Even VTB executives admit that they never expected to attract a client base of French pensioners.
But the quadrupling of income received by the bank’s foreign retail business in 2011 included a substantial jump in the amount deposited by French and German citizens.
French pensioners were particularly keen on the Russian state-controlled giant. Though its presence outside Russia is still largely confined to the countries of the former Soviet Union, VTB — like its main Russian rival Sberbank — has been expanding its international presence in recent years.
German and French clients deposited 20.9 billion rubles ($712 million) with VTB’s retail operations in those countries in 2011, the bank said Wednesday in material distributed to reporters. That amounted to 38 percent of the total deposits made with VTB 24’s foreign operations in 2011.
VTB 24 also has operations in Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan — and is looking at moving into Azerbaijan.
In Germany alone, more than 40,000 accounts were opened with VTB Directbank and 400 million euros ($529 million) was deposited. The amount of deposits, however, had almost tripled to more than 1 billion euros by the end of March, said Vsevolod Smakov, VTB 24 vice president.
Smakov said VTB 24 had been surprised at the alacrity at which French and Germans had flocked to open accounts. The customers were not expatriate Russians — in France Russian citizens were not even eligible for the service.
French media portrayed VTB’s arrival as “honest people [finally] offering an honest rate … our fat cats don’t want to work, but the Russians can,” first deputy president at VTB 24 Dmitry Rudenko said. “It was completely unreal!”
VTB’s attractiveness was based on the high rates of return they were offering on deposits. In France the deposit rate was 3.5 percent, said Smakov. But VTB 24 does not plan to offer credit lines to its European customers.
The lender intends to grow its total foreign credit portfolio by 28 percent in 2012 and the total deposits made by clients by 10 percent.