CEE architects of transition: Grigory Marchenko
Grigory Marchenko served two terms as governor of Kazakhstan’s central bank – from October 1999 to January 2004 and from January 2009 to October 2013. He was chairman of the board of Halyk Bank from 2005 to 2009. He retired in 2013 and divides his time between Barcelona, Baku and Almaty.
It is hard to find any successful reform in Kazakh finance that doesn’t have Grigory Marchenko’s mark on it.
His first chance to change the structure of Kazakhstan’s post-Soviet economy came in 1995 when, as deputy central bank governor, he was tasked with leading reform of the country’s new chaotic banking sector.
Initially, a proposed new banking law – based on Basel I methodology – met with stiff resistance from Kazakh bankers. “The heads of the large and mid-sized banks came to us and said: ‘Why don’t you just close all the banks and reintroduce the old system with state-owned banks because there is no way we can operate under this level of regulation’,” says Marchenko.
He and his colleagues met with the bankers twice a week for the next six months and patiently explained the proposed reforms. “Eventually they understood it wasn’t just a bunch of young guys sitting in the central bank and telling them what do it – it was how the world operates,” he says.