Financial & Legal Services in Russia

An Expert's View about Finance in Russia

Posted on: 30 Sep 2010

The UK continues to be the largest foreign investor in Russia. UK Trade & Investment has identified Financial and Professional Services as a major sector for UK companies in Russia.

Financial Services - Russia Sector Report Financial & Legal Services RUSSIA Produced by: Fiona Kushvid, Team Leader Financial and Legal Services, British Embassy Moscow, Russia Last revised 06/10/09 Whereas every effort has been made to ensure that the information given in this document is accurate, neither UK Trade & Investment nor its parent Departments (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office), accept liability for any errors, omissions or misleading statements, and no warranty is given or responsibility accepted as to the standing of any individual, firm, company or other organisation mentioned. Published 6 October by UK Trade & Investment. Crown Copyright © [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] Table of Contents OVERVIEW 3  OPPORTUNITIES 14  CHARACTERISTICS OF MARKET 20  KEY METHODS OF DOING BUSINESS 22  MORE DETAILED SECTOR REPORTS 22  EVENTS 22  CONTACT LISTS 23 Page 2 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] OVERVIEW Since the late 90s, the Russian economic growth has been substantial, with GDP increases averaging around 7% in the period 1999-2007. This has been largely attributable to the high world prices for Russia?s export commodities, the remaining impact of import substitution after the 1998 devaluation, sound fiscal and monetary policies and to the recovery in private consumption and investment. As to prospects for growth, Russia has been badly affected by the global crisis but with large foreign trade and current account surpluses, and with record reserves (pre-crisis), the 1 economy is less vulnerable to external shocks than in past years. Russia and Russians have a natural affinity for London. This can be ascribed to a variety of factors including historical trading links, the proximity of London to Moscow, the fact that many Russians speak English and educate their children in the UK, and also a desire to utilise their new wealth in well-established, reputable and reliable investment vehicles and environments, be that through purchasing or managing their assets in the UK, or by raising finance in London?s markets. Russia is, of course, more than just Moscow and St Petersburg. Russia is a vast country, with 11 other cities with populations of 1 million or more. The attention of business should therefore not be excluded from the regions. Investment in Russia The UK continues to be the largest foreign investor in Russia. It is estimated that there are now over 1000 UK companies, many of them household names, operating in this market. UK Trade & Investment has identified Financial and Professional Services as a major sector for UK companies in Russia. Financial Services Main characteristics of Russia?s financial services sector. Banking There are in excess of 1,200 banks in Russia. The state-owned Sberbank has a significant competitive advantage due to its size and extensive branch network (circa 1,000 branches throughout the country, and more than 20,000 outlets). It dominates the Russian banking sector with a market share of 62% in deposits, 50% in retail lending, 32% in commercial lending and 29% in aggregate assets. The sector is highly segmented ? the top 24 banks control 65% of the assets. Leading players, in addition to Sberbank, include Vneshtorgbank (?VTB?), Gazprombank, Alfa Bank, Bank of Moscow and MDM Bank. Despite 1 Russian Economic Survey, July 2008 Page 3 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] the concentration of the sector between the leading institutions, the remainder of the market is highly fragmented with approximately 1,000 banks accounting for just 10% of bank assets. In very recent years, the market has begun consolidating, and the ongoing global liquidity crisis may precipitate further and faster consolidation, especially amongst the medium and smaller sized banks, as much of their funding is derived from the wholesale markets; the credit squeeze is unlikely to affect the very largest banks. The Russian authorities have reacted pro-actively to the credit squeeze, injecting liquidity into the system using a range of means. The Central Bank, and many analysts, judge that the Russian banking system as a whole is well-placed to weather the storm. Nonetheless, among consumers there has been a flight of funds to ?quality? institutions, with state-led and foreign banks emerging strongly. Commercial banks must comply with the Civil Code, the Federal Law ?On banks and banking activities? and the regulations issued by the Central Bank of Russia (?CBR?). Banks are issued with licences by the CBR which permit them to carry out different types of banking activities. Banking regulation has improved markedly in the past 10-15 years, for instance in the introduction of a deposit insurance scheme in 2005, and the regulations introduced in mid 2007 requiring banks to disclose to consumers their effective lending rates. Indeed, starting from almost ?scratch?, some Western bankers have commented that it is ?amazing how good? Russian banking regulations are. Recent years have seen large Russian banks attempt to reposition themselves as retail banks. Russian banks currently offer only a limited range of commercial and retail products (compared to the rest of the world), but new products are being introduced. The commercial banking sector is relatively developed compared to the retail sector, which shows most potential for growth. Banks are still following the market, rather than leading it, with few able or willing to differentiate themselves on the basis of anything other than rates. Within the retail sector, banks experience significant difficulty with the accurate assessment of credit-worthiness: risk management is difficult (or just poor) due to a lack of or limited credit history of individuals and companies. The use of models to determine lending is not effective, as the paucity of data results in a need to use subjective judgment; this process is not only fallible, but also time consuming and costly. There is also perceived to be a cultural misunderstanding amongst Russians - which may be deliberately obtuse ? about their obligations to repay loans. Banks mitigate these risks by increasing the cost of borrowing and real wage 2 growth (at an average of 10% per year) is fuelling this growth and shielding lenders and borrowers from the full impact of their actions; it is widely felt that the consequences of these actions cannot be suspended indefinitely. 