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Russian Banks
October 24, 2007 14:31

For many years the Russians had access to the only bank existent in the banking sector of the Soviet Union – the Sberbank, or the savings bank, while now they are free to choose among some 900 lenders. Here the list of the biggest banks operating in Russia today.


The history of the first Russian Bank dates back to 1 March 1841, when the first savings bank was opened in St Petersburg. By that time the citizens were aware of lending and money safeguarding institutions thanks to a network of widow, loan and savings exchequers. Interestingly, the symbol of the new institution became a pelican, a bird known for its exceptional care and love to its nestlings, since the first savings bank occupied the building of the board of trustees.

Then in 1860 the National bank of the Russian Empire, with the minister of finance as the head, was founded. As a result it obtained control over all savings banks functioning in Russia.

At the turn of the century the savings banks flourished and their number increased at breakneck speed. By 1900 the country totaled 5 415 savings banks compared to 76 in 1886.

Emperor Nikolai II signed a new code of the banks implying creation of the central office of the national savings banks. The building was erected on the Bank of the Fontanka River in St Petersburg.

After the Revolution all commercial institutions were closed, the new government prohibited mortgage loans, credits, securities and investment business, all government loans were written off. However, savings banks kept working and deposits remained reserved. In 1921 the National Bank was established. In the following years the Soviet government used the savings banks for obtaining funds from the people for industrial development of the country.

In 1988 all state labor savings banks were united to form the Savings Bank of the USSR as the State Specialized Bank for the population and legal entities. 22 March 1991 the Open Joint Stock Company Savings Bank of the Russian Federation was set up at the general meeting of shareholders.

Today with a market capitalization of $62.4 billion, Russian retail banking giant Sberbank has made it into the ranking of the world’s 20 highest-value banks.


 VTB is a recognized leader of the national financial industry having gained a sustained competitive edge in all segments of the banking market.

VTB was established in 1990 as a close joint-stock company with government-run ownership. Shortly, after it was granted General banking license for transactions in domestic and foreign currencies, VTB started its operations. In 1998, the Bank was transformed into an open joint-stock company. The Russian Government holds the majority stake amounting to 99.9%.

As a result of the IPO conducted in 2007, the aggregate amount of funds raised totalled $8 billion, making the VTB’s IPO the world’s largest public offering in 2007. It also proved to be most public in the history of the Russian stock market, since more than 120 thousand Russians have become VTB shareholders during the IPO.

The Bank has successfully been trading in all kind of government and corporate securities and is presently one of the leading Russian Custodians. Foreign network of the Bank is represented by subsidiaries in London (Great Britain), Paris (France), Zurich (Switzerland), Limassol (Cyprus), Vienna (Austria), Frankfurt-on-Main (Germany), Luxembourg, Luanda (Angola), Kiev (Ukraine), Tbilissy (Georgia), Minsk (Belarus) and Erevan (Armenia), representative offices in Milan (Italy), Beijing (China) and Delhi (India).


In keeping with annual ratings, Gazprombank is the second Russia’s bank with regard to its main financial indices. The bank is the third among the banks of the Central and Eastern Europe. The bank was founded in 1990.

Besides the gas industry, Gazprombank currently renders banking services to enterprises and employees of other real sector industries (chemical, engineering, defense, and other industries). The Bank's client base consists of approximately 2 million retail clients and 40 000 corporate clients, including 1000 enterprises and institutions of the gas industry.

The Bank provides service for large-scale international projects such as "Yamal-Europe" gas pipeline laying from Siberia to Europe; "Blue Stream" - for gas transportation across the Black Sea bed to Turkey; pipelines laying on the territory of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. A system of banking services is creating for OAO "Gazprom" long-term projects in Siberia and the Far East on Russian gas supplies to Japan, China, and South Korea.

