American Express Co. and Sberbank Ltd have reached an agreement enabling Russia’s largest bank to issue AmEx cards beginning early next year, the companies announced Nov. 11.

“With this new partnership, we expect strong growth in Russia and look forward to increasing our penetration of the Russian card market,” an AmEx spokesperson tells PaymentsSource.

AmEx plans to “work closely” with Sberbank to develop cards for upscale customer segments, she says.

Sberbank will issue premium and super-premium AmEx cards in Russian Roubles, Euros and U.S. dollars. The cards will feature both Sberbank’s and American Express’ logos. The companies declined to comment on how many AmEx cards Sberbank expects to issue.

 “This agreement allows us to further broaden our range of card products and provide our customers with access to unique and innovative card services with internationally acclaimed benefits and privileges,” Alexander Torbakhov, Sberbank’s deputy chairman of the board, noted in a statement.

The deal calls for Sberbank to handle the customer service, marketing and credit-risk on AmEx cards it issues.

Sberbank, which also issues Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide cards, recently issued its own credit card, the Pro 100.

Altogether the bank has issued 49.1 million payment cards, Sberbank says.

“We began our card-issuing partnership [in Russia] with Russian Standard Bank in 2005 and, in 2007, they became the sole merchant acquirer,” Sberbank’s spokesperson says.

Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, controlling approximately 30% of the total assets of the Russian banking system, with some 240,000 employees. It has the most widespread branch network in Russia, as well as subsidiaries in Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.



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