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Interview with Sergey Nikolayevich Vlasov, Chairman of the Board of Orient Express Bank: Express is on schedule - EastRussia | Interview

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Express is on schedule

Express is on schedule

Chairman of the board of the bank "Orient Express" Sergei Vlasov - about what business philosophy helped transform the regional Far Eastern bank into one of the largest players of federal significance in the Russian retail banking market.

- Sergei Nikolaevich, the bank "Orient Express" largely justified its own name: starting in 2006 with a "low start", he for a short time could literally break into the top ten Russian banks-leaders in the retail segment. And without the support of the state ...

- I would even say, despite her absence ...

-Especially. But tell me, if you had to "build the rails" now, would the movement be just as rapid?

- Of course not. Everything becomes more complicated. The economy, albeit more slowly than we would like, but developing. The competition is growing. Seven years ago, when we entered this market, there was no such great demand for loans, they were given out not in such quantities and in more modest amounts. We started on time, and, I believe, guessed the moment. We have succeeded. We were the five hundredth bank in the country, then the two hundredth, hundredth, fiftieth, and finally the thirtieth in the rating. We are the second after Sberbank retail. At first, we were simply “not seen”, and then it became impossible not to notice.

- Bad is the banker who thinks otherwise. And yet the situation is not the easiest. Your competitors are huge networks created by state banks. The rules of the game in this market sometimes change drastically. The economy is not in the best condition, and there is always the possibility of negative scenario forecasts, that there will be less deposits, loans will not be claimed, offices will have to be closed ... Do you have a "plan B" in case of a crisis?

- We are constantly thinking of crisis strategies. But life is richer than any scenarios, and people are always strong in the back. It is impossible to foresee everything, but the one who is acting out of the reality and its logic, and not some of its speculative constructions, is the first to be chosen from the crisis. Banks - the institutions are very complex, and for the economy of the country they are the same as for the organism - the circulatory system with all its arteries, veins and capillaries. On the banking system, you can diagnose the entire economy. It is important to be able to do this.

Banks are the first to suffer from crises, but, of course, they are the first to overcome their consequences. Simply because the funds still need somewhere to accumulate, redistribute, etc. In recent years, it is clear that the banking system is developing mainly through retail, rather than corporate lending. We have a resource economy in our country and a continuing dependence on imports. And people keep purchasing power because large social payments are still going on-state employees, military men, officials, pensioners.

- The bank, which works primarily in the retail sector, is forced to constantly feel its "social responsibility". How has your work changed now, when the Central Bank of the Russian Federation began to pursue a rather tough policy in the banking sector, revoke licenses, adopt new laws with regard to lending to individuals and so on?

- In principle, we are satisfied. The newly adopted law regulating the sphere of consumer crediting turned out to be tougher than it was before, but also more balanced. There were more rules, and this is very good - much worse when there is no rule, and "the cobbler cakes pies", the sanitary doctor controls the banks, etc. Now the supervision of banks will be carried out by the Central Bank, and this is a professional approach, without politics and unnecessary demagogy. By the way, we, as representatives of the banking community, actively participated in the preliminary discussion of this law, proposed their wording of individual articles, participated in expert hearings. They tried to take him for four or five years, the process was very difficult.

As for our responsibility, we still take the position of “we and customers”, “we and the market”, and not “we and the authorities”. We are far from power, but close to clients. But, of course, I will not be cunning: when a bank becomes large, it inevitably becomes dependent on the decisions of the state. All major businessmen are somehow involved in power, because they need to protect their business. And I have 12 thousands of employees and 2 million customers - if something happens, I, as a banker, perfectly understand the measure of my responsibility. Therefore, in various cases I happen to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation to walk substantially more often than before.

- And how did you perceive the situation with Master Bank and other banks that had their licenses revoked?

