19 September 2014

Putin vows to build Russian rival to Visa and MasterCard

27 March 2014  |  13024 views  |  14 Moscow skyline

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will set up its own payments system after MasterCard and Visa cut off services to several of the country's banks in response to US sanctions.

Last week Visa and MasterCard stopped processing transactions for customers of Bank Rossiya after it was placed on a sanctions list by the US government in response to Putin's move to annex the region of Crimea.

The US card giants also temporarily cut off SMP Bank because its owners - brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg - were on the sanctions list.

In a televised meeting with Russian lawmakers, Putin said: "It is really too bad that certain companies have decided on...restrictions," adding: ""I think it will simply lead to a loss of certain segments of the market for them, and a rather profitable market at that."

The president says that Japan's JCB and China's UnionPay "work very well" concluding: "Why should we not do it? We should definitely do it and we will do it."

A Russian payment card system has long been touted. In 2010 WikiLeaks released a cable which showed that US officials lobbied the country on behalf of MasterCard and Visa over concerns that planned legislation for the scheme would "disadvantage" American businesses.

Comments: (14)

Alexander Peschkoff - TEDIPAY - London | 27 March, 2014, 15:51 I am (very) surprised that hasn't been done years ago... Just about time. It would be smart to use multi-protocol approach, to avoid CUP problem of limited acceptance overseas.
Paul Love - Compass Plus - Nottingham | 27 March, 2014, 16:43

Plato, the Greek philosopher and author, coined the phrase to describe such a situation,  ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.


Richard Sanders - ACI Worldwide - Watford | 27 March, 2014, 16:52

So Mr Putin is vowing to do what the European Central Bank have been trying to do for years - create a third debit scheme to rival Visa and MasterCard. I wonder how long it will take.  Monnet died as an option a couple of years ago - lets see what this one is named as? The Cossack card has a nice ring

Alexander Peschkoff - TEDIPAY - London | 27 March, 2014, 17:33

Funny enough, I've just said the same thing - they need a cute name to make it fly. "Cossack" indeed sounds good, if a bit too long.

There are several internal payment schemes in Russia already. Sberbank has a processing platform which can be used as a basis for the national scheme. So, it won't take them long to build it (EMV is overblown in specs, anyway).

To use the momentum to the full, they need to integrate "digital cash" and "Faster Payments" (with "Paym") within the same effort - that will be a killer.

Matt Scott - Wincor Nixdorf International GmbH - Bracknell | 27 March, 2014, 22:35 I second-guessed their response! I think providing they do it with foresight and good/modern design it can only be a good thing. I think a lot of the naysayers are probably the same people who said UnionPay would never work out...
A Finextra member | 28 March, 2014, 05:52

Multi scheme approach sounds good, JCB has a good acceptance and is growing rapidly.

Alessandro Santini - Hewlett-Packard - Rome | 28 March, 2014, 10:20


And the butchery begins :)

Paul Love - Compass Plus - Nottingham | 28 March, 2014, 10:51

One of our clients already runs a central switching service for the United Settlement System (USS) which provides a national ATM switch for Visa & MasterCard Branded cards, as well as a gateway to Union Pay.

The building blocks are already in place.


A Finextra member | 28 March, 2014, 11:08

Several questions that came immediately to mind:

Does Russia have the technology to establish a viable, reliable network? (Without the help from a major non-Russian bank?) What about the infrastructure? (Could the Russian system use card readers already in place, for example?)

Here's the big one: How trustworthy would this system be from a  purchaser's (cardholder) perspective? (From, say, a member of a rival political party?) Mr. Putin, like other politicians, seems to have no qualms using the various branches of his government to harass/punish people/companies who disagree with him.

Or is this a knee-jerk response to sanctions? As one commenter noted earlier, the EU has been trying for years with no success.

Mark McMurtrie - Payments Consultancy Limited - Woking | 28 March, 2014, 11:24

A Russian card payments scheme has been expected for a while now. It should come as no great surprise. It will join the growing number of alternatives to Visa and MasterCard.


Alexander Peschkoff - TEDIPAY - London | 28 March, 2014, 12:37

As for "hard to build" - take a look at MintChip. It's a resilient self-reconciling payments (digital cash) & processing platform. Creating a payment scheme from scratch in 2014 is not the same as doing that in the 50s (especially if you have no or little legacy to support).

As for the existing retail terminals, taking transactions off the schemes' rails is the matter of BIN mapping on the acquirer level...

Ashish Kitroo - HSBC - Pune | 31 March, 2014, 04:52

I would say, there large companies should try to be apolitical at times, otherwise they will certainly lose markets. This incident shows that a clear dependency that someone remote can choke the processing in some country at their will.

A Finextra member | 31 March, 2014, 13:12

If this were just another domestic debit card scheme of the type that already litters the world then it would be no big deal. However Russia's ambitions go much further, and frankly tend toward a system of social control.

The Russian "Universal Electronic Card" system has been in planning for several years although recently it had run into technical and funding difficulties but this latest event may indicate that it is rising back up the political agenda. The UEC is intended to be a single piece of plastic issued to every Russian citizen and governs access to state services including ID card, state benefits & pensions, digital signature etc, as well as debit card, ticketing and e-purse. Sounds convenient, but the flip side is that anyone becoming "persona non grata" in Russia and had the card disabled could find themselves without access to banking and payment services as well as everything else, especially if alternatives are not readily available.

Alexander Peschkoff - TEDIPAY - London | 31 March, 2014, 13:30

Country-specific payment schemes (e.g. Interac in Canada) make sense on many levels (political, technical, financial, strategic etc.)

Card-based solutions are passé. One needs to look at cloud-connected Secure Elements (not to be confused with cloud-based...)

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