2 RBCC Weekly Observer 17-23 October 2007 Page 4 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] The mortgages market is tiny in comparison to the UK or USA. Russia?s residential mortgage market is expected to grow dramatically once the credit crisis is over, from a position where only 2% of property sold each year is mortgaged. In Russia the mortgage market accounts for 3 approximately 2.5% of GDP . In the US this figure reaches 70%, in Poland 4 it is 6%, in Kazakhstan 10 times bigger than in Russia . Increased consumption and substantial growth in corporate and individual incomes stimulate the need for financial services, but they are still very underdeveloped in terms of international norms and distribution is still a major issue facing the banking industry. Increasing confidence in financial institutions has seen demand for loans and credit cards grow considerably, especially with the country?s expanding middle class, as disposable incomes have risen significantly in the past seven years. Mandatory deposit insurance has encouraged consumers to bank the large volume of household savings present in the country, although it is estimated that 5 between US$35bn to US$80bn may still be ?stuffed under mattresses? . Contributing to the institutionalisation of cash, most Russian companies have now switched from paying their employees? wages in cash to depositing them in bank accounts, increasing the necessity of personal accounts for consumers and drastically increasing the number of plastic 6 payment cards and ATM machines within the country ; however, ATM market penetration still remains low in Russia. Regulatory reform of the banking sector is ongoing to improve efficiency and transparency and to weed out criminal activity. Recent years have seen a number of banks being stripped of their licences for money laundering or tax evasion, including 33 such revocations in the summer of 2006 alone, and the CBR reported in late September 2007 that a further three commercial banks had their licences revoked for failure to comply with the federal law on money laundering and terrorism financing. The Federal Financial Monitoring Service of Russia, created by President Putin in 2001, is responsible for the anti-money laundering regulation and enforcement. There has been also a trend of improvements in the transparency in the banking system over the past several years (especially among the Russian leading banks). The share of foreign capital in Russia?s credit institutions is rising quickly and amounted to 21.3% of banks? own capital in mid-2007 (up from 18.3% at Q1 2007, and 15.9% at Q4 2006). 3 ( 4 ( 5 US Russia Business Council, Russian Economic Survey, March 2007 6 Financial, Legal & Public Private Partnerships, UKTI March 2007 Page 5 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] As of October 2007, 58 credit organisations were wholly owned by 7 foreigners and foreign capital held a controlling stake in a further 19 . The number of branches fully owned by foreigners rose from 90 to 141 in H1 2007. However, despite these flows, the role of foreigners in Russia?s banking system remains quite small, reflecting the limited products and services they are licensed to provide and the fact that the state has retained and increased its role in the Russian banking sector. Foreign investment in the two dominant banks, Sberbank and VTB, is 21% and 17% respectively, but as they consist of portfolio investments, do not offer any significant 8 control over those institutions . Insurance At the beginning of 2006, there were 1,075 insurance companies in Russia, of which the top 100 controlled 84% of the market in 2005. The largest 5 and 10 companies accounted for 22% and 42%, respectively, of the market. Leading domestic insurance companies include Ingosstrakh, Sogaz, Reso-Garantiya, Soglassye and Rozno. Insurance companies are regulated by the Federal Service for Insurance Supervision (?FSIS?) within the Ministry of Finance, in accordance with the Law on Insurance Activities in the Russian Federation and the Civil Code, Chapter 48. The FSIS decides the issue, withdrawal and suspension of licences and certificates of competence, compiles a state register of insurance company employees, monitors observance of legislation, and receives and analyses accounts. The FSIS has revoked the licences of numerous companies involved in tax avoidance schemes, especially within the life insurance sector ? a total of 183 licences were withdrawn in 2006. The insurance market in Russia is currently underdeveloped and commensurately, insurance culture in Russia and consumer awareness of insurance products is still quite low; however with the introduction of compulsory insurance, understanding is increasing. In developed European countries, insurance represents 2.7 ? 5.6% of GDP, whereas in Russia the figure was only 0.8% in 2005. However, significant growth has been seen in the non-life insurance sector in the last few years, spurred in part by the introduction of mandatory third party motor insurance in 2003, which forced increased interaction of industry players with the public, increasing general awareness of the market and available products. Insurance companies are extending their regional networks in order to gain new business as insurance becomes more popular across the country, not just in metropolitan centres. Relevant to the retail insurance market is the fact that as Russian consumers obtain credit to purchase cars and property, the market for home and vehicle insurance will grow, as banks require consumers to insure their property. The commercial liability sector, which provides cover for companies that operate dangerous objects / machinery, 7 Quote from discussion with Michael Kovrigin, Deputy Director, Banking Regulation and Supervision Department, Central Bank of the Russian Federation, Moscow, 17 October 2007 8 The Economist Country Report: Russia, September 2007 Page 6 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] is also likely to experience growth, as the limits of liability are increased by legislation. New regulations that became effective on 1 July 2007 stipulated, amongst other things, that companies were required to separate their life and non life insurance businesses, a separate licence was required to write reinsurance business, and to further raise the minimum levels of regulatory capital over the medium term, which has resulted in a number of companies exiting the insurance market. Rules over reserving and asset allocation have also been introduced and / or revised during 2007 to improve the stability, reliability and transparency of the insurance market. Russian insurance companies do not have sufficient capital resources to reinsure significant risks, which are therefore transferred cross-border. The reinsurance market is the most underdeveloped insurance segment and ? consolidation will be required to make it internationally competitive A lack of professional insurance knowledge is one of the challenges facing the Russian insurance market. Insurance can be studied at Russian universities, although there is no Russian equivalent to the Chartered Insurance Institute. There are currently some restrictions on foreign insurance companies. According to Russian law, foreign insurance companies are not allowed to open branches in Russia, they can only open daughter companies. A company could still have 100% foreign capital in it, while acting as Russian legal entity. There is a certain quota for foreign investments in the insurance sector. Overall foreign capital can not exceed 25% of all sector (not more than 25 % of combined Chartered Capital of