Новые известия(en)
Are you saving money? Pay! Banks introduce restrictions and commissions on currency transactions
21 June, 15:28
Are you saving money? Pay! Banks introduce restrictions and commissions on currency transactions
Photo: foulscode.com
The currency has become a highly risky asset for clients and a toxic burden for financial institutions. Banks introduce fees for storage: from 6 to 12% per annum, the phenomenon has already been called “negative capitalization”. Some banks have set unprecedentedly high fees for foreign exchange transactions.

Julia Suntsova

Uralsib Bank has introduced a 5% commission for accepting foreign currency from third-party banks. Sberbank "cannot guarantee that the currency will not be converted into rubles when credited [to their account]".

Tinkov Bank has introduced a minimum threshold for outgoing swift transfers - you can withdraw only from 20 thousand dollars, requests for smaller amounts are completely rejected.

Problems arise even with the currency that was in the accounts before March 9 - that is, the one that after this date could be cashed out. Recall that the currency purchased after March 9 and until September 9 exists only in digital form.

According to the procedure provided by the Central Bank, the withdrawal of currency purchased before March 9 is possible through a pre-order. In Alfa-Bank, the "order" button simply stopped working in the application. Those who manage to place an order cannot receive currency at branches.

Managers offer to buy currency in exchange offices - however, the problem is not only in the unfavorable exchange rate, but also in the fact that there are no dollars. According to the order of the Central Bank, banks can only sell those banknotes that came to them during the day. And now there are not so many people who want to give cash dollars to the bank, so customers are offered the equivalent in rubles.

Persistent rumors are circulating that Russia will face devaluation.

With foreign stocks, the situation is even more complicated. After the European Union announced sanctions against the National Settlement Depository, the securities of foreign issuers were partially frozen in the accounts of Russian clients. Even shares on state IISs are blocked, and they cannot be disposed of until sanctions are lifted. But today no one even names an approximate date when the Euroclear-NSD bridge will be restored.

At the same time, the Head of the Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, in turn, promised that there would be no foreign exchange restrictions and withdrawals in the future and urged to restore the confidence of retail investors.

Together with experts, Novye Izvestia tried to figure out what is happening with the circulation of currency in the country and what to expect in the near future.

Igor Nikolaev, economist:

- After the Central Bank, represented by Nabiullina, expressed an unambiguously negative attitude towards commissions on foreign currency accounts, I think banks will adjust their position. Understanding the specifics of the relationship between the regulator and financial institutions, it seems that for some time extortions will continue. Banks will say - we have our own truth, our own internal rules, the Central Bank will insist that unilateral changes in the terms of client agreements are unacceptable. Courts will begin, and I am sure that the courts will take the side of the clients.

Why did the banks take this unpopular step? They are trying to create reserves, and one of the ways is the devaluation of deposits, alas. In conditions of a strong balance of payments, it is unprofitable to attract and maintain foreign currency. Demand for the currency collapsed - and how can it not collapse if imports are stopped.

Andrey Nechaev, economist, former Minister of Economy of the Russian Federation:

- In the light of the clarifications that the Central Bank gave a few days ago, attempts to introduce bank commissions for foreign currency accounts must be stopped. The introduction of such commissions is an absolute violation. It is unacceptable to change the terms of contracts unilaterally, and this can only be done with explicit consent of the client, it is not enough just to publish an ad on your sites.

It follows from this that the regulator is not going to liquidate the current currency accounts and that the head of the Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, did not palter, saying that there would be no new currency restrictions. We will observe - if the banks that introduced illegal commissions are punished, if there are no new currency restrictions, and the old ones will be canceled, then they are serious. I would like to hope so.

Artyom Tuzov, financial analyst:

- Banks operate within the landscape that exists now. It consists in the fact that both euros and dollars are issued by Western countries for Russia. At any time, on a new round of sanctions on the euro and dollars, all correspondent accounts for all Russian banks can be closed. Then all deposits will be frozen in Russian banks for an indefinite period. Banks see that Russian citizens do not take into account such risks. Banks have foreign exchange positions that have become toxic, so they impose restrictions on foreign currency deposits through such measures through a commission. In principle, this is a good way to signal to savers not to hold money in these currencies. There are other currencies.

DO YOU EXPECT DEVALUITATION?

