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Looking for national champions

Ben Aris spoke to Yuri Ponomarev, the chairman of Vneshtorgbank (VTB), the international trade bank of the Russian Federation, which is now Russia’s largest bank ranked by shareholders’ equity.

Yuri Ponomarev

Isn't the dominance of state banks bad for the health of the sector?

Before the [1998] crisis the government dealt with a huge sprawling network of banks, and officials were free to deal with anyone they chose. The result was massive losses for the government. This experience must not be allowed to be repeated.

We need strong banks. We need a few national champions. In the UK the top four banks have a larger market share [in terms of assets] than the top four Russian banks.

But Russia lacks the rules to stop officials making loan decisions. It is clear that in many cases the banks involved are offering bribes and officials are motivated in their choice of who to do business with.

We badly need a complete reform of the banking sector. Until it is properly supervised the bad incidents will continue to happen.

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