all Insurance companies operating in Russia). However, foreign companies are still successfully working on the Russian market (e.g. AVIVA, AIG, etc) and the 9 market is still attractive for foreign investments. AVIVA . Recent foreign involvement in Russian insurance companies has met with some striking responses by Russian owner / managers. Shareholders of Ingosstrakh, which is 60% owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, voted in October 2007 to quadruple the Russian insurance company's charter capital in an apparent attempt to dilute the stake of Czech group PPF, which reportedly recently bought 38% of Ingosstrakh. In an illustration of Russia?s improving business environment, and impartiality of its legal system, PPF Investments has won a major ruling in its battle with the Russian insurer's majority shareholder, billionaire Oleg Deripaska's BasEl, when on 12 November 2007 a Moscow court issued an injunction barring the Federal Financial Markets Service from registering a new share issue by 10 Ingosstrakh that would have diluted PPF's stake by three-quarters. 9 Roman Vishnevskiy, August 2009 10 Interfax weekly Moscow press update, 13 November 2007 Page 7 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] Pensions The existing Russian pension system emerged as the result of a reform process initiated in 2002. Prior to that, the country operated a classic pay- 11 as-you-go obligatory state pension system, inherited from Soviet times . Similar to elsewhere in the world, by the turn of the century, Russian demographic trends (a rapidly ageing population and declining birth rates) called for the replacement of the old pension system with a variation of the three-pillar global benchmark. Structure of the market There are state and private pension systems in Russia. The current state system was formed as a result of pension reforms, which took place in 2002, where 3-Pillar system was introduced. Pillar 1 - basic and insurance parts of obligatory pension (used to pay pensions to current pensioners), Pillar 2 - accumulative part of obligatory pension (used for savings and investments) and Pillar 3 - voluntary pensions. Private system is revolving around Non-Government Pension Funds, which came into existence in early 1990s and these are mostly corporate pension schemes. Market Size / Market Participants In terms of total assets, the state pension system is less than the private system. By the end of 2008 total assets in state system was RUB 388bn, in the private system - RUB 463bn. Pension assets as % of GDP?2.8%. Pension assets, $ per capita - $251. There are 133 Non-Government Pension Funds and 59 Private Asset Management companies. Where Pension money is invested The State Asset Management Company ? Vnesheconombank (under Pillar 2) is allowed to invest pension assets in Government bonds, mortgage bonds guaranteed by the government or in bank deposits. Private Asset Management Companies and Non-Government Pension Funds are allowed to invest in a bigger range of asset classes. Both state and private parts of the Russian pension system operate under legal restrictions regarding the maximum allowed portfolio investment in various asset classes. Affects of the Global Credit Crisis There has been a decrease in the value of pension funds. Both asset management companies (state and private) and NPFs showed negative earnings as a result of 2008. New Pension Reforms in 2009 The Global Credit Crisis has revealed that there is a need for long money in the economy. Pension funds are the potential source of the long money. The size of pension assets in the economy should grow. The savings culture of the pension system should be developed. More favourable conditions for asset management companies and Non-Government Pension Funds are 11 Pay-as-you-go system ? the pension tax paid by current workers is used to pay to current pensioners (without any accumulative accounts) Page 8 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] about to be introduced (increase in the range of securities where pension assets can be invested). Pension tax will be increased from current 20% to 26% from 1 January 2010 (for businesses this increase will be applied from 1 January 2011). Increase in tax together with the state support will lead to pension payment increase to pensioners by 45%. Opportunities for UK Business Opportunities for UK business exist in the Asset Management area of the pension system. Legal and related services Judicial practice is improving and interpretation of the law is becoming more logical. However, inconsistencies and contradictions exist that can make it extremely difficult to comply with all Russian laws. A large number of domestic and international law firms are concentrated in Moscow. Large international law firms, many of whom have partners permanently located in the country, dominate the Russian market for corporate law services. Domestic companies are reportedly more competitive within sectors which require significant local knowledge and typically offer lowers fees. However, the domestic market suffers from a lack of consolidation due to a lack of transparency and regulation within the market. The continued improvement of the general business environment within the country over the short and medium term may facilitate the growth of more domestic players to positions where they might be able to compete more successfully with foreign firms. Many of the largest Russian businesses have their own in-house legal teams and it is not uncommon for firms to enter into activities requiring significant legal input, such as mergers and acquisitions, without any outside legal advice. However, business attitudes to the use of outside law firms are changing, especially considering the increasing complexity of business related legislation within the country. There are no marketing restrictions for companies operating in the Russian market and therefore it is relatively easy for firms entering the market to build client bases. The Russian market generates many large contracts utilising English law to facilitate international transactions and arrangements. There are therefore significant opportunities for UK legal firms to enter the Russian market or to form alliances with existing 12 domestic players. Tax reform has been a major step in improving the investment climate in Russia and has led to the overall systemization and simplification of the 12 Preceding four paragraphs from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP publication ?Doing business in the Russian Federation 2007?, Page 9 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] laws and tax administration. The introduction of the Tax Code eliminated loopholes and concessions, liberalised business expense deduction and expanded and clarified many important definitions and procedures. Further progress can still be made to clarify legislation, provide certainty for businesses in their dealings with authorities and reduce the incidence of deliberate or accidental transgression. Accounting and audit Russian accounting rules (?RAR?) are not yet in line with international financial reporting standards ? there is gradual