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    RUSSIANS MORE TRUSTFUL OF NATIONAL CURRENCY, BANKS

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    MOSCOW, APRIL 6, 2004 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Russians are becoming more trustful of the national currency and banks, claims Andrei Kazmin, Chairman of Sberbank, Russia's main government-owned savings bank.

    Last year, Russian banks saw a considerable inflow of ruble deposits, with the national currency gaining in strength, Kazmin said at a press conference on the RIA premises Tuesday. He said much fewer dollar deposits had been made at the end of the year than at the outset and that this tendency had continued into 2004.

    According to the official, the deposit growth rate exceeds the growth of the population's real incomes fourfold. "This means that the crisis of confidence in the banking sector has not just been overcome, but has become a thing of the past by now," he believes.

    "Today we are becoming witnesses to the active process of transferring so-called 'mattress savings' into bank accounts," Kazmin pointed out. He said that Sberbank's share in the individual deposits market had shrunk 3 to 4 percent in 2003. But the bank's top management welcomes the tendency as "retail business can be very costly." According to statistics cited by Kazmin, Sberbank's share in the individual crediting market rose to 48.3 percent last year, as compared with 40 percent in 2002. The bank's proportion in the corporate crediting market reached the 13.3 percent mark while its loans to legal entities accounted for as much as 30 percent of the nation's total, the Chairman reported.

    Sberbank will step up the production of credit cards, Kazmin announced. The number of cards issued by the bank last year topped 6 million. The outlook for this market is very positive indeed, and it will continue to be one of the fastest-expanding in Russia, he said. At the moment, Sberbank's share here is about 35 percent. The bank is now boosting its network of automated teller machines and extending the range of services for small and medium-sized counterparts, he said.

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