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Sberbank says Swiss operations unaffected by sanctions

Sberbank Switzerland is not part of the European group, says the Russian bank. Keystone / Christian Bruna

Russian bank Sberbank will function as normal in Switzerland despite other parts of the group pulling out of the rest of Europe.

The Zurich-based subsidiary is not part of Sberbank Europe Group that has been hit with sanctions from the European Union and the United States, a company spokesperson told the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA on Thursday.

Sanctions were imposed on a number of Russian individuals, companies and banks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a week ago. On Monday Switzerland said it would follow all of the sanctions imposed by the EU.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) told Keystone-SDA that it is monitoring the situation.

Sberbank Switzerland has around 250 corporate clients, mostly related to the raw materials sector. It employs some 100 staff and in 2020 it generated a profit of CHF58 million ($63 million).

The Russian bank opened an entity in canton Zug in 2020, called Sber Trading Swiss, to finance the trade of oil, gas, metals and agricultural commodities.

Along with Gazprom Bank and VTB Capital Investment Management, a commodities financing unit of VTB Bank, Sberbank Switzerland is heavily involved in the trading of a range of energy products, raw food materials and metals from the Swiss commodity trading hub.

Some 40% of all oil shipments are traded through Switzerland, along with 60% of metals and grains, according to the Swiss Trading and Shipping AssociationExternal link.

Price volatility

The theoretical departure of Russian banks from Switzerland could be compensated by a range of other banks that finance the flow of commodities around the world, according to one experienced Swiss trader who asked to remain anonymous.

Credit Suisse, UBS, cantonal banks, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale are among the Western banks that could step in to keep the Swiss trading hub financed.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has introduced increased price volatility throughout large sections of the commodities trading market, even for shipments unrelated to Russia, the trader said.

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