Q&A with Anna Kovaleva, Head of Foreign Communications, Yandex.Money

November 15, 2016 | Anna Kovaleva, Maddox Events

Anna very kindly offered to share a blog with us as she was unable to make it to European Women in Technology - thanks Anna for sitting down with us pre-conference!


A little bit about Anna..

Anna is in charge of Yandex.Money’s international communications. Having graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations with a Political Science degree, she also graduated from London School of Economics with a MSc degree in Media and Communications. Anna frequently delivers talks at IT, Fintech and e-commerce events both in Russia and worldwide, shaping global awareness of current trends in e-commerce and payments. She is particularly knowledgeable about Russian Fintech and e-com sectors.


What is Yandex.Money?

Yandex.Money is the largest electronic payments service in Russia, according to a 2016 survey by TNS. The service is the joint venture of the search engine Yandex (NASDAQ: YNDX), and Sberbank. It is an online payment service that works with two types of clients — individual users and merchants. Since 2002, we have been providing services to those who pay and those who accept payments. Our mission is to make payments more convenient, secure, and accessible and to provide our clients with an opportunity to pay in a convenient way when they need to do it.
Yandex.Money has a b2b service – Yandex.Checkout— a payment aggregator for online stores and other businesses that need payments on their online platforms.

Yandex.Checkout is the leading service for accepting online payments in Russia, according to a 2016 survey by MARC. With this payment solution, merchants from all over the world can offer Russian consumers the online payment methods most popular among Russians and CIS-citizens just in one button ‘Pay with Yandex’: bank cards, direct debit (online banking), e-wallets, mobile phones, and cash via mobile retailers and payment kiosks (there are over 250 thousand cash-acceptance points all over CIS). Currently, more than 76,000 online stores across the globe use Yandex.Checkout.

Yandex.Money also has an e-wallet, which is the original product of the company. We offer consumers easy, safe, and reliable methods of paying online on its own site and mobile app. The service hosts about 28 million user accounts with about 15,000 new accounts opened daily. Recent TNS research showed that Yandex.Money is the most popular e-wallet in Russia: every third user of the Internet in Russia pays by Yandex.Money e-wallet.
By the 2016, Yandex.Money has issued more than 500,000 plastic cards and 11 million virtual MasterCards.
Yandex.Money has an extended mobile app family for iOS, Apple Watch, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 10. More than 4 million users have downloaded the Yandex.Money mobile app. 35% of them use an iOS device. Using the app, they can transfer funds via iMessage, pay bills — such as utilities, internet, mobile services — make loan payments, access their most frequent payments, and more. Users can also download the Yandex.Money app on Apple Watch. This allows them to pay online without having to get out their smartphones. All they have to do is select the payment they need from among their 'Favourites' and confirm the transaction. In the last year, payments made via mobile devices have doubled in number and now make up 20% of all payment volume on Yandex.Money.

Why do you think the service is so successful in Russia?

We were able to achieve this position in Russia because of our user-friendly interface and the ease of using Yandex.Money for payments. It is much easier to set multiple automatic payments and track them through one single service than it is to manage them individually. As to our Payment Solution – Yandex.Checkout, we attribute this success to the ease of implementation for online merchants. Yandex.Checkout is integrated into 60 content management systems (CMSs and Saas), so merchants do not need to hire an army of programmers in order to integrate the solution into their website—they can just turn it on in their online store platform settings. We also develop customised solutions for particular industries such as online gaming. The service also offers customised solutions for marketplaces, where many online stores on one e-commerce platform simultaneously receive mutual payment infrastructure.

Is it difficult to operate within a cash-dependent society?

We are trying to disrupt the existing ecosystem. People used to go to a bank to pay bills, wait in a line for a long time; today they can spend this time with their family while their e-wallet automatically pays their monthly utility bills, taxes, fines, etc. There is a perception that Russia is a cash-based country. However, the latest research by TNS demonstrated that paying for goods and services online is no longer uncommon for Russian consumers. Things are changing. More than 92% of Russian Internet users said that they paid for goods and services online. Cash is still in use, but we see it as an opportunity, rather than a reason for pessimism. The presence of users who still prefer cash to online payments shows that we have a lot of space to grow.

Could you give any examples of your recent innovations?

