Sanctions fears deter Russian brokers from adopting Sberbank clients – sources


April 15 (Reuters) – Fear of being the target of Western sanctions is deterring Russian brokerages from helping Sberbank (SBER.MM) by hosting its clients’ accounts with foreign stocks, three sources told Reuters financial markets.

The United States last week imposed full blocking sanctions on Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank and the country’s first private bank Alfa Bank, putting pressure on Russia for what Moscow calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine. .

The US Treasury has set the deadline for termination of transactions with Sberbank and Alfa Bank as April 12 and May 5, respectively. The banks said the sanctions would not have a significant impact on their operations. Read more

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Russia has seen a boom in private stock market investment since the onset of COVID-19. Last year, the number of citizens with brokerage accounts approached 17 million, as people searched for ways to make money amid a record number of national stock floats and low rates deposit.

Sberbank, VTB (VTBR.MM) and Alfa Bank, the largest Russian banks, were also the main brokerage houses before the latest sanctions, forcing their clients holding foreign stocks to place their funds with smaller domestic players.

Sberbank, which was to decide whether to transfer accounts with foreign shares by the end of Tuesday, asked its customers to contact the bank about this.

“We have taken steps so that you can manage your assets without constraints,” Sberbank said on its website, without specifying where the accounts were transferred.

Many Russian brokerage firms not targeted by Western sanctions have said they are not taking trading accounts with Sberbank’s foreign stocks, leaving its clients and the market uncertain about their fate.

“The market situation is unique. No one is willing to take sanctions risks because the consequences are unclear… (The transfer of Sberbank customers) could be seen as helping the sanctioned bank to solve its business problems,” said a financial market. source who asked not to be named.

Sberbank did not disclose the name of the custodian or brokerage it was dealing with and did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

“Nobody wants to see a massive influx (of customers), mainly because of the sanctions,” another person from a Moscow-based brokerage told Reuters.

Sanctions fears intensified as Alfa Bank was hit with stiff penalties after securing clients from Russia’s second largest lender VTB, which was one of the first banks hit by Western sanctions this year.

A third source at a Russian brokerage said companies were reluctant to deal with sanctioned banks “after the Alfa case”.

“Banks are trying to transfer their customers to empty brokerage firms with a license but no infrastructure,” the source said.

Some media have suggested that Sberbank at some point plans to transfer clients to Aton and BCS brokerages. Both companies quickly released statements saying they were not involved in the deal.

Finam brokerage, Tinkoff Bank, Rosselkhozbank, Freedom Finance said that Alfa Bank and Sberbank did not ask them to take their brokerage accounts.

Otkritie Bank, hit by broader Western sanctions, and Gazprombank, under British sanctions, did not respond to Reuters request for comment.

Alfa Bank told Reuters it was looking for a brokerage that would secure its clients’ accounts so they could continue to trade freely, but a decision on what the firm can do has yet to be made.

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Reuters reporting; edited by David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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