Herman Gref: “Artificial Intelligence Is an Effective Human Assistant”

Herman Gref: “Artificial Intelligence Is an Effective Human Assistant” | The Enterprise World

A fivefold increase in profits in only one year is not just a record — but an occasion to study the company’s experience in detail and scale it. According to the financial report of Sberbank, its profit for 2023 amounted to 1.5 trillion rubles, which is five times higher than the same figure for 2022. According to the Moscow Stock Exchange, almost 37% of private investors opt for Sberbank shares. This is not surprising: in 2023, the quotations of these securities doubled.

The results of 2023 were formulated by Herman Gref, Sberbank’s Chairman of the Board, as follows: “This year, we have increased the number of customers, improved our positions in all key banking markets, and made a breakthrough in the development of artificial intelligence technologies.” The prioritization is particularly interesting here. An increase in the number of customers is in the first place. High financial indicators are in the second place. Technologies, serving as a tool for achieving success, are only in the third place.

Retrospective and Reasons for Sberbank’s Success

Sberbank’s success is the result of the long and hard work of the entire team. In 2007, when Herman Gref was elected Chairman of the Board of Sberbank, the efficiency of Sberbank was significantly lower than it is now. It took a lot of time for a client to complete the simplest operation, such as paying for utilities. They had to come to the bank office and wait in line. The average time that customers spent in queues was 40 minutes.

After taking over the position of head of Sberbank, Herman Gref began to carry out large-scale transformations. In 2014, it became clear that it was no longer possible to increase the intensity of work without the introduction of the latest technologies. Then, the course was set for maximum digitalization of all Sberbank business processes. This approach allowed not only to speed up the service but also to provide more reliable protection of bank accounts. Sberbank became a pioneer in many aspects. For example, it was the first to develop and apply an algorithm that sent an SMS message about a large debit from the card to the customer’s phone.

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The period of COVID restrictions only confirmed the need for digitalization. Since 2020, Sberbank’s specialists have developed many products that enable customers to perform banking operations from anywhere with minimal time expenses. Now, Herman Gref proudly declares that Sberbank is one of the few on the planet where a businessman can get a loan in 7 minutes.

Such efficiency would have been impossible without the use of artificial intelligence. AI technologies enabled Sber to fully automate the issuance of loans to individuals and significantly accelerate the issuance of loans to legal entities.

Herman Gref is often mentioned in the news precisely in connection with Sber’s achievements in the field of artificial intelligence and digitalization. The top manager claims that the ultimate goal of introducing the latest technologies is the well-being of people and improving their quality of life. Therefore, it is very important that AI training is conducted not only by good specialists but also by caring and ethical people who want to use new technologies for the benefit of humanity.

Staff Training for the IT sector

Herman Gref actively supports initiatives aimed at training qualified IT specialists.

One such initiative is School 21, a programming school created with the assistance of Sberbank. It provides an opportunity for anyone over the age of 18 who passes the selection tests to get a profession in the IT field for free.

The training is conducted on the school’s campuses, located in eight cities. Eight more campuses are planned to be opened by the end of this year. The school has more than 4,900 students from different regions. After graduation, 100% of students successfully find jobs in large IT companies and startups.

Anyone can enter School 21 regardless of their previous work experience or profile knowledge. More than half of the participants start their careers in programming here. The training is carried out in various directions: structured programming (C), object-oriented programming (C++), computer networks, algorithms, databases (SQL) and application programming (Java, Python and Golang) as well as mobile development, frontend, backend, ML & DS, Big Data, GameDev and much more.

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The educational process at School 21 is based on the peer-to-peer methodology, where there are no mentors, lectures and assessments. Instead, participants work on projects individually or as a team. Each student can independently plan their academic schedule and develop not only hard but also soft skills.

The training is carried out on a special gamified digital platform developed by Sberbank for School 21. It allows them to quickly adapt educational programs to the needs of the market and provide students with relevant skills and knowledge.

Herman Gref’s Reform Activity

Before taking a senior position at Sberbank, Herman Gref had already gained a reputation as a supporter of active reforms. In the 1990s, he worked at the St. Petersburg City Hall and was engaged in housing and communal services reform. According to Herman Gref, the lack of competition in the housing and communal services sector had a negative impact on the quality of public services, so he developed a project to demonopolize the municipal services in the city. Subsequently, that successful experience was repeatedly applied in other localities.

The top manager became widely known after he was assigned to be the head of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in 2000. Occupying the position of Minister, Herman Gref actively promoted programs for the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the creation of a Stabilization Fund, and tax reform. He also proved to be an active supporter of the development of mechanic engineering.

Herman Gref’s Family

Gref’s personal life often becomes an object of interest for journalists. Yana Golovina, Gref’s wife, is an economist and designer by education. The Gref family has two daughters and a son. Herman Gref also has an adult son from his first marriage.

Today, Yana Gref directs the Khoroshevskaya Progymnasium (Khoroshkola), where innovative pedagogical techniques are practiced that allow children to maximize their abilities and reveal them. The Grefs’ children, two daughters, and a granddaughter study at Khoroshkola.

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