We always try to be the first to bring innovations in the world of Fintech. For instance, Yandex.Money has recently become the first company in Russia to introduce money transfers via iMessage. You don’t have to open a specific money app – everything can be done within the messenger. Thus, Apple gadget owners who have the Yandex.Money app are now able to send money directly through the messenger. Yandex.Money also allows users to create a group chat to raise funds for a joint purpose without leaving the messenger. The feature is perfect for friends pooling money toward a joint present or a dinner out.

Also, we believe that online shopping in apps and on websites can be as simple as the touch of a finger, so there's no need to manually fill out lengthy payment forms or repeatedly type in shipping and billing information. For instance, Yandex.Money has recently brought its users Apple Pay, which is transforming mobile payments with an easy, secure and private way to pay in stores, apps and on the web. With Yandex.Money Apple users can now make easy, secure and private payments with Apple Pay — all they have to do is open an e-wallet and add a virtual MasterCard. Yandex.Money users can pay via Apple Pay by adding their plastic or virtual prepaid Yandex.Money cards to Apple Wallet. At Yandex.Money, we are trying to make innovative payment technology accessible to all users regardless of the bank they use. In fact, users don't have to be clients of a bank at all.

There are some interesting innovations for merchants as well. This year Yandex.Checkout launched a new feature for merchants: the ability to accept payments through QR-codes. To make a payment, users simply open the Yandex.Money app on their phones and point at a QR-code with their smartphone’s camera. Once the code is scanned, a user chooses a payment method — either Yandex.Money e-wallet or a bank card linked to it. QR-codes are an extremely convenient tool for making payments that sellers can place on material or online platforms: whether on a door at a national park allowing customers to make a charitable donation or on buses that will help passengers pay for a ride. This is already rocking the East, we were among the first to bring these innovations to Russia.


What will happen with the payments? What is the new era of payments going to look like?

Payments will no longer be just payments – they will be integrated within natural habitant contexts. Yandex has a unique mission – we help people discover new opportunities in their lives and it’s amazing to see how technology has recently become an essential part of our lives. I will give you an example. Before people always relied on people. Human assistance was the key to success. Today things are different. We are living in the world of devices. Users want to trust, rely and delegate things to their ‘smart devices’, sometimes devices are even ‘smarter’ than their owners. Users are ready to provide any data to go the frictionless way. They allow access to anything - geo, camera, fingerprints, cards - even eye prints. Users now spend a lot of time online searching for something, talking to their friends on messengers or looking where to go using a map. The payment service of the future must detect and suggest operations in its natural environment. In addition to automatic payments based on calendar or low balance, these systems can also detect and suggest payments. For instance, payment services can detect place and time for operation on the go – route and geo data are the key. Let’s say when a user is in a public transportation location or a petrol station, the e-wallet can recognise his or her location and suggest paying for a ride or the petrol directly from the mobile app. These systems require users to take fewer actions when making everyday life payments—they only have to push “yes” to a suggested payment.

We are already trying to live the future. At Yandex.Money we have a special app - Yandex.Parking - it helps drivers in Moscow find a parking space and pay for the service without leaving their car. The app shows parking availability, fee rates and provides a choice of easy payment methods. The app offers an opportunity to plot the best route to a chosen parking space. Another example is payment in search. Yandex.Money offers its customers innovative payments from Yandex Search – the so called ‘wizards’, which allow users to make payments without leaving the search results page. The new ‘wizards’ appear for relevant searches queries. For instance, one of the ‘wizards’ helps users browse and purchase tickets to the cinema, another enables users to pay for traffic fines, others allow to pay for internet, telephone, other utility services. Users just have to fill out the form in the interactive window on the search results page and pay directly through the search engine.

What do you think about the role of women in tech?

I believe that the rapidly expanding space of FinTech offers women a more diverse and flexible work environment. Yandex.Money is actually unique – Yandex.Money CEO is a woman (Maria Gracheva) and our team includes 12 women out of 15 executives. We have never thought of it as something outstanding but seems that women are able to fulfil the same duties, sometimes even more efficiently than men. Our corporate culture is very women and kids friendly since employees are able to work remotely from home – I think this helps a lot. Also we have a fantastic office in the centre of Moscow, which looks much more like home than a typical office. Actually, I believe it’s not about the gender, it’s more about the country’s specific – in a 2016 study of countries by the consultancy Grant Thornton, Russia had 45% women in senior management positions. Given that, Russia could possibly become a model of workplace gender equality.