Two case studies that highlight past and future developments in Belarus’ banking sector
Founded in 1922, Belarus is the largest stateowned bank in Belarus, with a widespread network of branches across the country.
In 2008 it had more than 85,000 corporate clients (up from 66,000 in 2005) with its key sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, petrochemicals, telecommunications and construction.
Its priority areas for future lending include energy (with a focus on greater sustainability and efficiency), and capital investment.
Its retail market has also increased, mainly through deposit accounts, mortgages and loans and it doubled the number of bank cards it issued between 2005 and 2008.
The bank's strategy is also to increase its international presence, and it is keen to attract foreign investors in return for minority sakes in the bank.
In 1989, in two rooms in a Minsk office, eight men and women gathered for the first staff meeting of Priorbank, a new private bank in Belarus. Today, Priorbank has net assets of approximately US $2 billion and is the biggest commercial private sector bank in Belarus and its most profitable.
It has almost 100 branches and outlets across the country, employing more than 2,100 people, and, symbolically, owns the office building it started out in back in 1994.
Priorbank’s success lies in the way it competed against the state-supported banks in Belarus and, crucially, in its decision to seek international funding and investment in the late 1990s. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was the first to take a stake in the bank, buying 27% in 1997.
Five years later, Priorbank struck a strategic alliance with Austrian banking giant Raiffeisen International (RZB). By June 2009, RZB had invested US $115 million in Priorbank, and own 88% of the business, and was on course to recoup its investment in three years.
Half of Priorbank’s income comes from more than 1,300 large corporate clients which take advantage of a full range of banking and advisory services. The other half of its income is generated by its loans to entrepreneurs and individuals.
The alliance with RZB has given Priorbank access to more than just money – it has brought in new ideas, technology and a rolling four year roadmap of efficiency improvements. And with Belarus embarking on a mass privatisation and investment programme the demand for financial services in Belarus is set to boom for some time to come.