President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Kostin, the forum is over now. You probably listened to and took part in the discussions on what is happening in Russia with lending to the economy’s real sector and how important this is at the moment for our general efforts to give economic development and GDP growth a new boost. As the head of one of our main financial institutions, what do you have to say on this matter? I know that VTB is quite active in this area.
VTB Bank CEO Andrei Kostin: Yes, Mr President, our loan portfolio has been growing fast since the start of the year. It has increased by 700 billion rubles [more than $20 billion] for the group as a whole since the start of the year and for the first time has broken the 7-trillion-ruble mark. Within this loan portfolio, lending to the real sector has increased by almost 12 percent. This is nearly double the pace that we expected and planned for in 2014.
One reason for this increase is that VTB Group and the Russian banking sector in general are stepping in as lenders now to provide credit that Russian companies were previously raising on international markets. I think that the Russian banking system is definitely up to the task of fully compensating for lack of access to foreign markets, all the more so as you announced at the [St Petersburg International Economic] Forum plans to support Russian banks’ capitalisation.
We are currently engaged in serious consultations with the Central Bank on expanding the range over which we make liquidity available. I think that the Russian banking sector is certainly in a position to be able to support economic growth at a higher level than that currently planned.
Vladimir Putin: You say there has been a decrease in borrowing from foreign sources. There are some minuses here, but also some obvious pluses because borrowing on foreign markets does carry certain risks.
What is the situation with your international activities?
Andrei Kostin: We are concentrating now on what we see as our two main tasks. The first is to introduce and expand the use of payments in currencies other than the US dollar, above all the ruble and the Chinese yuan. VTB Group has the full infrastructure needed for this.
Since May, we have been carrying out this work, and not just in Russia. Our branch in Shanghai is making loans available in rubles and yuan and can carry out the full range of operations. We think this a very important task, and given the extent of our bilateral trade with China, developing the use of settlements in rubles and yuan is a priority on the agenda, and so we are working on it now.
The second task we are working on is the development of a national electronic payment system. We already took the first steps in this area in May. VTB Group merged its system with another Russian payment system called Unified Payments System. Three hundred Russian banks, around a third of the country’s banking sector, are thus now united within a single system that combines our resources, including automatic tellers, so that these banks’ clients can carry out transactions within the country using this system. We think this system could serve as a prototype for the national system that we and the Central Bank plan to establish following the new law on this matter. I think that we have taken the first big practical step in this direction.
Vladimir Putin: Looking to the next steps, this work would involve doing as Japan and China did and having the national payment system sign agreements with foreign partners and gradually moving into the foreign market too.
Andrei Kostin: Yes, this is most definitely the right road and practice shows that it is the only correct road to take.
Vladimir Putin: Good.