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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Firms Find Homes on the Net

Looking for a Russian broker? Check the Internet. Daily stock quotations? Ditto. What about a detailed report of that intriguing timber complex in Siberia? It's probably on the home page of one of the small but growing number of Russian financial firms turning to the World Wide Web as a marketing tool.

In the past year or so, at least 10 Russian companies have opened sites on the web, along with a handful of financial-information services and federal agencies.

"It's one of the hottest spots for investment houses and brokerages," said Viktor Agroskin, vice president for development at Rinaco-Plus, a pioneer in the field, which launched its page about eight months ago.

A desire to reach reaching English-speaking investors is one motivation for opening web sites, but company officials cite the need to keep up with the times as an equally important reason.

"The Internet is becoming the main route of information exchange ... and we want to make our contribution to it," said Alexander Drojjine, public relations manager for the CentreInvest Group, which opened its site late last month.

Nearly all firms agreed that the web represents a new and influential source of advertising, able to reach a wider and more targeted audience than traditional methods. The sites so far are used mainly for marketing services, but more sophisticated interactive operations are in the works, firms said.

Rossiisky Kredit, which claims to have been, in May 1995, the first Russian bank to introduce a web site, plans eventually to introduce banking services operations at its site.

"First of all [the site] is, of course, like an informational advertisement, so more people know about our bank, but the next step is carrying out operations," said Natalya Ivashkova, head of information research at Rossiisky Kredit, who is working on developing the bank's home page. She said in the future clients may be able to access their deposits and make payments via the Internet.

Others said the web could serve as a marketplace for trading, though most trading is already done on the electronic Russian Trading System.

Yevgeny Girsanov, director of the technical service department at Russian Brokerage House, said there are "pretty serious" plans under way to introduce a trading mechanism through its web site, which was launched two months ago.

For that to work, most other firms would need to have similar capabilities, but Girsanov said Russian Brokerage House would mainly target its foreign clients for trading purposes.

For now, though, most home pages offer varying degrees of information about individual firms and the Russian securities market in general, periodic market updates and some company profiles. Most of the information is free, but some sites include the option to access more detailed reports for a fee.

At the Rinaco-Plus home page, for instance, a reader can find a history of the Rinaco Group, market indices, investment guides to Russia and over-the-counter prices, along with an electronic evaluation form for comment.

The evaluation form can serve as an excellent means of business development, company officials said.

Drojjine of CentreInvest, which also offers opportunity for feedback, said since the page opened in late April, the company has received dozens of requests for more information and has established meetings with potential clients.

Agroskin of Rinaco-Plus said, "Often when we meet people we hear from them, 'We learned about you from your web page.'"

He and others said while it is often difficult to determine whether new business or clients can be traced to the web, the electronic medium has definitely enhanced interest in their companies.

Many firms track who is reading their pages, and because all offer services in English as well as Russian, interested surfers tend to be foreign.

CentreInvest, which folds brokerage, computer and consulting companies under its umbrella, has attracted mostly Americans, accounting for 70 percent of its readers, Drojjine said. Those are about evenly split between universities and businesses. About 10 percent log on from Russia, with the remainder spanning the globe from Japan to Finland.

Girsanov at the Russian Brokerage House said 67 percent of the hits on its page are from Russians, and the rest generally Americans.

A common worry with computer-based services is abuse by hackers, but most firms contacted said they were not overly concerned. "There is that danger, but there's always a security danger," said Sergei Taranin, an administrator at Alfa Kapital, which joined its Internet counterparts about two months ago.

One way for firms to protect their internal information is to go through a local web server. Many, including the Federal Securities Commission, use the Institute for Commercial Engineering, which hosts many home pages and is regarded as the best place to search for financial information on Russia.

Rinaco-Plus also chose the Institute for Commercial Engineering. "We prefer to pay them, and not take the risk," Agroskin said.

Government agencies have also gotten into the act, with information about the Federal Securities Commission and the Federal Stock Corporation -- an agent for the Federal Property Fund -- now available online.