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Customer service lagging behind Russian mortgage levels

The country's second-largest bank VTB 24 claims it’s now the number one mortgage lender in Moscow and the immediate region with a $US 3 billion loan portfolio.

“According to our calculations, VTB 24 is now the top mortgage lender in Moscow and Moscow region – we are now in first place!” boasted Mikhail Zadornov, the chairman of VTB 24 Bank.

VTB 24 is expecting to post a net profit of $US 40 to $US 45 million this year.

Though VTB 24 may be powering ahead financially, according to the new Consumer Experience Index launched by KPMG and banking consultants Senteo, it is far from setting the standard for retail banking in Russia.

The index rated Moscow's banks with undercover researchers, assessing everything from interest rates on mortgages, to quality of brochures, to whether staff cracked a smile.

The state-controlled giants VTB 24 and Sberbank failed even to make the top ten.

“Based on what they saw in the brand, how they understood the communications and the messaging within the branches, what was their experience with the staff, how well the products were presented and so on – and they scored how they scored,” explained Michael Ruckman, the president of Senteo.

Analysts say consumer satisfaction is not a huge concern for Russia's largest banking groups as a lot of retail deposits come from the groups' own staff and from the employees of its client firms.