harmonisation but there is progress still to be made; linked to this, the accounting profession is still in a formative stage. Russian standards on auditing are close to international practice, but Russia still lacks a full and comprehensive set of accounting and auditing standards. Licensing is mandatory for audit firms and auditors working independently and auditors are required to hold an audit certificate. There is a proposal in front of the Duma to replace the licensing of audit activity with mandatory membership of audit firms in self-regulated professional associations, to introduce mandatory quality control and toughen the requirements on auditors? independence. An annual statutory audit is mandatory for all companies meeting certain criteria including banks and other credit institutions, insurance companies, commodity and stock exchanges, investment funds, charitable and other (non investment) funds. However, in contrast to Western norms, consolidated accounts are treated as secondary to stand-alone statutory financial statements of a company and are often not prepared; consolidated 13 accounts are also not subject to mandatory statutory audit. In the professional training arena, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (?ACCA?) is the most well known and established organisation in Russia, which entered a largely empty Russian professional training market 10 years ago. In the year 2000 the official representative office of ACCA was open in Russia. Other organisations, such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (?CIMA?) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (?ICAEW?) have begun to establish themselves in Russia. Outside of the ?Big Four? accounting firms there is a lack of a clear understanding amongst Russian businesses and individuals as to the merits of, and differences between, the various bodies and their qualifications. 13 Preceding four paragraphs from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP publication ?Doing business in the Russian Federation 2007?, Page 10 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] Public-Private Partnerships In order to meet the infrastructure improvements required by the Russian government and its population, the implementation of Public-Private Partnerships (?PPPs?) is becoming increasingly important within social and industrial infrastructure projects at the federal, regional and local levels. In August 2005, the Russian government announced a special budgetary investment fund to provide funding for PPPs and various amendments have been made to Russian legislation, including new statutes specifically designed to support infrastructure investments. However, before PPP can be developed on the full scale contemplated by the Russian government, further laws will need to be constructed and enacted including, but not limited to, the transfer of state owned assets to non state enterprises, articulating the rights, risks and responsibilities of the transactions. Capital markets Equity Markets The RTS Stock Market was formed in 1995 as the first regulated stock market in Russia, RTS Stock Market offers trading in cash equities and equity indices. Trading is conducted electronically and all the major companies such as Sberbank, Gazprom and Lukoil are listed on RTS. It is owned by the major banks including UBS, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse. The MICEX Stock Exchange is a core financial participant in the Russian markets acting as an exchange, clearing house and settlement depository. The group product range includes equities (along with RTS it is one of the two major exchanges in Russia and like RTS shares are dealt electronically), Spot USD/RUB FX, Ruble Bonds (Government, where it is the exclusive 14 venue, Corporate and Municipal) , Financial Futures and Repos. It was formed in 1992 and is owned by the Central Bank of Russia (30%), Unicredit (13%) and various pre-dominantly state owned banks. The MICEX Group is comprised of the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, MICEX Stock Exchange, MICEX Settlement House, the National Depositary Center (NDC), the Bank National Clearing Centre (NCC) and others. Foreign Exchange & Money Markets Foreign exchange may be traded on exchanges such as MICEX or ?over the counter? directly between banks and between banks and their clients, either by telephone, messaging or via electronic venues. Spot USD/RUB is the major product dealt and increasingly there is activity in ?basket? trading that is in the Ruble versus a basket made up of USD and Euro. Bond markets The Ruble bond market offers Russian borrowers the ability to raise term funds. It is in part an OTC market and in part electronically traded via MICEX. Russian Government bonds denominated in Ruble trade exclusively Page 11 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] on MICEX. There is also a very active USD Eurobond market in bonds issued in USD and Euros and this is international based in London and Moscow. Derivatives Markets Derivatives trading in Russia is carried out on two exchanges - FORTS, the derivatives market of RTS and MICEX ? and over-the-counter between banks and between banks and companies. Formed in 2001, FORTS lists 33 futures and 17 options contracts on shares in Russian companies, bonds, short term interest rates, currencies, RTS index, oil, silver, gas sugar and gold. There are also active OTC markets in Forward Foreign Exchange, Cross Currency Swaps and Interest Rate Swaps with deals subject to the ISDA master agreement or the NFEA/NAUFOR master agreement launched in 2009. Regions in Russia ? St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg ST PETERSBURG BANKING There is a large presence of foreign banks in St Petersburg. HSBC opened its first branch there in 2009. HSBC offers financial services for retail clients and complements their established corporate presence and capabilities. Barclays Bank is also based in St Petersburg and offers a complete range of banking services for private and corporate clients PPP PPP in Russia was initiated for large infrastructure projects where the state fully supported the construction of vitally important projects but was not capable of covering all related costs and therefore welcomed the investment of private capital. The number of PPP projects grew significantly after the adoption of a special federal law on concessions at the end of 2006. Following this significant step, the city of St Petersburg adopted its own Regional law with regard to PPP projects. St Petersburg positioned itself as an investment centre and a pioneering region in terms of PPP. Currently there are four ongoing large pilot infrastructure projects in ST Petersburg: the Western High Speed Diameter, Orlovsky Tunnel, Light Tram and Pulkovo Airport. The global credit crisis has seriously affected the terms of the projects? realisation. However, these projects will go ahead although perhaps in a slightly different form and timescale. There is now discussion around smaller scale PPP projects in the St Petersburg Region with the focus on healthcare and environmental projects such as the construction of waste treatment