Russia’s biggest lender, Sberbank, has acquired 25.07 percent of shares in Skolkovo resident startup VisionLabs, which has been ranked one of the world’s best face recognition technology companies.

VisionLabs founder and CEO Alexander Khanin demonstrating his company's face recognition technology. Photo:

The state banking giant decided to build an identification platform based on VisionLabs’ technology after testing the company’s Luna platform and carrying out a series of pilot projects, Sberbank said in a press release announcing the deal, the value of which was not disclosed.

“The use of the VisionLabs platform at Sberbank will be the largest-scale application of biometric data in Russia, and one of the largest-scale applications in the world in terms of the number of clients,” VisionLabs CEO Alexander Khanin told

VisionLabs’ founders – Khanin, Ivan Laptev and Alexei Nekhaev – and the Sistema VC venture fund, which invested $5.5 million in the company last year, retain a controlling stake of the company, Sberbank said in the press release. Before the deal, the founders’ share was 62.5 percent, according to SPARK-Interfax data.

 VisionLabs will continue to develop its finance, retail, transport and security projects on both the international and Russian markets, Khanin said.

“The company’s development strategy remains unchanged, but its realization will gain momentum with the support of Sberbank, one of Russia’s key tech companies,” he told

“Eighty percent of all launches in the field of face biometric data in the financial sector of Russia and the CIS in the last five years involved the adoption of VisionLabs solutions,” he added.

In banking, face recognition technology can be used for a number of purposes, including to carry out ID checks in branches, and as a form of biometric authorisation for payments.

In global ratings such as Labelled Faces in the Wild, compiled by the University of Massachusetts, and the Ongoing Face Recognition Vendor Test compiled by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), VisionLabs is consistently in the top five algorithms in terms of the quality of recognition.

“The project’s team has without a doubt achieved some impressive results and has managed to create not only one of the best technologies in the world, but a product and solution that have been tried and tested in practice, and have already occupied a significant proportion of the banking biometrics market in Russia and the CIS,” Lev Khasis, Sberbank’s first deputy chairman of the board, was cited as saying in the press release.

VisionLabs’ Luna system is in use at more than 25 companies in Russia, as well as in China, Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Europe, primarily in the banking and retail sectors. 

“The technology at the heart of VisionLabs’ platform is one of the best in the world, both according to international testing data, and to the results of a large number of internal tests and pilot projects carried out within Sberbank,” said Khasis.

The facial recognition market is expected to reach $6.84 billion in value by 2021, according to data compiled by the MarketsandMarkets research company: twice the $3.35 billion it was worth last year.