Panic Costs Trillion

National Rating Agency has estimated that since the autumn of 2013, banks due to information attacks and negative publicity in the press lost deposits in the amount of 1.329 trillion rubles, most affected is Sberbank.

Like in a bad dream

Since the beginning of the ‘cleaning’ of the banking sector in 2013, information attacks on banks have been significantly more frequent and acquired new forms, write Maxim Vasin and Anton Zapolsky of National Rating Agency (NRA) in their study of ‘information Attacks on Banks: Assessment of Direct Losses and Long-Term Consequences’. Since autumn of 2013, when the Central Bank had revoked the license of ‘Pushkino’ bank (the beginning of the ‘cleaning’ of the banking sector starts from that point), up to the end of 2015 NRA has counted 12 information attacks on banks, in seven cases it was possible to calculate the damage, namely the amount of the deposits outflow.

‘In the situation of frequent withdrawal of licenses, customers of even large and seemingly stable banks are seriously nervous. Almost any negative message about a bank and its potential problems leads to the fact that depositors try to take away their money. Such atmosphere of nervousness and uncertainty significantly increases the efficiency of information attacks, something unscrupulous competitors are willing to use,’ explains frequent media attacks Director of PR at NRA Anton Zapolsky. According to him, in the situation of economic crisis and growing competition, the temptation to cause panic among clients of a competing bank and entice them is very great.

Stronger than all, suffered from the information attacks during the analyzed period Sberbank, which depositors in the midst of a currency panic in December 16, 2014, took away 300 billion rubles, and over the week – 1.3 trillion rubles. Then the clients of Sberbank received texts about an alleged impending blocking of their money. CEO of Sberbank Herman Gref later quoted this messages: ‘Sberbank is under the sanctions, I have an accurate information from Visa and MasterCard that in two days all of Sberbank's card services will be blocked and your money will be blocked and withdrawn.’

Depositors ‘began to withdraw money through all conceivable devices through our branches and cash machines,’ said Gref. ‘Never, even in a bad dream, we cannot imagine that this would be possible’, he noted.

‘In addition to SMS attack, there was a sharp devaluation, which also affected the actions of depositors,’ stated in the reply of the press service on the request of RBC.

Major information attack was made on Alfa Bank in October last year, when its clients received texts with a call to take away their money. In the same month, depositors took away from the bank 15.6 billion rubles. Press service of Alfa Bank then explained the outflow with currency revaluation and did not connect it with the information attack.

Media effect

Some banks were subjected to information attacks after the revocation of licenses of some major banks. For instance, after ‘Pushkino’ bank lost its license in September 2013, in October the clients of ‘Vozrozhdenie’ bank began to receive texts about the alleged impending withdrawal of the license. Mainly these texts were sent to the residents of suburban towns near Moscow, where the bank has a wide cash machines network. NRA estimates that, as a result of the attack, ‘Vozrozhdenie’ lost 2 billion rubles of client funds. ‘The outflow was indeed at this level, but, for obvious reasons, clearly confirm that this is a direct consequence of text attacks is hardly possible. On the other hand, we have not identified any other reasons at the time,’ told the press service of ‘Vozrozhdenie’ bank to RBC.

A year later, in September 2014, the Central Bank revoked the license of the  Yekaterinburg bank called ‘’, after which began a large-scale information attack on Ural banks. On Internet forums and in texts began to spread calls to withdraw money from the largest regional banks: UBRR, SKB Bank, VUZ Bank, ‘Ring of the Urals’, and ‘Neyva’. As a result, at the offices of these banks lined up a queue of people wanting to withdraw their money. According to NRA, the five banks as a result lost a total of 10.5 billion rubles.

Negative information about banks in the media is also becoming a cause for panic of depositors. The most famous ‘victim’ is Svyaznoy Bank, which lost a quarter of its deposits after the article in Kommersant newspaper in November 2014 about the problem with payment of debt of a businessman Maxim Nogotkov (at that time he was a shareholder of the bank). Former press secretary of Svyaznoy Bank Anton Goltsman, whose words are quoted in the NRA's report, said that for the next week after the publication depositors took away from the bank about 25% of total customer funds, or about 11 billion rubles.

In December 2014 depositors of Moscow Industrial Bank took away from their accounts 2 billion rubles. It happened, as states the NRA's report, following the publication of an article on Voronezh website, in which asserted that the bank will soon lose its license. The bank sued, and then concluded a settlement agreement with the website, in which the defendant is obliged to publish a refutation and pay compensation in the amount of 100 thousand rubles.

RBC, 24/02/2016