plants. Page 12 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] EKATERINBURG BANKING The local banking system in Ekaterinburg is considered one of the most stable in Russia. The number of regional banks survived the 1998 crisis was 28 and by the start of the current economic downturn 23 regional banks were operating. Four banks experienced difficulties but found solution though acquisitions by Moscow and bigger regional banks reducing the number of regional banks to 21. As commented by the Chairman of the Urals Banking Union, no serious problems with capital or with outdated loans exist. The amount of bad debts increased from 2-3% to 10% but this is below the average in Russia. The majority of regional banks were set up by local industrial holdings and, having limited exposure to subprime lending, were less vulnerable to world market fluctuations. A number of foreign banks operate in Ekaterinburg including Raiffeisen Bank, Societe Generale, Citibank, UniCredit Bank and KMB Bank. The high concentration of big corporate clients is the specific advantage of the region. While the regional banking sector is quite strong, the capitalisation is not sufficient to serve them and there is strong interest in long term funding. Retail banking is also developing rapidly with regional banks operating about 50% of all retail deposits. However, foreign banks are benefiting from these developments as well; BSGV has increased its mortgage portfolio by three times in 2008. Local banks are also strongly interested in upgrading their standards and obtaining relevant training abroad. LEGAL SERVICES There are a significant amount of companies working in the Russian Regions, particularly in Ekaterinburg (and the Urals region). Some of the country's biggest companies are located in the Ekaterinburg Region and there are also many international companies working here, so international transactions are common and require high quality legal services including utilising English law. At the moment local legal companies are unable to serve these needs, meaning clients have to go to Moscow for professional advice. There are therefore significant opportunities for UK legal firms to gain direct access to Russian clients based in the regions through alliances with existing domestic players who, in their turn, are keen to develop such partnerships. INSURANCE International companies are expanding into the Russian regions. Aviva has offices in six regional cities. In the Sverdlovsk region the insurance market has been growing rapidly, twice the average in Russia as a whole. The market has slowed but opportunities remain. Page 13 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] ACCOUNTING There are huge opportunities for accounting and audit firms in the Russian Regions, specifically where companies are looking to work with international lenders such as EBRD or seeking international contracts. KPMG has been running its biggest office in Russia in Ekaterinburg, since 2003 seeing Sverdlovsk as the region of most growth. Ernst & Young Ekaterinburg office has seen demand for their services growing to an extent that often their current capacities cannot meet the demand. CAPITAL MARKETS Despite the current global economic crisis London Stock Exchange has been continuous in their program of organising its CIS and Russia Regional Roadshows thorough 2009 to build on the work from previous years in promoting awareness of the investment potential of the regional centres of Russia and CIS to a growing group of London based investors and advisors. There is a strong Regional focus among the Russian and CIS companies already listed and traded on the London Stock Exchange such as Magnit, the food retailer from Krasnodar, and metals producers MMK, TMK, Chelyabinsk Zinc. OPPORTUNITIES UK financial services strengths in relation to Russia are in the following key areas: ? Banking ? Insurance ? Asset / wealth management ? PPP ? Business environment (Regulation, Corporate Governance, etc) ? Legal and related services ? Audit, accounting and related services ? Consulting, advisory & corporate finance Banking Finance raising - due to its rapid expansion, widespread under- capitalisation of the banking sector presents significant opportunities for foreign operators: this is especially evident within the mortgage and corporate lending sectors, where large global conglomerates have sufficient capital to support rapid growth that few Russian institutions could match. In order to raise finance to cope with the increasing demands placed on them, Russian banks have and could continue to turn to London to place Initial Public Offerings on the Main and Alternative markets. To date, Page 14 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] London has been a natural home and point of reference for Russian financial institutions. There may be challenges to London?s primacy from markets in the East, including Hong Kong and Singapore, which may in part be due with price but anecdotally may also reflect a focus on minimising costs in order to extract the maximum cash from the floatation for the owner, rather than ensuring the optimum analyst coverage, size of capital pool and comparison with peers. Mortgages ? only a small number of Russian banks have participated in 15 Russia?s fledging but rapidly growing housing mortgage market . UK banks? vast wealth of experience and well capitalised balance sheets could provide capacity to this market. Retail banking ? vast numbers of the Russian population lost their life savings as a result of the financial collapse experienced in Russia in the 1990s. Foreign banks and institutions are often looked upon more favourably by Russians, compared to their Russian counterparts, as they inspire more confidence and can be seen as more reliable options for Russians seeking to institutionalise their cash. UK banks could also offer a wider variety of retail banking products to an increasingly financially sophisticated and voracious middle class. Corporate finance ? most Russian enterprises primarily use retained earnings for their capital investment. UK institutions could develop corporate finance offerings that could afford Russian entities greater, cheaper and more reliable growth. Furthermore, given the historical lack of non-Russian involvement in Russian industry and enterprise during the Soviet regime, in combination with Russia?s track record for developing very sophisticated technologies and a current resurgence in Russia?s funding capabilities, there may be an opportunity to harness this new found wealth to help them leap the technology gaps created during the period of uncertainty and bankruptcy. Such an opportunity would be aligned with very recently announced Russian government priorities, which confirmed that the federal government was not satisfied with the SME distribution across Russia?s economic sectors and that it was a ?top government priority to boost the number of small businesses in research, innovation and high 16 technology? . Trade finance ? access to secure, reliable and cost-effective trade finance is not always possible for huge numbers of Russian enterprises. The provision of basic