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Top Russian Bank Fires PR Employee Over Twitter Joke

In case you missed it, last month Sberbank -one of the top leading banks in Russia- fired an employee working in PR over a joke he made on the bank’s corporate twitter account.

SberbankA PR manager of Sberbank, one of Russia’s top banks, was fired after posting a joke on the bank’s corporate Sberbank Controversial TweetTwitter account about long lines of elderly citizens which read: “Folk recipe: If you draw the word ‘Sberbank’ on a wall, a queue of 30 old retired women will turn up. Ever tried? Does it work?”

Sberbank is in charge of the state pensions in Russia which leads to long lines of pensioners in most offices of the bank across the country.

The controversial tweet was shared more than 500 times before it was removed. It still managed to reach the retirees by their group called The Russian Pensioners Union which stated that the tweet was an “unacceptable prank”. The group also threatened to complain directly to Herman Gref, the bank’s president.

An apology was issued instantly.

The management explained that the bank is in the middle of a rebranding campaign, thus the loose tone on their Twitter accounts. Sberbank, through social media – Twitter in particular – wants to get closer to their client base via a less official tone however, the incident was uncalled for.

Sberbank is one of the largest banks in Eastern Europe and Russia. It was founded in 1984 and many pensioners still relate the bank as the only banking service in Russia.

In the 90s long queues have been the problem for Sberbank but the situation has greatly improved because of their online banking system. Many Russian pensioners however still opt for over the counter transactions rather than use the internet.

Bella Zlatkis, Sberbank Deputy CEO: “We emphatically prohibit any disrespect to our clients, especially to the elderly group


In most cases, the issue is down to training.  Every employee allowed to talk on behalf of your financial institution -via your official social media accounts- must fully understand the impact of a tweet or a facebook wall post.  It is not easy to find the right balance between your reliable moderation process and the reality of social media and ‘real time’ conversations.  Eventually, it is a matter of finding your voice, selecting the right employees, then trusting and empowering them.

Did a similar situation happen at your bank?  How silly do you find the whole situation?  As an employee, would you even consider saying such a thing in a branch, let alone on twitter of facebook?

Join the conversation here or on our facebook page.

What do you think?

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Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London, Christophe is an entertaining social media keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of social media, social business and digital innovation.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is 'Social Media Senior Managing Consultant' at IBM Interactive Experience. He's also a Digital Advisor at the Financial Services Forum and the Moller Centre (part of the Churchill College in Cambridge).

Christophe's views on are his own, not necessarily his employer's.

One Comment

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  1. The story is not THAT simple. First, Sberbank is the biggest bank in Russia (app. 50% of banking system) and there are so many people and businesses who are trying to get money from it by any means. As far as i know, this story first was used in attempt to blackmail the bank. Second, isn’t it very strange, that “The Russian Pensioners Union’ payed attention to the tweet. In Russia pensioners do not use Twitter for sure. And this “Union’ is а small organisation not heard of before. What really offended followers of Sberbank in Twitter and Facebook – the fact of firing very popular emploee who has thousands of frends in social media, for one joke. By the matter of fact, Two other emploeees, who created social media service of Sberbank have also retired from the bank/

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