I. Nikolaev:

- The Central Bank is considering the issue from a macroeconomic position and proceeds from the fact that devaluation will go on one way or another. On the other hand, there are ordinary bank customers. They considered buying foreign currency as a store of value, hoping to sell it at a better rate just to survive. The Central Bank hopes that the devaluation, with which he agrees, will take place naturally or naturally-forced. Their position, however, is that there is no need to take extreme measures, there is no need to push people out by force, I believe that they are sincere in this.

It is difficult to say how fast the process will go. In the next month, I think, nothing terrible will happen, and then we have to look. There are factors that objectively slow down devaluation - this is parallel imports, and it is just beginning. It seems that they have already understood how to work in different product groups, they have understood how to build supply chains. If parallel imports expand, the demand for the currency will continue.

Whatever it is, the current exchange rate under such currency restrictions does not reflect the true value of the ruble. Officials say in unison - the ruble is overvalued, such a ruble is not profitable for the state. I think by the end of the year it will weaken.

A. Nechaev:

- Will there be a complete devaluation? It's hard to say. The situation is changing rapidly and unpredictably, and now it is a thankless task to make predictions about the actions of the authorities. A small part of our people has currency savings and securities – only one and a half million citizens. But to give birth at once to these one and a half million people who hate the regime, given that among them there are those close to power, they are unlikely to take such a drastic step. A complete rejection of currency circulation, of the convertibility of the ruble, or the introduction of an artificial exchange rate, as today 55 rubles per dollar, is not very comfortable for the budget. The first persons of the country, both the President and the Deputy Prime Minister, are talking about this, and, probably, they will somehow cope with this.

A. Tuzov:

- Bankers do not keep currency in their accounts. They invest it to pay off depositors. The depositor brings the currency at a percentage of the deposit. To return it, it must be invested somewhere. The only place where you can invest currency is either loans to exporters (but now, due to sanctions, the share of exports has fallen, and exporters need less currency), or investments in foreign securities. Our bankers are in the same situation as individuals - foreign securities in general may become inaccessible to Russia. It's already happened. What can happen in the future from three months to six months with a new package of sanctions? All correspondent accounts in dollars or euros will be closed for the entire banking system, and it will be impossible to conduct transactions in these currencies at all. Including, most likely, it will be impossible to withdraw your foreign currency deposit with conversion into the ruble.

WHAT SHOULD PRIVATE INVESTORS HOPE FOR?

A. Nechaev:

- I understand the motives of Western sanctions, but some EU decisions cause only bewilderment and irritation. As part of the 6th package, the National Settlement Depository fell under sanctions. In practice, this means that it will not be able to service transactions with foreign currency securities of Russian clients. De facto, the superior European depository Euroclear froze these securities a couple of months ago and does not pay NSD the payments due to its clients (coupons and funds from the redemption of securities) on them. Now this action to actually freeze someone else's property has received a legal justification. After that, stories about the EU's adherence to European values, one of which is the "sacred right to private property", become slyness.

Such a decision strikes first of all not at the "oligarchs" close to the Kremlin, but at the representatives of the middle class who actively operated on the international stock market, often in relatively small amounts. If the authors of this sanctions idea expect that after its implementation, small Russian investors will go to storm the Kremlin, then they are deeply mistaken. Investors will only bitterly calculate the losses and state that fraudulent decisions are being made in Europe as well. I would like to note that with its decision, the EU also dealt a blow to Western holders of Russian securities, burning the last bridge for settlements on them. Now default becomes inevitable, because investors will not be able to get even rubles. Taking into account the fact that the total Russian foreign debt on securities exceeds $450 billion, this is already a definite blow to Western financial institutions.

Konstantin Sonin, economist, Professor, Faculty of Economic Sciences, National Research University Higher School of Economics:

- Nabiullina said that there will be no currency restrictions and withdrawals in the future. Of course, she meant that after the currency restrictions introduced in March, no one listens to the Central Bank anyway. Following the example of previous episodes (1990, 1993, 1998), full restoration of trust takes decades - and, of course, trust will not be restored under this chairman and not under this team.

But this does not make the phrase about new currency restrictions any more honest! Of course, there will still be restrictions and, apparently, withdrawals of foreign currency deposits. The current situation is the result of a sharp drop in imports due to [special operation] and the preservation of exports (because it is very expensive to drastically limit the export of Russian oil and gas). When imports begin to recover - through gray imports, China, etc., then the dollar will rise in price again (both because new trade chains will be formed, and because you will have to overpay.) It is impossible not to understand that the current situation (and the easing of foreign exchange restrictions, associated with it) is by no means balanced in the medium and long term. What about "good" scenarios, what about "bad" ones.