. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Touch of Nobility at Deutsche Bank Russia

For MTAlexis Rodzianko worked as an interpreter at the U.S.-Soviet SALT II negotiations in Geneva.
Alexis Rodzianko came to Russia to run United City Bank in 1995, but his aristocratic family has a long and illustrious history here that earned his great-grandfather a place on Lenin's death list.

"The first people with this surname were in Ukraine in the middle of the 17th century," says Rodzianko, now a managing director at Deutsche Bank Moscow. "They were landowners and served the tsars in various capacities. They began to live in St. Petersburg and married into the Russian nobility."

Rodzianko's great-grandfather on his father's side, Mikhail, was the last speaker of the pre-Revolutionary Duma - and the Bolsheviks sought to eliminate him and his family because of their noble background and political leanings.

After the 1917 Revolution and the beginning of the civil war, Mikhail Rodzianko took up arms against the Bolsheviks and Red Army, moving from St. Petersburg to the south to join the White Army as adviser to famed tsarist general Anatoly Denikin.

Rodzianko's grandparents, meanwhile, kept a low profile on the family's Ukrainian estate.

"Once they were on the same [train] platform as the Red Army men who had [Lenin's death] list, but they walked by each other," Rodzianko says. "They went into the city to look for them and they left."

A rumor spread that Rodzianko's grandparents had, in fact, been killed. After the search was called off, the family joined Mikhail and fled the country in March 1920, when the British army evacuated the remnants of Denikin's forces from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

Around the same time, Rodzianko's grandfather on his mother's side, a judge, was branded an enemy of the people after throwing a political trial out of court due to lack of evidence.

Later attempts to run an orchard and then a sock factory were quashed by the Bolsheviks, who claimed he exploited his workers. Eventually, his brother-in-law used connections at the Red Cross to smuggle him and his family into Estonia.

Both families moved to Germany, where Rodzianko's parents met. They immigrated to the United States in 1949 and Rodzianko grew up in New York.

After graduating in 1973 from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he majored in Russian language and literature, Rodzianko found work as an interpreter.

He reached the peak of his interpreting career four years later at the age of 26, at the SALT II disarmament talks between U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. It was the height of the arms race, and SALT II was to be the first treaty that would limit the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

When he applied for the job, Rodzianko underwent an "intense" security screening, he says. Friends, relatives and classmates were grilled by the Federal Bureau for Investigation, while Rodzianko himself was under constant surveillance.

"I'd meet people all of a sudden. I'd be traveling somewhere with a delegation in Tennessee, and someone would come up and show me a badge and say, 'Can we have a cup of coffee?' and they would talk to me about my views on arms trading and weird stuff like that," Rodzianko recalls.

After being hired, he spent a year in Geneva, where the negotiations were held. While he calls the experience one of the growing periods of his life, Rodzianko had no intention of staying in the profession.

"Being an interpreter was not something I particularly cared for," he says. "You really cannot contribute your own thoughts - indeed, your owns thoughts were unwelcome and actually dangerous to your professional career."

The option of climbing the diplomatic ladder also did not attract Rodzianko. The well-connected people always got promoted, while the rest were stuck with simple tasks, he says.

"I'd seen the frustration. There were some very bright people in the Foreign Service in the U.S, yet it was the lawyer who knew someone or the head of a company who had retired and become an ambassador that had the best jobs," Rodzianko says. "All these super-bright people around them were fighting over who gets to put the comma where."

It was in business and finance that Rodzianko found what he calls "the passion and emotional turbulence" of the Dostoevsky novels he had studied at Dartmouth.

"It was the combination of human behavior and mathematical methods that did it for me," he says of the banking world.

Rodzianko had done research into various business schools during his career as an interpreter, and in 1979 he chose to begin studies at Columbia University in New York.

After a brief stint with auditing and consulting major Arthur Andersen, Rodzianko received an offer from Manufacturers Hanover bank, which tempted him with its East European banking operations.

Manufacturers Hanover was deeply involved in the 1982 LDC crisis, which occurred when a number of countries, primarily in Latin America - faced with high interest rates and low commodities prices - defaulted on hundreds of billions of dollars of commercial bank loans.

After leaving Manufacturers Hanover in 1995, Rodzianko took up the post of CEO at United City Bank in Moscow, where he put together its international brokerage. The bank had no revenues when Rodzianko started, but in 1998 United City was sold to Flemmings for $30 million.

After 1 1/2 years with JP Morgan at its London and New York offices, he was back in Moscow as the company's Russia chief, leaving JP Morgan in October 2001.

Rodzianko, 51, was chosen in November to run Deutsche Bank Moscow's corporate finance and relationship management divisions.

Like Rodzianko's family, the bank has a long history in this country. In 1881, Deutsche Bank AG acquired a stake in the Russian Bank for Foreign Trade in St. Petersburg, issuing the first Russian Railway Bonds that same year. During the Soviet period, Deutsche Bank AG managed the financing of pipes supplied for the Russia-Europe gas pipeline, and in 1972 the bank received permission to open the first representative office of a foreign bank in Moscow. In 1998, Deutsche Bank opened its own subsidiary.

The bank has been involved in a number of major projects since Rodzianko came on board. Deutsche Bank is advising No. 1 oil producer LUKoil in its efforts to acquire a 23 percent stake in Greece's Hellenic Petroleum along with Greece's Latsis Group. The bank provided a $150 million direct unsecured credit to Gazprom and a $100 million facility to Vneshekonombank, and also successfully brought Gazprombank and Magnitogorsk Metals Plant to the Eurobond market.

"I would like to think I am contributing to our successes," Rodzianko says.