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Banking

Kazakhstan: Marchenko retakes the helm at central bank

In a high-profile move, Grigory Marchenko has been appointed as chairman of the National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK) for the second time, replacing his successor, Anvar Saidenov.

Marchenko previously served as NBK chairman from October 1999 until 2004 and was widely viewed as having played a leading role in the transformation of the fortunes of the central Asian country’s banking sector. Under his watch, Kazakhstan went from a near-bankrupt state in the wake of the August 1998 Russian financial crisis to being one of the most stable and profitable in the entire central and eastern European region – an achievement that won him widespread acclaim and comparisons to Alan Greenspan.

The former US Federal Reserve chairman’s star has waned dramatically in the light of the US sub-prime mortgage fiasco but Marchenko’s reputation as a canny operator has been strengthened by his stewardship of Kazakhstan’s third-biggest financial institution, Halyk Bank, where he served as chairman from January 2005. Although many of Halyk’s rivals embarked on a Eurobond issuance binge to finance rapid expansion, a strategy that has come back to haunt them in the wake of the global credit crunch, Marchenko adopted a much more prudent stance and concentrated on bolstering Halyk Bank’s deposit base. As a result, Halyk is viewed as the country’s strongest commercial bank in the post-credit crunch environment, albeit that the government is about to take a stake in it and its big local rivals as part of a broader economic rescue plan.

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