-It is not unambiguous. On the one hand, the decision of the Central Bank was logical. On the other - it's still the way "up the stairs, leading down." Sometimes even the right actions eventually destroy the system. I'll start the explanation from afar - here, for example, take Khabarovsk. As you know, the best buildings in our city were built by merchants in the XIX century. They had a slogan: "Profit is above all, but honor is more precious." They built houses at the same time as they did, the result is obvious. It's the same in the financial market - there's "every creature in a couple". There are unscrupulous banks, there are respectable ones and those for whom "honor is more precious" - all sorts. Accept as an axiom that most banks are greedy and inadequate, certainly not. We understand that the laws are in place now and we must learn to live in accordance with them, that's all. About Master Bank, I can say that not all of what is said about it now corresponds to the truth. In my opinion, they withdrew the license for one reason, and they called another one. Not for the notorious "money laundering," but for allegedly a lack of funds. This is a rather doubtful reason, because the bank was strong and stable, normal - even if not very much - earning. And all 20 years, the Central Bank knew perfectly well what they were doing, and had no complaints against them, until suddenly he decided to "protect money" swiftly. As a result, such protection has suffered, for example, the charity fund of Dr. Lisa, who is engaged in supporting homeless people and orphans, they have a huge amount of money stuck there according to the standards of their turnover - it seems, 12 million. Not in the best situation was also a lot of legal entities - enterprises and partner banks. Meanwhile, there is a procedure that allows not to affect the interests of depositors, and it is called sanation. If this bank was elementary sanitized, no client would be hurt. And in general the hype in the banking sector is rarely beneficial. Money requires neatness and silence.

We are completely in favor of the fact that the banks that are engaged in money laundering have been liquidated - although we understand that this task is almost unrealistic, since there will always be those who have such a need. This question is not so much financial as legal and moral. To me, for some reason, for 20 years of work in the banking sector, I have never been offered bribes, and I myself have never given it to anyone. Even traffic cops. For me it is morally humiliating, but for someone it is completely permissible. While in the country there is a mass need to get money dishonestly, closing banks, we will fight with the investigation, not with the cause.

- How, in your opinion, will the situation in the banking sector develop further? For example, there is the idea of ​​creating a Post-Bank, there is a plan for a gradual transition to a non-cash basis so that Russian citizens do not carry "suitcases of cash bills" instead of a plastic card, as in Europe. What will give such measures?

- Now the frightened population across the country takes money from private banks and carries it to the state. State-owned banks "swell" with terrible force. But the monopoly never leads up to good and always leads to an increase in prices. Even in spite of the fact that Sberbank loans cheaper than private banks, so far it and other state banks occupy 70% of the market. If he reduces the price of loans in half - we will do the same, we simply will not have a choice. However, for some reason, the monopolist does not do that. First of all, because he has no real competition, and he can dictate his terms on the market. Now, apparently, the share of state banks will be even greater - and can this be called a good policy?

As for the creation of the Post-Bank, we are only FOR - the more competition, the more interesting it is to live. But we must understand that this will also be a state structure, and state banks will always agree with each other. Moreover, there is no normal antimonopoly service in Russia yet. True, I always remember Vysotsky - "let life judge, let life punish." So it will eventually work out. Life has repeatedly argued that we must move forward, overcome tension, otherwise - stagnation. And stagnation is dying. What would not at all like. That's why it seems to me dangerous to fall into such narcissism: "we have grown 6 thousand times in 7 years, we all can!" These are the achievements of yesterday, and if yesterday we fought with local banks, now we have competitors much more powerful - the same Sberbank in the Far East and the full power of its well-established machine, monopoly, strongest employees and consultants from McKinsey & Company. But it awakens sports excitement, spurs and gives impetus to further growth.

- After joining the Central Bank of Elvira Nabiullina, did it become easier or harder for you to work? How do you assess the line of the current leadership of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation? In one of his interviews, Viktor Gerashchenko noted that the appointment to this post of even the most remarkable economist, who did not work at the bank, was not entirely correct.

