Russian private investor profile gives cause for concern

It shows a large proportion of shares are held by people who have neither the funds nor financial knowledge to place money profitably.

“My portfolio investment grew 50% last year, 100% in 2005. My financial adviser helps me to choose around five of the best performing funds, all of them fairly low risk,” says Aleksandr Mochalov, a private investor.

However in Russia Aleksandr is an exception. On Tuesday MICEX released the first comprehensive research into personal investment in Russia. It reveals fewer than half a million Russians invest in the stock market, compared with 88 million in the U.S.

The report’s sad conclusion is that most private investors in Russia are relatively low-wage workers, who have neither proper savings nor the financial knowledge to invest. They tend to put money into companies on news of record share prices, once they've already peaked.

The MICEX chief told RT this was dangerous for the entire Russian economy.

“We trade over 50% of the volume of Russia’s equities traded anywhere in the globe. To expand, we definitely need an investor base in this country. But we do not want uneducated investors to come to the stock market at any cost. In fact, we think that this would be counter-productive for the Russian economy,” observed Aleksey Rybnikov, the CEO of MICEX.

Independent financial advisers gave the example of some businesses advertising in the underground and who deliberately preyed on the population’s financial ignorance.

“A popular advert on the Moscow Metro is by the Forex company. They target people who understand next to nothing about the subject, claiming you can earn on currency exchanges. This is a very high risk investment with a large probability of losing your money, so I have a low opinion of their behaviour,” warns Nikolay Mrochkovsky, the Vice-President of Full Freedom Investments in Moscow.

In 2008 MICEX will open a national club network to address this. It plans to spread financial information as well as improve the measurement of the population’s economic literacy, so that the boom in consumer loans spreads to the stock market and securities.