Rietumu pulls out of banking association

Rietumu bank, which is widely regarded as the most successful of Latvia's numerous banks specializing in "non-resident" business, is to leave the main industry body, the Association of Latvian Commercial Banks (ALCB), it was announced Wednesday.

In an unusual move it was ALCB rather than the bank itself which broke the news in a press release.

"On March 8, Rietumu Bank informed the Association of Latvian Commercial Banks (ALCB) on its intent to withdraw its membership from the Association. The decision of Rietumu Bank is connected with its business objectives and has nothing to do with the agenda and topicalities of ALCB," the statement said.

Mārtiņš Bičevskis, the President of ALCB, tried to play down the significance of the step saying: “In order to achieve the banking industry's common goals – to promote development of Latvia’s economy and banking sector - ALCB will continue to represent the interests of the absolute majority of the banking industry in Latvia at the organisations of entrepreneurs, state and municipality institutions. The withdrawal of Rietumu Bank is leaving no implications on the ALCB’s agenda and working environment.”

However, the withdrawal of the fourth-largest bank in the country (by assets) from the main banking industry body cannot be so easily shrugged off.

Rietumu has been operating in Latvia for 20 years and focuses on clients from the east, particularly Russia.

It has offices in France, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan but its presence is obvious in Latvia too, not only because its headquarters building is one of the most prominent in Riga's famous skyline but through large-scale sponsorship of cultural and other events.

It has also been one of Latvia's most consistently profitable banks. Last year it recorded a profit of €72 million. While it has not been immune to controversy, it has generally avoided the most scandalous types of headline liked to banks such as Trasta Komercbanka, another non-resident bank which had its licence revoked only last week by Latvia's financial regulator.

LSM asked Rietumu to comment on the reasons for its decision to pull out of ALCB.

Spokeswoman Eleonora Gailisha said: "Rietumu has decided to withdraw from the Association of Latvian Commercial Banks. We believe that it is necessary to develop not only existing, but also to look for new forms of inter-bank cooperation and interaction, including at regional and international levels. At the same time, we place great value on our experience and participation within the Association of Latvian Commercial Banks."

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