Robert Von Rekowsky: Armenia is a promising country ready to deal with larger investments
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Interview with Robert Von Rekowsky, independent Board member at Ameriabank

While his stay in Armenia Robert Von Rekowsky, independent Board member of Ameriabank, Vice-President of Emerging Market Strategies at Fidelity Investments and a prominent emerging markets asset management specialist, gave an interview to ArmInfo.

Is Armenian business ready to take in the foreign experience in asset management? Why is it necessary to share experience right now?

My cooperation with Ameriabank, a professionally governed bank, began due to my involvement in the Armenia 2020 project. Currently cooperation with Ameriabank helps me realize my mission which is to share experience in emerging market asset analysis and portfolio management with shareholders, clients and counterparties.

Armenia’s economy is growing, that’s a fact, and the business culture is growing, too, while introduction of a new pension system will stimulate the development of capital markets. I can see that the business community in Armenia is becoming stronger and more and more transparent, and such growth requires a strong banking system. I believe Armenia is a promising country and the local business community is developed enough to deal with larger investments from the banking industry. I do hope my advice will help achieve this growth.

How would you assess the role of the banking system in the economic development of Armenia? What are the most pressing problems that banks should address, and what are the most important achievements?

As far as I understand currently Armenia’s banking system is preparing for introduction of Basel III system. In my opinion this is very important for a strongly regulated banking system, since this is exactly what a developing country like Armenia needs – a strong, stimulated and reliable banking system. I believe that during the coming 10 years, due among other things to the new pension system, the need of a stronger banking system will only grow and our community will witness this process, such as further consolidation of banks and appreciation of their reporting currency. This growth will by all means be promoted by the Central Bank of Armenia, and during it banks will become the key consolidation institutes on this new pension funds management market.

In your opinion, are there any specific problems in Armenian banking industry as financial mediator in economy?

I cannot name any specific challenges facing Armenian economy, but currently the banking system of Armenia faces such problems as capital adequacy, which is by the way a key problem for banks worldwide. Shift to Basel III standards can help solve this problem. On the other hand, it should be pointed out that the level of non-performing loans (NPL) in Armenia is rather low and that’s good. Taking into account continuing global recession, however, growth of NPL can bring banks to face hard times, and this is where the level of capital adequacy comes forth. This is what I’d pay first and foremost attention to as an investor.

How effectively, in your opinion, do Armenian businessmen use opportunities? Can corporate governance principles be introduced in Armenian companies?

A perfect question. You see, in Armenia, as in many other countries, most businessmen start their projects with their own resources, which is less risky in terms of doing business. But as regards management and strategic development issues, here, too, businessmen rely on their own experience, and this is where problems arise. And when you apply to a bank for advice or loan, the probability that you’ll be at fault with strategic management or investment is much lower. This problem is not specific to Armenia, it is a challenge in many countries.

Updated 13.05.2013, 17:04
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