Russian Agricultural Bank

Russian Agricultural Bank is 100% state-owned bank regulated by the Central Bank of Russia. RusAg is one of the leading financial institutions providing lending support to Russian agribusiness.
Russian Agricultural Bank acts as a Government agent providing financial services to agribusiness and rural population, which makes up 27% of the total population. Russian Agricultural Bank plays a key role in the implementation of the State Program on Agribusiness Development. The Bank's development role is based on its good knowledge of the Russian agribusiness sector. RusAg offers a large product range oriented on the target market segment and its wide regional coverage.
Today, Russian Agricultural Bank’s network of 78 regional branches and over 1500 additional offices covers the whole territory of the Russian Federation and is the second largest regional branch network in the country.
The Bank has the following credit ratings: Baa1 (Stable) from Moody’s and BBB (Stable) from Fitch Ratings.
Russian Agricultural Bank ranks number four among the largest banks of the Russian Federation by assets and capital according to RBC and Expert RA, and RusAg is number 212 by capital in the World according to the July 2011 issue of “The Banker” magazine.

Bank of Moscow

Bank of Moscow is a joint stock commercial bank offering a full range of banking services. It was established in 1995 at the initiative of the Government of the City of Moscow as an open joint-stock company. The Moscow Government and its related entities own a 43.999 % share in the bank’s equity. Since December 2004 the bank’s shares are traded on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX). Currently the Bank serves about 100 thousand corporate customers and over 7.7 m individuals. The Bank ranks second biggest in the country by number of the issued plastic cards (7.9 m) and the third one by the amount of private customers deposits.

The Bank lends to major industrial projects and renders financial services to leading Russian companies, such as ALROSA, United Energy System of Russia, Gazprom, Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant, Tulachermet, Don Tobacco, TVEL, SUAL Group, Tyumen Oil Company, Mosenergo.

In 2011, the bank and its former chief were implicated in an embezzelement scandal after a financial review revealed a hole of $400 million. It was purchased by VTB but continues to operate under its original name.

Alfa Bank

Alfa Bank is headquartered in Moscow and has got over 200 branches in Russia and the CIS, and subsidiaries in Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, and the United States. The bank was founded in 1990 and now it is one of the largest privately owned banks in Russia. In addition to banking, the Bank has FSA and NASD-regulated brokerage subsidiaries located in London and New York.

Alfa-Bank is one of the few Russian domestic banks that operate under international auditing standards (PricewaterhouseCoopers — since 1993). In 2006, it was recognized as one of Russia’s most transparent banks by “Transparency and Disclosure by Russian Banks”, research conducted by Standard & Poor’s. Alfa-Bank has always supported charities, Russian culture and development programs for young talents. The Bank is a member of the Corporate Club of WWF Russia (World Wildlife Foundation) and a donor to the Russian Charity “Life Line”.



Open Joint-Stock Company Promsvyazbank (PSB) is one of Russia’s leading privately owned banks, successfully operating since 1995.
 As at 1 April 2011, PSB ranked 10th by assets among Russian banks, according to Interfax information agency.
PSB is a universal financial services provider engaged in commercial banking, retail banking, private banking, investment banking, and SME banking. As at 1 April 2011, PSB offered services to about 343,000 retail borrowers and depositors and over 98,000 corporate clients. The number of active cards issued by the Bank reached 991,000.
As at 1 April 2011, PSB domestic network consisted of about 246 points of sale in more than 90 communities across Russia. The Bank has over 1,200 ATMs in the country. In addition to the domestic network, PSB has a branch and a retail office in Cyprus, as well as foreign representative offices in Ukraine, China and India.
PSB is rated by two major international credit ratings agencies: Moody’s Investors Services and Fitch Ratings.
The majority owners of PSB are Messrs. Dmitry and Alexey Ananiev. Commerzbank Auslandsbanken Holding AG, a subsidiary of a leading German bank Commerzbank AG, has been a minority shareholder since 2006, with a 15.32% equity stake. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development became a new PSB shareholder with an 11.75% stake in February 2010.




Olga Pletneva (updated by Mikhail Vesely)

Tags: Russian business Russian banks banking and finance in Russia   

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