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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Depositors Clinging To Their Ailing Banks




Better the devil you know.


At least that's what Russian depositors seem to be saying, as large numbers of them have chosen to keep their accounts in their troubled banks rather than transfer them to the state-controlled Sberbank.


Depositors were offered rather harsh transfer terms. Those moving their dollar accounts will be able to claim their money in rubles at a rate of 9.33 to the dollar after Nov. 30. Ruble savings would be paid out by Sberbank in full, but also only in December.


The numbers are still trickling in, but already it seems clear that a majority of depositors have elected to take their chances with one of the six banks taking part in the transfer offer, which ended Saturday.


But even the less-than-overwhelming response seems to suit the Central Bank fine: Its deputy chairman Alexander Turbanov was quoted by Reuters as saying Sberbank might sign new deposit transfer agreements with banks that have more than 300 million rubles in deposits. A source in the Central Bank confirmed Wednesday that negotiations on such agreements were currently under way with an unspecified number of banks.


MOST-Bank spokesman Vasily Borisov said that "significantly less than 10 percent" of the bank's accounts were transferred to Sberbank. Promstroibank transferred about one-third of its ruble accounts and 5 percent of hard currency accounts, according to Kommersant Daily. The figures for Bank Menatep are higher, but still only "about 45 percent," according to a bank spokesman.


Mosbiznesbank, Inkombank and SBS-Agro have yet to release their figures.


Some depositors say they have kept their money in their original banks because of a distrust of Sberbank. Many Russians felt betrayed by the bank in 1992 when all accounts were frozen as hyperinflation hit and ruble savings became worthless.


"I would much rather trust Smolensky than the government," said Alexander, who decided to keep his $600 in Alexander Smolensky's SBS-Agro. "The government has done this kind of thing many times and Smolensky only once."


Another SBS depositor, Julia, said she was sure her bank would eventually recover. Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko has said SBS-Agro would be bailed out because of its social importance.


Others did not transfer accounts simply because they did not care enough or could not figure out what the best course of action would be.


Volodya, who like all depositors interviewed for this article asked that his last name not be used, decided to keep his $1,500 in MOST-Bank, though he said he did not necessarily believe the bank's promises to pay him soon.


Understandably, some of those with bigger deposits tied up in the banks are not as apathetic. Maria is suing SBS-Agro for her $10,000. She stood in line with other like-minded depositors last week and filled out a form to file a claim in the Zamoskvoretsky municipal courts. She said the court told her a decision would not be likely until January.