Russian bankers at ease over cheaper dollar

The U.S. Federal Reserve surprised economists and market watchers on Tuesday, with a bigger than expected cut in interest rates, in response to global credit fears. At a meeting of banking experts in Moscow leading Russian finance minds were discussing wh

Everyone at the meeting organised by the Moscow Bank for Reconstruction and Development agrees that Russia is in a robust position to withstand any fall-out from the U.S. credit crunch.

Pavel Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Banking Committee, believes both American and Russian financial regulators are acting in a predictable manner: “The Fed behaved in a very rational way, and the Russian Central bank is behaving very rationally too, showing it'll provide liquidity to banks that need it,” he said.

This view was shared by the other bankers and economists at the table. But Aleksandr Khandruev, Vice President of the Association of Regional Banks, pointed out the need to learn from the U.S.’s mistakes: “Our lesson should be that interest on mortgage credits should never be affected by political pressure – and we have been seeing that in Russia over the past year,” he claimed.

It’s generally believed that Russia’s large reserves enable it to withstand further liquidity problems.

But Aleksandr Turbanov Director General of the state-owned company Deposits Insurance Agency, says whatever Russia does, it cannot immunise itself against risk: “Russia is a part of the global market, and because of the crisis, our small companies and banks will face hard times, as they lose access to credit,” he believes.

Some Russian banks are already starting to change their lending habits. They are cutting the amount of funding they take from global capital markets, and making deposits a bigger share of the total, taking a step towards reducing their vulnerability to global volatility.