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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?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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