In Russia, the ambiguous withdrawal of international banks

A “downturn” of the Russian market. The term is widely used by banks currently withdrawing from Russia. Never that of “abandonment” or total “exit” from the territory, despite the accumulation of American and European sanctions, the collapse of the Russian financial system and the escalation of the war in Ukraine.

Even if the tone changes, several banks leave open, whatever the cost, the line with Russia. Reason given: support for international “non-Russian” customers. Since March 8, Russia has drawn up a list of 21 countries, plus those of the European Union, declared as “hostile”. Under these conditions, a hasty departure could put existing activities at risk, or even further irritate Moscow, with the risk of even harsher counter-sanctions that could go as far as expropriation. It is therefore better, officially, to play the watch.

foot changes

Until Friday, while several American establishments including Goldman Sachs announced to reduce the sail in Russia, Deutsche Bank still refused to start its departure, citing its “values”, but also “practical” problems. The same evening, however, this time highlighting its “legal and regulatory obligations” and citing “some of its international competitors”, the first German bank changed its tune: “We are in the process of slowing down our remaining activity in Russia by helping our non-Russian international customers,” she explained. Before adding: “There will be no more new activity in Russia”.

The bank said the decision did not apply to its computer center, which employs 1,600 people in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The group employs a total of 1,700 employees in the country.

“Open until further notice”

On Monday, the American bank Citi also changed its position. Until then, she explained “continue her efforts” to sell her consumer credit activity as announced while continuing to assess the situation. She now says “act urgently” to expand the scope for sale, and specifies that all new activity is suspended. These decisions “will take time”, she nevertheless warned.

Asked, Commerzbank, whose office has 134 employees in Russia, “will remain open until further notice”, although it is no longer accepting new transactions.

For their part, Crédit Agricole, which has 170 people in the country, or Société Générale, the most exposed of French banks with its subsidiary Rosbank, do not plan to transfer any teams outside the country.

Despite pressure from the influential Finance Committee of the British Parliament, HSBC has announced no departure. However, it will not take on new business flows. “We have no retail banking, customer or bank branch operations in Russia,” said the bank, which has 200 employees there. We focus our efforts on helping our multinational corporate clients. »

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