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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref Tapped to Lead Sberbank

German Gref, the former economic development and trade minister, is set to head up Sberbank after the bank's supervisory board on Tuesday nominated him as the next chief executive.

The state-controlled lender has called an extraordinary general meeting for Nov. 28, where shareholders will vote on Gref's appointment, the bank said in a statement.

Gref, who left the Cabinet in last month's reshuffle after seven years in office, had been widely tipped as a favorite to take over as CEO since Sberbank chief Andrei Kazmin stepped down last week to head up Russian Post.

Gref's nomination has been welcomed by investors and analysts, who expect he will help the retail-focused bank start out on a more active and competitive phase in its development.

Speaking after a supervisory board meeting Tuesday, Gref -- who already sits on the board -- outlined a conservative, if embryonic, vision for the bank.

"A major bank is a conservative bank," Gref said. "If more than half of the national savings deposited by individuals are kept there, then it is duty-bound to be very careful."

Gref said one of the main priorities for the bank should be to boost lending to ordinary citizens. He said the bank should aim for long-term growth in market capitalization and avoid any sharp changes in the share price.

Olga Viselyova, a banking analyst at Troika Dialog, said Gref's initial statements were out of keeping with his image as a liberal reformer. His stewardship at Sberbank would likely evolve over time, she said.

Gref sought to stress his commitment to investors. "Of course, a key question is transparency and openness in our dealings with our shareholders," he said.

Sberbank has struggled to shake off concerns over transparency in recent years. Last week, it slipped from fifth place to 16th place in transparency rankings compiled by Standard & Poor's.

But investors say the bank, which has been one of Russia's best-performing stocks, has come a long way in the last five to six years, and now publishes quarterly accounts to international financial standards, while steps have been taken to improve investor relations.

The bank's share price has risen nearly 30 percent since it raised nearly $9 billion on local markets earlier this year.

Changes at Sberbank are just the latest in a series of reshuffles in the government and in key state corporations.

"Over the last few years, there has been a care and maintenance approach to the state companies," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib.

"[Gref's appointment] fits in with expectations that the state will try and push Sberbank into becoming a big international bank," Weafer said.

Some analysts believe Gref will usher in a shift toward state lending to the corporate sector, as the Kremlin seeks to make good its pledges to promote Russian businesses abroad as they face restricted access to overseas funding.

"Gref ... has a lot of contacts with large companies, which will help him to increase corporate lending," said Natalya Orlova, an economist at Alfa Bank. "The largest banks would have to fund the largest companies."

Sberbank said Tuesday that Kazmin had sold his 0.03 percent stake in the bank, while media reported that his deputy Alla Aleshkina had sold her 0.02 percent holding.