Government Banking in Russia: Magnitude and New Features
State-controlled banks are currently at the core of financial intermediation in Russia. This paper aims to assess the magnitude of government banking, and to reveal some of its special features and arrangements. We distinguish between directly and indirectly state-controlled banks and construct a set of bank-level statistical data covering the period between 2000 and 2011. By January 2011 the market share of state-controlled banks reached almost 54 percent of all bank assets, putting Russia in the same league with China and India and widening the gap from typical European emerging markets. We show that direct state ownership is gradually substituted by indirect ownership and control. It tends to be organized in corporate pyramids that dilute public property, take control away from government bodies, and underpin managerial opportunism. Statecontrolled banks blur the borderline between commercial banking and development banking. Dominance of public banks has a bearing on empirical studies whose results might suggest state-owned banks’ greater (or lesser) efficiency or competitiveness compared to other forms of ownership. We tend to interpret such results as influenced by the choice of indicator, period of observations, sample selection, etc., in the absence of an equal playing field for all groups of players. We suggest that the government’s planned retreat from the banking sector will involve non-core assets mainly, whereas control over core institutions will just become more subtle.