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Opinion

CEE banking souvenirs: Seed capital

Russia's Lebedev goes with his gut feeling when it comes to gifts.

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Euromoney has been given some unusual souvenirs by bankers in central and eastern Europe (CEE) over the years, from a yurt moneybox – sadly abandoned in a Bishkek hotel room for reasons of space – to a heart-shaped Albanian handbag-hanger.

Even by these high standards, however, the parting gift from Alexander Lebedev stands out.

Once one of Russia’s leading bankers, Lebedev has pulled back from the sector during the past decade after his National Reserve Bank was repeatedly targeted by state security services.

Today he is better known as the owner of various newspapers, including local opposition paper Novaya Gazeta and the UK’s Evening Standard and Independent.

As part of our 50th anniversary coverage, however, Euromoney was keen to speak to him about the early years of post-Soviet banking. This involves a lengthy wait as Lebedev, although now officially off the Forbes list of billionaires, maintains oligarchic traditions by being extremely late for meetings.

Fortunately, the Moscow headquarters of his National Reserve Corporation boasts a restaurant on the ground floor, to which we are ushered. There, seated beneath framed Evening Standard front pages – praising Theresa May and condemning Jeremy Corbyn – we are served an array of baked goods made with buckwheat and linseed.




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