IKEA mulls Russia bank
by Oleg Nikishenkov
The Ikano Group, privately owned by IKEA owner Ingvar Kamprad and his family, is considering opening a retail bank in Russia. Its main aim would be to provide retail loans, a source close to the deal told Kommersant. But the share of IKEA furniture and appliances sold on credit, accounts for just 5 per cent of the chain’s sales in Russia, so experts suggest that the banking business could extend beyond consumer loans.
Ikano Group was separated from IKEA and turned into an asset management, finance and insurance company in 1988. In 2006 Ikano came to the Russian market, and one of its first projects was to outline a credit products line.
But the credit products were operated on IKEA’s behalf by Russian banking partners, such as Credit Evropa Bank and Renaissance Credit.
Credit Evropa Bank was selected as base bank for IKEA in Russia in 2008, when Mikhail Prokhorov acquired Renaissance. IKEA says it had no problems working with those banks. But setting up a bank of its own could present an additional advantage.
Credit Evropa Bank belongs to the EU’s FIBA Group, and its major shareholder is the Finance International Holding of the Netherlands. According to Kommersant Daily, IKEA and Ikano Finance might start a joint venture and co-invest in a new bank, which would then go through the Central Bank’s registration procedure.
Natalia Zagvozdina, a banking analyst at Renaissance Capital, said that Ikano would likely have no problems obtaining a banking license.
“I see no reason for the regulator to turn down Ikano,” Zagvozdina said, adding that Ikano’s bank could well be profitable in a few years.
It is common practice worldwide to provide retail banking through chains of shops, but there is a fundamental difference in Russia, where banking services can be rendered only through licensed banks. “Retail is a big driver for sales of loans, which can be issued on quite good terms in the consumer segment,” Zagvozdina said.
Several car dealerships have either set up or imported banking services, from GM-Finance to Toyota Financial Services. And the Svyaznoi (ex-Promtorgbank) case illustrates that synergies between retailers and banks can be achieved.
In 2010 the mobile phone group Svyaznoi started a partnership with Promtorgbank, which earlier served OMZ, a heavy industry giant. Svyaznoi and Promtorgbank launched Svyaznoi Bank, a universal bank whose retail distribution is based on 2,300 Svyaznoy mobile communication centers across Russia. One of the bank’s products was a banking card which combined deposit and credit operations along with a loyalty bonus program.
Svyaznoy Bank applied an Experian- type risk assessment system to evaluate retail customers’ credibility. Its business model is close to a popular British minimarkets chain called Bank-in-Shop.
Now Svyaznoy Bank has set itself an ambitious goal of becoming one of the leading financial institutions in the country. A handsets store is quite different from a retail bank office, but apart from a network of highly accessible real offices, the model also envisages advanced remote services for its customers.
“And it proved to be quite successful, as within the first eight months of its existence the bank managed to issue about half a million cards,” said Sergei Radchenkov, Svyaznoy Bank chairman.