banking and finance services to these entities, especially those that may reside outside of Moscow and St Petersburg, could well represent a significant and currently un-catered-for market. Corporate bond market ? London?s expertise in the corporate bond market and undisputed dominance of the global Eurobond market represents an opportunity to drive forward the perceived significant growth 15 US Russia Business Council, Russian Economic Survey, March 2007 16 RBCC Weekly Observer, 7-13 November 2007 Page 15 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] potential for this segment, where Eurobonds are the most common type of 17 Russian corporate bond . E-banking ? Russians are keen to embrace new technologies but until the necessary IT security is developed to safeguard transactions and accounts, this will be a challenging sphere within which to operate. However, for a region as geographically spacious as Russia this method of banking may present a convenient means of reaching a large and widely dispersed population without the need for creating great numbers of costly branch offices. Private banking / wealth management ? many Russian businessmen and entrepreneurs are brought to London to raise capital, which could subsequently be managed in the UK. The UK faces stiff competition from the Swiss due to their advantageous taxation regime and discreet banking offering. As well as a small number of UK banks operating in Russia, the UK has other links with Russian banks, for instance the North-West Association of Banks (?NWAB?), part of the Association of Russian Regional Banks, whose President has in the past undertaken a secondment with the British Banking Association. In discussion with a panel representing the NWBA, interest was expressed not only in obtaining further financing for Russian banks through IPOs in London, but also in understanding the full extent of the financial services offered by the City. Insurance Given its current, relatively underdeveloped status, the potential of the Russian insurance market could present significant business opportunities for foreign investment. The Russian authorities have recently relaxed legislation for European insurers, which had limited foreign ownership of companies by European insurance companies to 50% for many key areas of the insurance market. The changes should facilitate the entrance of European and therefore UK players into the market. The introduction of the experience, technologies and capital of UK insurance companies could play an important role in the development and growth of the sector. Similar to the Russian banking sector, foreign companies do enjoy greater trust from local customers (both corporate and retail), but in the medium term the dominance of local insurance companies is unlikely to be seriously challenged, due to the restrictions on the number of foreign branches allowed to be set up in Russia and the sectors in which foreign insurance companies are allowed to operate. Finance / Capital raising - the rapid expansion of the insurance market, increased competition and increases in minimum authorised capital will all require significant injections of funds from shareholders, many of which will 17 Vladimir Milovidov, head of the Federal Financial Markets Service, 5 September 2007 Page 16 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] not be able to provide them. Therefore large insurance companies may turn to IPOs to raise funds to finance their growth. Property insurance ? reflecting the development and growth of the Russian housing and mortgage markets in both size and value, the size of the property insurance market can be expected to develop significantly in the short and medium term. Life insurance ? most life insurance schemes in Russia were actually tax avoidance schemes and, in recent years, the reduction in life insurance premiums is a reflection of government action to close this loophole, rather than a meaningful trend away from savings and protection products. The lack of retirement provisions for an ageing Russian population is a source of concern for the Russian authorities, particularly given that very few Russians have savings. There is also no history of private pension provision in Russia and therefore, while there is significant potential growth for this market, the ?industry? in Russia is in a relatively weak position. Training of insurance professionals ? there is no actuarial profession or actuarial qualifications in Russia. Currently studying is undertaken either in the UK or US. There is no central body to influence or advise regulators. Asset / Wealth management Russia has both moderately and extremely wealthy individuals who are keen to consolidate their wealth, or at least place it in a secure and reliable environment where they can earn good investment returns. As many Russians live, or have a second home, in London, there is some logic in managing assets from or via this base. Furthermore, as Russian companies list on the London Stock Exchange or AIM, London has a natural geographical advantage to keep the money raised by the floatation in the City and manage those funds for the owners of those companies. The UK has acknowledged expertise to cater to this sector. Public Private Partnerships President Putin is supportive of St Petersburg?s PPP activity and its powerful governor Valentina Matviyenka, and in the autumn of 2007 the pro-Kremlin, United Russia party announced that it advocated an expansion of private- public partnerships in Russia. It is therefore a political imperative for PPP to succeed. The announced St Petersburg deals are worth several billion dollars, and if and when PPP is rolled out to the rest of Russia, will be worth hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars. The very public political support for this method of financing, combined with a tremendous need to replace huge swathes of aging and obsolete infrastructure, present opportunities for the UK, with its experience and expertise in this sector. However, significant progress will be held up by a lack of relevant Russian legislation on the rights, responsibilities and obligations of PPP contracts. The UK could consider providing insight and practical assistance to the development and drafting of such legislation ? a Page 17 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] proposal which could be put to the Russian authorities via the Inter Governmental Steering Committee. Business Environment Listings of Russian companies on the LSE and the regulations with which they are required to comply in order to float will help improve the standards of corporate governance and transparency. London?s deep and liquid pools of capital can continue to attract further IPOs from Russian companies as ?there is simply not enough money in the Russian domestic market to be 18 able to absorb a placement of more than $400-500m? . However, overseas listings for Russian companies are curtailed by the fact that Russian companies must first list on the domestic markets, although many of Russia?s larger companies, such as TNK-BP and United Company RusAl, are in fact registered in off-shore havens and are technically