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#1 gamavor


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Posted 27 May 2009 - 03:07 AM


business new europe
May 26 2009

Armenia's best export is its people and the government is hoping to
tap its wealthy diaspora by setting up a global retail bank that can
funnel some of their money into projects back at home.

There are three times more Armenians living outside the country than in
it and remittances make up the single biggest hard currency earner for
the country; it seems no matter how far Armenians travel, their hearts
remain at home. The government wants to capitalise on this loyalty
and instead of waiting for the money to be sent home, it will go out
and get it by setting up a bank with branches all over the world. "It
is a global retail bank that will target Armenians living overseas,"
Armenia's minister of economy, Nerses Yeritsyan, tells bne during May's
annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
in London. "Imagine: if only 1% of all Armenians take a credit card
from the new bank, then that will generate enough money for us to
say goodbye to [international financial institution] funding forever."

The inflow of remittances is already worth billions of dollars a
year, but this is only the tip of the asset iceberg and a fraction
of the personal wealth of successful Armenia's who live overseas,
most of which is deposited in local banks. With large populations
concentrated in places like Moscow, London and Los Angeles - pop
music diva Cher is an ethnic Armenian - the locations for the first
branches are pretty obvious.

Home role

The government contributed $20m to the capital of the bank, which
has already been set up, but isn't operational yet. The plan was to
raise another $80m from Armenians around the world. "The other half
of the equation is the resources the bank mobilises and will invest
into targeted projects back in Armenia. It is a way for our diaspora
to take a more active role in the development of the country and at
the same time earn a good return on that growth," says the minister.

However, the crisis threw a wrench into the plans, as most of the
commitments - which came from both large Armenian-owned businesses
and private individuals - have been put on hold after markets
crashed around the world at the end of last year. "We took the
bank on a road show last year and found there was a lot of support
amongst the diaspora," says Yeritsyan. "However, these commitments
have been withdrawn for the moment while everyone is assessing their
position. But we are confident that they will return and we can push
ahead as planned with the bank."

In the meantime, the government has hired head hunters to find a top
quality international CEO, as the tricky bit of making a global retail
bank work is that it will have to compete with high street banks in
the US and UK in terms of the quality of its service. It won't be easy,
but Yeritsyan is literally banking on the loyalty that Armenians feel
towards their homeland to give the bank a competitive edge.


#2 Boghos


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Posted 30 May 2009 - 03:09 AM

Other countries have tried this before, such as Israel. They were state banks that also had a domestic presence such as Leumi and Happoalim (actually trade union's bank). I don't think Armenia is ready for this project.

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