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Nomos takes on the big beasts of Russian banking

With a nimble approach to business and a track record of riding out storms in the Russian financial system, it is one of the country’s few bank success stories. But will Nomos suffer from growing too far, too fast? Rachel Morarjee reports from Moscow.

IN 1997, JUST a year before the Russian financial system melted down, five men met in a kindergarten after the children had gone home and worked out a plan to start a bank. One of the men was Dmitri Sokolov, the current chief executive of Nomos Bank, which listed this April in London and unlike many Russian stocks is trading above its initial listing price.

Although 1997 might have seemed an inauspicious time to start a banking business, being able to ride out financial storms has been one of the keys to Nomos’ success. Last year, while other banks were still licking their wounds after the bruising Russian stock market losses of 2008, Nomos was the first bank to begin aggressively lending again, with loan growth almost doubling to R339.3 billion ($11.7 billion) in 2010 compared with a Russian market average of 21%.

Nomos’s top executives say their experience in difficult financial markets has served them well: from dealing with bad loans to spotting opportunities for key acquisitions.

"Our management has lived through two waves of Russian financial crisis and we are resilient. We don’t believe in growth for the sake of growth, we’re not a 1970s’ Soviet steel company," says Jean-Pascal Duvieusart, a former McKinsey consultant who joined Nomos in 2010 as its head of strategy.

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