"I do not know why Gerashchenko said that." In this case, I hold the opinion that "if only a person was smart" - and this is absolutely true of Ms. Nabiullina. If we talk about the management of the banking system in modern Russia, then the strategy is chosen the right one, and in the tactical plan, misses are not uncommon. There are actions of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation that are explained by a lack of understanding of the psychology of the market (finance is always psychology, somebody in the world has sneezed, and in Russia the share price has fallen). I see in the decisions of the Central Bank that it seems wrong from our position, "from the ground". But in general, despite the string of "psychological" mistakes, the line has been chosen correctly. Inwardly, I approve of it. And I do not see anything wrong with the fact that the governing bodies of 50 largest banks, including ours, are going to introduce a representative of the Central Bank on a regular basis. Elvira Nabiullina recently answered in response to a direct question whether she is going to leave one state bank in the country, answered clearly: no, we are interested in the existence of regional banks. The Orient Express is no longer "regional" by its scale, but the role of such financial structures is clear to us: these are the very vessels and capillaries of the "circulatory system" of the economy, of which we have already spoken. Judge for yourself: in America there were 12 thousand banks, there are fewer, but still their number is several times larger than Russian. The same is true in Europe and in China, where it seems that each village has its own bank. It is quite difficult to control them, but this task is quite feasible - if not simply "collecting pieces of paper" and acting reasonably and efficiently. As for the problem of control over bank reporting, an experienced analyst will always find in it "holes" and draw conclusions. Yes, and criminal responsibility for inaccurate information in Russia is still there. The chairman of the board and the chief accountant of any financial structure is always well aware of this.

- Continuing the theme of regional and federal banks: at one time you started your journey from the Far East, then moved to conquer the west of the country with a stop in Perm, where they bought the bank "Kama" and so on. And now what are the "express" intermediate stations and landmarks?

- Yes, we already know, and we actively advertised and promoted ourselves, otherwise we would not have reached the 500th place on the tenth. But we continue to grow, and we are building up the office network. In general, neither in Perm, nor in Rostov, nor in Volgograd, nor in Kursk, no one worried about the Far Easterners, or we have another residence permit. We are engaged in trading "financial bread" - and how else can you name deposits, loans and everything else to meet basic human needs? We occupied a niche that was empty before us, found a certain balance between regional recognizability and the model of advancement in new territories. Almost everywhere it happened, but in some regions we do not get a very good demand, and some branches are frankly unprofitable, although they are few. The cost of promoting and building an office network is sometimes excessively high. But in principle, I did not see any bright regional features - and now I think, in general, the country's champion among bankers in terms of the number of settlements visited. I come not only to the regional capitals, but also to the regional centers, I have already traveled around a thousand cities of Russia. We have a plan to open our branches in all cities with a population of about 100 thousand, and it seems to me that only about a hundred such points on the map have to be covered. There is already a network of sales in the cities of thirty thousand. We go where there is only one post and Sberbank. This, of course, is not the most profitable model - and the service itself for the population is not enough, and distribution is very expensive, so getting to this "bottom" is extremely expensive. But we know what we want.



- Do you plan over time to close the part of the offices, whose content is too expensive? And in general - how are you going to modify your strategy and tactics in the market?

- While we did not do it, but it is possible, all the same it is necessary. You need to move around the market, but if there is an obstacle before you - it's better not to break through the defense, not to press, but to bypass it. We are looking for different business options. Our branches can quite act by the same logic as the post office - I mean its "polyphonic", the versatility of the product range. What they do not only do in addition to the main activity - from copying services to receiving payments to the utilities and trade in lottery tickets. So we intend not only to sell banking services, but also to offer other products. The main thing is that they are properly designed, understandable and easy to sell. And in a small city in one department you can sell five retail products, and in addition to them one corporate - why not? Then add to them the insurance product, the issuance of small parcels and so on. But everything must be done consistently, in every direction become the best and most competent, and only then move on.

I have a favorite saying of the famous poet and thinker Goethe, practically the motto: "Consciousness of its imperfection is the first step to perfection". Is not business philosophy? For the time being, unfortunately, we are not perfect, and it would be nice for us to learn from others. Or to understand that we will never surpass anyone with all will and it is better not to waste energy on it. For example, we are good at building a control algorithm, mathematically calculate the laws of the market. We are able to sell a lot and standardly, and in this direction, the efforts will be applied. But we do not have expertise in lending to big businesses, so we do not plan to engage in activities that require a personal decision-making.

- Will you develop Internet banking, that part of the banking sector that does not imply direct contact with the client in the office? This direction is predicted by the "explosion" and "boom" ...

