Clients Implore Top Custodian Banks To Remain Back In Russia

Global banks such as Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Societe Generale are under pressure from rivals and funds to commit to remaining as custodian banks in Russia, as rivals and funds fear losing services vital to future investment in the nation.

Three other financial institutions’ traders, bankers, and executives told Reuters they were seeking or had sought guarantees on behalf of clients about each bank’s long-term plans for these businesses, which clear, settle, and safeguard billions of dollars in Russian holdings.

In exchange for a charge, custodian banks have divisions that look after clients’ assets.

One London-based banking source, who requested anonymity to protect the identity of a significant global fund client, claimed they spoke with senior executives at Citibank Moscow on a weekly basis about the state of their custodian business.

Their client was waiting for the Moscow Exchange to reopen before trading Russian shares, according to the source, but they required the certainty of having a Western custodian in place.

Citigroup executives, according to the source, stated that they would serve clients for as long as penalties permitted.

According to a person familiar with Citi, the bank is used by big U.S. and international businesses in Moscow, and cutting off those customers would harm client relations. Other bankers believe that Citi, a major participant in the market, must continue to operate in Moscow.

There were no comments from Citigroup.

A second banker in New York said he had asked SocGen for assurances that they would “remain on the ground” so that his bank could meet its customer custody commitments. According to the source, SocGen executives promised that they would, at least in the short term.

As part of a wide programme of Western sanctions intended at economically isolating Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Citigroup and SocGen, the French parent of Rosbank (ROSB.MM), have already declared plans to drastically reduce operations in Moscow.

Both banks have stated that they will assist their clients with the difficult work of unwinding or lowering Russian holdings, and that withdrawals will take time.

However, neither company has made a public declaration about the long-term viability of their custodial services, which leaves some clients concerned about the future.

The group was “conducting its business in Russia with the utmost caution and selectivity, while supporting its historical clients,” said a spokeswoman for SocGen  in an emailed statement.

SocGen “is rigorously complying with all applicable laws and regulations and is diligently implementing the necessary measures to strictly enforce international sanctions as soon as they are made public.”

There was no comment by the bank on its custody business in Russia.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has a presence in Moscow, also offers similar custody services. According to a source acquainted with the situation, the bank has received inquiries from clients requesting guarantees that custody services will continue to be supplied. It already stated that it will continue to operate as a custodian for its customers.

In addition, the Bank of New York Mellon Corp has stated that it will continue to provide custodian services in Russia.

(Adapted from Reuters.com)

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