not actually Russian companies. Organisations with which the UK has strong associations and active participation, such as the EU, the EBRD and Financial Action Task-Force (?FAT-F?), and in future the ICFR, are helping and could further help to develop a better business environment through their promotion of strong corporate governance, championing of better regulation and support of sound financial practices. Legal and related services English law, with its commercial orientation, predictability and tried, tested and trusted status, is a very attractive option under which to contract large or complex deals in Russia. The UK could provide assistance to develop Russian law on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, taxation, licensing, company formation, public private partnerships and banking and insurance regulation. The focus should be on eliminating inconsistencies and contradictions within Russian law. ?Magic Circle? firms are well established in Moscow and with this, training for student and qualified Russian lawyers in English law (and in the English language) would help consolidate the UK?s advantage. Audit, accounting and related services Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (?IFRS?) may be made compulsory for Russian companies from 2010 (currently it is only mandatory for Russian banks). This will present a need for professionals with IFRS expertise and experience to facilitate the conversion from Russian accounting standards. As more Russian firms seek to and successfully list in London, there will be a need to comply with all relevant UK Listing Authority, Financial Services Authority and Companies Act rules and regulations. The UK has a clear competitive advantage in preparing the company, its directors and documentation for its own stock exchange. 18 Alexander Potemkin, CEO of MICEX quoted in Russia on 3 October 2007 Page 18 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] Consulting, advisory & corporate finance UK expertise could be employed in assisting financial and non financial institutions in their diversification and development of products, services and strategies. Due to the consolidation of a number of the financial services sectors, opportunities exist for providing advice on merger & acquisition activities, integrations and restructuring, as well as assistance with more standard activities, such as the development and clarification of management structures and IT systems. Although the cost of borrowing has increased in recent months, many very wealthy Russians have a ready and substantial supply of cash that they are able to spend acquiring equity or entire companies. Some high profile Russians, such as Oleg Deripaska, have made numerous acquisitions of UK or international companies. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of Russian financial institutions predicted that Russia could expect robust M&A activity over the next year, in excess of previous experience. The main growth fuelled by the ?unabated interest of foreign financial organisations in the Russian market?.in particular financial organisations in Germany, France and Italy 19 are expected to display the greatest interest? . Education and training Although Russians acknowledge that English is the language of international business, their command of it is not always strong. Education bodies exist to remedy this, for instance the British College of Banking and Finance. The UK clearly has expertise and a ?home advantage? in this arena. Certain segments of the education community in Russia are very strong supporters of the British education system, and particularly professional / business education, and would welcome the presence of or links with British institutions in Russia. UKTI publishes international business opportunities gathered by our network of British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates worldwide. These opportunities appear in the Opportunities portlet on the relevant sector and country pages on the UKTI website. By setting up a profile you can be alerted by email when relevant new opportunities are published. New or updated alert profiles can be set in My Account on the website. 19 RBCC Weekly Observer 17-23 October 2007 Page 19 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] CHARACTERISTICS OF MARKET The following provides an insight into current political, economic, and general business environment issues currently facing Russia. Economics Until the latter part of 2008, the Russian economy had benefited from eight years of strong growth, averaging 7.5% a year on the back of growing natural commodity prices, revitalised industries and a massive influx in foreign capital. This growth was accompanied by budget surpluses (4% in 2008), allowing the Russian government to accumulate the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world: almost $600 billion by 2008. As the reserves accumulated, policy makers concentrated on how to maintain Russia?s strong economic growth and diversify away from reliance on oil and gas sales, with nanotechnology highlighted by the government as a key area of interest. In reality though, the government failed to use the oil ?windfall? revenues to develop ? or even maintain - Soviet era infrastructure and enterprises, now badly needed to gain post-crisis advantages. Hydrocarbons have remained the core of the economy, accounting for over 20% of GDP, 50% of federal budget revenues and 60% of exports. Revenues from oil exports make up such a large part of the federal budget that it is set each year on the basis of the predicted average annual oil price. It is this reliance on oil sales, together with a dependency on western capital, which has made the outlook for the Russian economy in the current economic crisis far more serious than most other countries. Moreover, the government is doing little to address revitalisation, instead focusing on social stability at the expense of long-term economic sustainability and wearing down the bulk of its prized reserves. The Global Economic Crisis The Russian economy has been affected by the global slowdown more severely than most other major developed and emerging economies. Forecasts at the beginning of the year predicted that the economy would contract by 3% in 2009, a sharp turnaround from the boom years. The reality now looks much worse. Russia?s GDP fell by 10.1% in the first six months of 2009, with the decline in GDP actually accelerating as the year progressed. The worsening situation has led to a further decline in investment, dropping from ?15% in the first quarter to -20% in the second quarter. The statistics led to dramatic downward revisions of growth projections. For 2009 the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) forecast a contraction of 8.9% and tentative growth of 1% in 2010, effectively stagnation. Page 20 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] The repercussions of the crisis in the financial sector are now clearly visible in the industrial and real sector. Industrial production in June alone fell 12.1% year-on-year (YoY) and shrank by nearly 15%YoY for the first six months of 2009. In the same time