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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stolichny Eyes Personal Savings

Stolichny, one of Russia's largest commercial banks, announced plans Wednesday to develop into a major retail operation capable of competing with state savings giant Sberbank.

At the opening of a new branch at the Metropol hotel in central Moscow, Stolichny President Alexander Smolensky announced that the bank was changing its name to Stolichny Savings Bank to reflect its new focus on personal banking.

"We're turning toward the individual," Smolensky said. "We're not competing with Sberbank yet, but I hope it will happen and I hope there are things we can do better."

The move represents a significant departure from the activities of most Russian banks, which focus mainly on short-term lending to select customers and speculation in currency and securities.

As part of its new strategy, Smolensky said, the bank is planning to open 15 more branches in Moscow in 1995, which would add to its existing network of 22 branches.

One of the main advantages of Stolichny's branch network, according to Smolensky, is that clients can be served at any location. State savings giant Sberbank, although it has thousands of branches across the country, only serves account-holders at the branch where they opened their accounts.

"We've been working for more than two years, training our personnel and introducing new technology to be able to offer a range of services to individuals," he said.

The bank also intends to launch regional operations next week with a branch in Chelyabinsk, said Smolensky, adding that in the first quarter of 1995 Stolichny branches will open in Saratov, Omsk and Kaliningrad.

Stolichny spokesman Sergei Meshcheryakov said that the bank cannot offer the high returns on deposits that many Russian investment funds promise, but predicted that as the Russian financial services market develops, such competition would fade away.

"We all know that companies offering fantastic interest rates will soon disappear from the market," he said, adding that Stolichny's top rate is 110 percent annual interest on a three-month deposit.

Stolichny, which was set up in 1989, has earned a reputation as one of the most reliable and technologically advanced Russian commercial banks.

Stolichny installed Russia's first automated teller machines in August 1993. The machines are now in most branches, as well as in the State Duma building and the White House.

The bank also installed Russia's first automatic currency exchange at the GUM department store last summer, and has issued a debit card, the STB-Card, which is now accepted in more than 1,500 shops in Moscow.