TALLINN - Hansabank, the Baltics' largest financial institution, announced last week that it would continue its strategic policy of expanding into Russia, where it would focus on freight shipment finance and offering services to those corporate clients increasing their investment exposure to the eastern market.
Druvis Murmanis, head of the Russian business unit of Hansabank Group, said that the bank was increasingly active in Russia, and on June 9 it established a new leasing company in the neighboring country.
Hansabank is planning to expand its business in Russia primarily in trade finance between Russia and the Baltics, as well as in Russian transit via the Baltic states, he said.
"There is big demand for financing of cargo shipment via Baltic ports. This is where Hansabank comes in," Murmanis said.
Also, companies from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, many of which are already customers of Hansapank (the bank's Estonian branch), have been increasing investments in Russia as of late, Murmanis said.
"For instance, nearly 60 Lithuanian companies that are customers of Hansabank are doing business in the Kaliningrad region," he said.
Hansabank intends to establish a subsidiary in Russia in 2005, added Murmanis, who was appointed member of the board of Hansabank Group on June 27. He named Hansabank's untarnished image and good reputation as its main advantages on the Russian market.
"We don't have any links to oligarchs," he said.
Because of the size of the Russian banking market, Hansabank will not vie for a large share; instead, it sees service for its existing corporate clients as its most likely niche.
However, Murmanis said that generally the Russian banking market was expected to expand and consolidate.
"There are thousands of banks active there now, and it's clear that now it is time to find out who the market leaders are," the chief of Hansabank's Russian operations said. He added that banking business in Russia was becoming more transparent, with steps being made in that direction also by the Russian Central Bank.
Murmanis, who has been employed with the Latvian business unit of Hansabank since 1993, headed the corporate banking division of the Latvian unit from 2001 to spring 2004.