according to the bank’s rates for electronic registration.

In July of 2021, Sovcombank completed more than 1,600 electronic registrations of real estate titles, more than three times as many as in July of 2020, when the bank recorded more than 500 deals through electronic mortgage registration. 

Not only is the service quick and convenient, but as some regions experience Covid-19 infection rate spikes, the reduced contact required to register a mortgage electronically may help keep customers healthy and safe. 

Halva

Sovcombank is also reporting surging growth of Halva, its disruptive buy-now/pay-later service. The official website, halvacard.ru, issued three times as many Halva cards with a credit limit through an online application when compared to last year. In July of 2020, more than 10,000 Halva cards with a credit limit were issued through the website, a monthly total that has grown almost every month since. By the end of July 2021, more than 34,000 Halva cards with a credit limit were issued, a number that is both triple the previous year’s figure and also represents a 25 percent increase since May of 2021.  

In 2021, there have been many more cards issued online than in Sovcombank branches, although that total is significantly increasing, as well. From July 2020 to July 2021, the number of cards issued in the bank’s branches grew 1.5 times. During that period, the share of online issuance of Halva doubled: in July 2020, 12% of Halva cards were issued through the website, a share that increased to 23% through July of 2021. 

Halva enables customers to make purchases in interest-free instalments in stores from the Bank’s partner network, which includes more than 25% of all retail shops in Russia. 

Right now, instalment cards make up only about 6 percent of the total banking cards market, but as access to banking increases, that share is expected to increase significantly. Customers are abandoning conventional credit cards because they simply do not want to pay the interest, a trend that is most likely applicable to the growing segment of customers who have only recently gained access to a bank account. 

Financial inclusivity doesn’t solely benefit individuals and families who gain access to financial services and products. According to EY, banks could generate incremental global annual revenue of $200bn by better serving financially excluded people and businesses in emerging markets, and these growth opportunities are strongest in markets that embrace technology and innovation. This underscores the opportunities for fintech to boost financial inclusivity, and the important role banks have to develop, support, and adopt technology that ensures access to banking and services for all. 

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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