In the first such deal between U.S. and Russian financial institutions, BankAmerica Corp. said it has signed a $3 million, two-year contract to provide training and technical assistance to Vladivostok-based Far Eastern Commercial Bank.
The contract is part of a worldwide program launched in 1993 by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and aimed at improving banking services in emerging markets. It follows a series of initiatives launched by the Federal Reserve Board and international lending agencies designed to help Russia stabilize and restructure its banking system and improve access to foreign capital.
"The Russian system as a whole is having problems, but that particular region is notorious for poor management and lack of financial controls," said Gary Kleiman at Kleiman International Consultants Inc., a Washington- based advisory firm. Mr. Kleiman said a number of banks in the eastern region have been closed or put under Russian central bank supervision.
As part of the deal, BankAmerica will provide Far Eastern with advice, training, and technical assistance in 11 areas, including strategy, credit management, and technology. Banks that take part in the World Bank program must maintain strict criteria on capital adequacy, concentration of ownership, profitability, liquidity, credit policies, lending, internal controls, and management.
BankAmerica has an extensive presence in Asia and has maintained a correspondent banking relationship with Far Eastern since 1992.
Far Eastern is the largest bank on Russia's Pacific coast, with $137 million in assets. The bank extends mainly short-term loans to companies in the region and handles hard currency lending, securities operations, documentary business, and foreign exchange. Far Eastern is also developing a local retail banking franchise.
"This agreement reflects the very successful correspondent relationship we've enjoyed with Far Eastern Bank and the potential we see in the Russian Far East," said David Rees, BankAmerica's chief representative to Russia.
He said the contract with Far Eastern will help BankAmerica expand its "strategic focus on, and established market presence in, the Pacific Rim."
According to BankAmerica, some 20% of Russia's estimated $20 billion trade volume flows through the country's Far East ports.