- We have before our eyes, of course, the example of Oleg Tinkoff. But he is a special case. He is happy, his shareholders too, and, as Deng Xiaoping said, "let all the flowers bloom." Some experts say that such a market will develop rapidly, others - that with financial products, which in themselves are quite complex, a person still needs to be helped to understand, and therefore personal contact with a bank employee is necessary. We are also investing in development of this direction, but our strength is in contact with the client, and we intend to build our business on this. In a few years, we hope to transfer the interest of 30 of its shares to an IPO. Shareholders need a real assessment of our assets.

- And how do you plan to develop the corporate sector, lending to small businesses, for example?

- This year we will issue the first half a billion to medium-sized entrepreneurs - these are the amounts starting from 3 millions, these are the "average" ones. Let's start with the Far Eastern regions, which in our network of branches occupy percent of 55, and we will continue to work in this direction throughout the country.

- One of the spheres of your activity is charity, which is common for banks. What new could you invent here?

- Yes, we have a very good charitable foundation. And I think that he does, quite a wonderful thing - not just helping the children from orphanages, but actually pulling them out of the state walls. I will explain. In my opinion, it's just insane - to support the system of orphanages, where hundreds of thousands of children now live. Such conditions are unnatural for a person, especially a young person. The children's home is a state institution, there is no maternal care and warmth, no matter how well they feed or dress. Therefore, we have chosen our own assistance strategy - we assign a permanent scholarship to people who have taken orphanage children or adopted them. Each such family is paid extra for 10 thousand per month. At the same time, to the amount collected by our fund, the bank adds as much of its own profit. Suppose we collected 10 millions - and we add as much. We collected 15 - and we list 15 million. The funds go from our employees, and from clients - for example, in an ATM, you can transfer to the account of the fund at least 20 kopecks left in the account, even a large amount. All the work of the fund is conducted by one full-time employee, all the others help on a voluntary basis. Money goes to the fund a lot, last year its budget was about 40 million rubles. Already a few dozen children were dragged out of orphanages. And we are very glad that it was successful. It seems to me very right that we started all this. A person should have a need for good and good deeds, natural, not for publicity. A noble, but absolutely normal, need.

- And do you think the risk is noble?

- The only promising. Business is a constant, everyday risk, and you must always go for it. If you do not take it as a reality, then you can not do business at all. We must constantly make decisions, from economic to engineering, and if you are afraid - well, then one way to retire. Cautions and fears this does not cancel, of course. But in our case, the risk within reasonable limits was usually justified.

- One of the areas where risk is constantly present is investment. For the regions of the Far East, the process of attracting foreign investors has become an enduring headache. You managed to attract foreign shareholders to the Orient Express. What did it give?

- We have more than half foreigners, they own more than 50 percent of the bank's shares. In addition, we are attracting funds from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a new tranche has just been signed for 1,5 billion rubles. These are not the largest amounts, but they are very important in terms of reputation. In addition, it is "long money", for 5-7 years, which is rare for Russia. In this sense, too, you can say that success is converted into opportunities and helps to come out, pushes you forward.

- How do regional authorities react to this success, which are also concerned about attracting investments?

- For five years I have had one meeting with three governors of the Far Eastern regions for not very significant reasons, such as sponsorship of a tour of metropolitan artists. At the same time, over the years we have paid billions in taxes to the budgets of all levels, we are one of the largest taxpayers in the FEFD. In addition to the Orient Express, I am the co-owner of the First Collection Bureau, which is based in Khabarovsk and today has become one of the leading in the country in the field of collection business. But with the regional authorities, we seem to exist in “parallel realities,” and the taxes we pay seem to be taken for granted. Some favored regimes would definitely not hinder us - in any case, we would try to achieve more in joint projects.

As for foreign investors, for them, Russia is a high-risk area. And I'm not optimistic about the prospects of attracting them in the current situation. When I read in the press (and even in your journal and on the portal) information about the imminent arrival of, for example, Japanese businessmen, this information reminds me of the phrase from the movie "Garage" about the satire of the Soviet period, which "is engaged" by one of the heroes: You are doing an amazing job. You are doing what is not ... "I do not think that the Japanese will be very interested in investing money in our economy - it is enough to recall their losses of the period of the 90-years, with the project of development of the Sakhalin shelf and other not very successful for them, endeavors.

