Though Russia is one of the world’s hottest e-commerce markets, it’s still lagging behind some other countries in the adoption of mobile banking, says the data published last year by the World Bank. The key reason is the cultural factor – it’s common knowledge that most Russians still prefer to deal in cash as they don’t trust debit and credit cards.

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However, there’s another emerging trend of many Russians increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to manage their money, so some key market players are seeking ways to fill the demand for alternative payment services like mobile transactions.

According to J’son & Partners, Russia’s mobile payment market could reach $1.3 billion by 2017, which compares to just $100 million in 2011. Another forecast by Javelin says that mobile banking in Russia is set to account for $5.4 billion in global payments by 2018.

The Moscow-based mobile payment startup UBANK seems to have started at the right place and at the right time. The company offers an application that enables mobile users to pay bills and transfer money right from their phones. Its Chief Marketing Officer, Evgeniy Kozlov, sees lots of opportunities here.

“We see a big market here, because still there are a lot of cash machines, which allow you to get cash and pay for different services, the same as what we do. But we think that future is when people just connect their bank cards to do the same, so they don’t need to go anywhere. And if their Internet provider says that there’s no more money in the account, they can easily top up their account quickly from their smartphone,” Evgeniy Kozlov said.

The product, launched slightly more than a year ago, has been well received quite quickly. Runa Capital, a Moscow-based venture fund, has injected $8 million in the startup in its first round of funding. The current plan is to grow its business and expand internationally.

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Евгений Козлов