period last year the same levels grew by 5.8%YoY. Despite rapidly rising unemployment, Russian households managed to maintain spending levels into first quarter, but have since adjusted to new, tightened, circumstances. So, for the first time in eight years, retail trade has gone into decline. The Government?s Response The government?s response to problems in the real economy appeared haphazard. In early November, the government unveiled a series of measures to tackle the crisis. It undertook to assist companies in refinancing foreign debt, reduce the profit tax on companies from 24% to 20%, and aid a long list of "priority" sectors. This aid would be delivered through state-directed credit, preferential treatment of Russian firms bidding for government contracts, the use of trade barriers and subsidies (most notably in the agricultural and automotive sectors). Benefits to the unemployed were also increased. Business environment Legal issues The rule of law is becoming more predictable and impartial, with Western financial services and legal firms able to cite experience of fair hearings in Russian Courts, in matters including taxation; there can still be issues over the enforcement of the law. Many difficulties with Russian law can stem from the fact that it is inadequate or not sufficiently comprehensive to deal with the complexities of a modern market economy and sophisticated financial instruments. As Russia attempts to move towards WTO accession, some of these issues with legislation are being resolved. However, examples of misuse of the legal system by the state or other influential actors are still being reported. Many large or complex transactions involving international parties are already written under English law, in order to provide clarity, certainty and predictability in the event of a disputed outcome. Corruption & transparency Corruption is reported to be endemic to Russia. State bureaucracy is still considered to be an issue in Russia. Transparency International (?TI?) rd Corruption Perception Index published in 2009 ranked Russia 147 out of 180 countries. The TI Index followed on from the World Bank?s ?Ease of th Doing Business? index which placed Russia 118 out of 183 countries in the year 2009. These negative figures might become critical and decisive factors for foreign investors especially with regards to long term plans. However the potential for significant investment returns may neutralise concerns around these issues especially in the short term. Page 21 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] Some Russians acknowledge that the issue of how they and Russia are portrayed in the Western media, particularly in relation to crime and corruption, needs to be resolved, and that the impetus for action should come from Russia itself, to present what it feels to be a more balanced view of actions and activities. A fact also worth noting is that ?modern? Russian business, being a mere 19 years old, is lacking a comprehensive understanding of contemporary business & management skills and systems. However with the current trend of multinational brands (investment groups, legal companies, insurance companies, corporates, etc.) expanding their activities in Russia western practitioners have been boosting the development of business environment in Russia KEY METHODS OF DOING BUSINESS The background information on doing business in Russia can be found on UKTI?s website. Simply go to the Russia country page where you will find a doing business guide MORE DETAILED SECTOR REPORTS Research is critical when considering new markets. UKTI provides market research services which can help UK companies doing business overseas including: ? Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). Bespoke research into potential markets, contacts and support during your visits overseas. ? Export Marketing Research Scheme. Advice on market research and help to contact subsidised market research administered by the British Chambers of Commerce on behalf of UKTI. Contact your local International Trade Advisor if you are interested in accessing these services or for general advice in developing your export strategy. EVENTS For information about events, please register for updates on the UK Trade and Investment website or contact the Financial and Legal Services team in Moscow. There are plans to hold a number of events at Post, including Page 22 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] regular British Law promotional events, plus events on banking, insurance, etc. The team will also organise events around the next Lord Mayor?s visit to Russia, currently scheduled for October 2010. The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce ( and the Association of European Businesses ( hold regular events which may be of interest to you. UK Trade & Investment?s Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) can help eligible UK businesses take part in overseas exhibitions. Attendance at TAP events offers significant benefits: ? possibilities for business opportunities both at the show and in the future ? a chance to assess new markets and develop useful contacts ? grants are available if you meet the criteria ? UKTI staff overseas will be available to assist delegates Details of TAP events can be found in the Events portlet on the Russia page. Other Market Visit Support may be available via your local International Trade Advisor. CONTACT LISTS The UKTI Financial and Legal Services team at Post can provide you with more tailored advice on the Russian market and your business needs. Please also contact the team for any business contacts required (legal, banking, etc.) Fiona Kushvid Team Leader, Financial and Legal Services British Embassy in Moscow T: +7 495 956 7458 E: Tatyana Kononova Trade & Investment Adviser British Embassy in Moscow T: +7 495 956 7214 E: Tatyana Raudson Senior Trade & Investment Adviser British Consulate-General in St. Petersburg T: +7 812 320 3227 E: Yulia Alekseyeva Senior Trade & Investment Adviser British Consulate-General in Ekaterinburg Page 23 of 24 [Financial and Legal Services] ? [Russia] T: +7 343 3794931 E: UKTI?s International Trade Advisers can provide you with essential and impartial advice on all aspects of international trade. Every UK region also has dedicated sector specialists who can provide advice tailored to your industry. You can trace your nearest advisor by entering your postcode into the Local Office Database on the homepage of our website. For new and inexperienced exporters, our Passport to Export process will take you through the mechanics of exporting. An International Trade Adviser will provide professional advice on a range of services, including financial subsidies, export documentation, contacts in overseas markets, overseas visits, translating marketing material, e-commerce, subsidised export training and market research. Page 24 of 24
Posted: 30 September 2010

See more from Finance in Russia

Expert Views    
Financial & Legal Services in Russia   By UK Trade & Investment
Financial & Legal Services   By UK Trade & Investment
Financial & Legal Services   By UK Trade & Investment
Presenting the contributor