Sberbank to acquire a 51% stake in Russian biometrics firm Speech Technology Center

Sberbank, Digital Horizon and Gazprombank today announced the signing of a deal that will see Sberbank acquire a 51% stake in Russian biometrics firm Speech Technology Center (STC) from Gazprombank. Investment company Digital Horizon will also acquire a stake in STC and Gazprombank will stay on as a strategic shareholder and will play an active role in the future development of STC. The deal is expected to close by the end of May 2019.

STC’s new board of directors will consist of four Sberbank representatives including the chairman of the board and two representatives from Gazprombank and one from Digital Horizon. Sberbank is Russia’s largest bank. Gazprombank is one of Russia’s largest universal financial institutions and Digital Horizon is an international investment company based in Moscow and Tel Aviv that combines a tech incubator and a venture fund.

“For Sberbank, this deal is a logical step on the road to digital transformation and the construction of a biometric platform for the bank’s growing ecosystem,” explained Stanislav Kuznetsov, deputy chairman of the executive board of Sberbank. “In the future we will use this platform to create a range of services that will take interaction with clients to a completely new level in terms of comfort and information security. In turn, Sberbank’s AI and big data expertise and experience will help STC broaden the use of speech technology in Russia, offer Russian technology to foreign markets and compete for global leadership.”

“STC is gaining another serious partner,” added Dmitry Dyrmovksy, CEO of Speech Technology Center Group. “The synergy with Sberbank will significantly boost the development of our company’s technologies and products. We are receiving access to the expertise and competencies of one of the world’s largest retail banks. STC is already a key player on the biometrics market, but with such a team behind us we plan to become a global leader in the next few years.”

STC products are sold in more than 75 countries. In Russia, STC’s technology is used by a number of major corporations, including Sberbank, Gazprombank, VTB, Vimpelcom, Rostelecom, and Russian Railways.

Sberbank began testing biometric security measures in 2016 in an effort to decrease the need for bank cards. In 2017 it acquired 25.07% of facial recognition developer VisionLabs, referring to the deal at the time as a ‘major first step’ towards building a biometrics platform for the bank. In January Sberbank met a Russian government requirement to enable biometric registration for the country’s Unified Biometric System (UBS) at 20 percent of its branches. Banks are required to connect 60 percent of their branches to the system by July 1, and the rest by the end of 2019.

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