Do you want to work as an investment banker? Or as a corporate banker? Or do you want to work as an investment banking/corporate banker? In the Russian market, the two roles are very blurred.
As we noted last year, it helps to have a big retail and corporate banking presence if you want to push into Russian investment banking. Sberbank recently cited its big corporate client network as a major strategic advantage, pointing out that it has 1.5m corporate banking customers, only 1,000 of which use its investment banking services at the moment.
The potential for converting corporate and retail banking clients into investment banking clients makes last year’s decisions by BarCap and BNP Paribas to pull back from Russian retail banking look a little ill-informed.
French bank SocGen is also among those rationalizing its Russian retail banking network, with 2,000 redundancies planned at its Rosbank franchise.
However, when SocGen released its fourth quarter results yesterday, it highlighted a joint venture between its Russian retail bank and Russian investment bank as a key strategic priority for 2012. The French bank’s Russian revenues were €129m for 2011. Last year, one analyst predicted SocGen's Russian revenues would hit €165m by the end of 2012.
To achieve this growth, SocGen says its Russian capital markets and investment banking desks will spend 2012 working with its retail bank on a joint venture aimed at ‘business development’.
The implication is clear: the best Russian investment bankers are those with access to a broad client base. For the moment, they are likely to come from a corporate banking or high-end retail banking background. If you want to build a career as a Russian investment banker, this is a good place to start.