In general, in the Far East, I see only investment projects related to the extraction of natural resources. The economy is very expensive, the cost of energy is two times higher than reasonable values. Plus, everything is aggravated by the monopoly of the state and the authorities. While the attitude of power to business does not change to the exact opposite, we can not talk about changes for the better and about improving the investment climate. Moreover, not only in the Far East, but throughout the country.

-What investment projects would still be able to bring a real profit to the Far East?

- If we built a high-speed railway from the western borders of the country to Vladivostok, then it would have to invest billions of dollars in it. There are obviously no such means now, therefore I speak now about a pure utopia. However, it was precisely projects of this type that would allow us to carry out container cargo shipments from Europe to Asia. We are the “shortest shoulder”, because now the goods to the same China go through the Suez Canal, etc. It would be a great investment in logistics and quick delivery from the port of Vladivostok to Berlin. Do it! It took 20 years - never did. Although it could well. Unless it would take a lot of work, commercially and politically work out all the issues with other states of the Asia-Pacific and guarantee them this attractive 8-daily delivery to Europe instead of container shipping by sea. Loaded in Shanghai, after a short time the container is already under unloading somewhere in Glasgow. All of Europe needs Chinese goods, and such transit would open up tremendous opportunities for Russia. Naturally, such projects should be state-owned, but with the participation of private business on the principle of public-private partnership: for example, 30% is the state and 70% is a business. But, unfortunately, such plans are still only dreams.

- If you think on a scale not of the entire state, but of a particular bank "Orient Express": what are your plans and ambitions for 2014 year and next three years?

"We've already drawn up a three-year plan." The market is now difficult. The economic growth rate is decreasing, the problems are increasing, all the most important economic indicators in the forecast calculations will fall. Consequently, salaries will not increase either. That is, our main customers do not get rich. Therefore, we do not have any ambitions related to further growth. The main thing that we want is to optimize our costs in spite of all these problems. We learned this well, and in the country, I will say without false modesty, according to internal efficiency, our bank is one of the best. But we will look for new ways for self-improvement.

Previously, we acted on the principle of "take more, throw further", and now in some way reached a maximum and reached an equal "plateau". For a year or two, we will remain in meditation, we will begin to be updated on all fronts, polishing what has already been achieved. And then again finding the driver of growth, we again rush up. But without this period of comprehension can not do in any way. Personally, for me 2013 a lot meant both professionally and, if you want, in the philosophical. Some new "chakras" were opened, or something. It's as if you thought that the Earth is flat, and it turned out to be round and revolving around the Sun surrounded by stars from other galaxies. And you realized that much earlier you did wrong and primitive, and you can do much more. Here it is very interesting, albeit a bit scary. But the space in front and above the head is simply breathtaking.

Our reference:

Vostochny Express Bank was registered in 1991 as Dalvneshtorgbank (fully - Far Eastern Regional Joint-Stock Bank of Vneshtorgbank of the Russian Federation). Since the beginning of 2006, the credit institution has been operating as the open joint-stock company Vostochny Express Bank (the abbreviated name is CB Vostochny), the general license of the Bank of Russia No. 1460 from 16.07.2012. Since 2005, the bank began to actively develop retail lending time focuses on consumer lending and credit cards.

Vostochny Express Bank is ranked 3 by the size of its branch network among all Russian banks. As a result of 3 quarter 2013, the bank's retail network was represented in all federal districts of Russia and consisted of 8 branches, 956 operating offices and 784 additional branches.

"Orient Express Bank" is included in TOP-30 Russian banks in terms of assets: 9 2013 238 assets totaled 13 billion rubles * The bank occupies 150 place in Russia in terms of attracted funds from the population of 209 billion rubles. The loan portfolio is 1 billion rubles. The long-term deposit rating of the Orient Express from the international rating agency Moody's is at the level of BXNUMX.

More than 50% of the bank's shares are owned by large institutional investors, including IFC - International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group (14%), as well as private equity funds Baring Vostok Capital Partners (33,6%) and Russia Partners (6,9%).

* hereinafter, in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards

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