Odile Renaud-Basso: EBRD has a long-term commitment to Armenia’s financial sector

15.09.2022 | 18:11 Home / News / Interviews /
Odile Renaud-Basso, the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), starts her visit to Armenia today. On the eve of the visit she talked to Banks.am.

Ms. Renaud-Basso, over the past two years, Armenia has faced difficult global and local challenges, such as Covid-19 and the 44-day war. In addition, the events in Ukraine have had a negative impact on the economic prospects of Armenia’s key partner countries. How would you assess the resilience of Armenia’s financial sector and responses to current challenges?

The financial sector of Armenia has in my view demonstrated a solid level of resilience in the last few years. The response from the authorities who initiated a broad-range of fiscal, financial, and monetary policy measures, definitely helped contain the impact of the crises.

It was not just these measures, there is also a long history of sound and prudent regulatory decision-making which represents the real strength of Armenia’s financial sector.

Consequently, your financial institutions entered the crisis in good shape. This allowed them to navigate the crises without bankruptcies, liquidity and capital issues, while also maintaining the adequate quality levels of their assets.

What are the highlights of EBRD’s activity in Armenia’s financial sector? How do you build your relations with Armenia’s banks, for some of which EBRD is a serious loan provider? Can we call these relationships as partnerships?

Absolutely! We call these banks our partners. It is exactly this sense of partnership that underlies our engagements with Armenian banks.

Our relations with Armenia’s financial sector is based on strong strategic fit in terms of our mandate and mission. We share a focus on international trade, development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as green and inclusive financing.

Our wide range of financial products have allowed us to gradually build our relationship over the years and our local presence has allowed us to acquire a profound knowledge of our customers and their needs.

Our commitment to Armenia’s financial sector is a long-term one, and has withstood some difficult times as well. Together with our donors, we are set to continue our investment and policy support to Armenia’s financial institutions.

As far as we know, at the end of 2021, the volume of EBRD investments in various sectors of Armenia’s economy - banking, energy, urban transport programs - amounted to about €175 million. Could you indicate which part of these investments was allocated to the banking sector and for which projects?

This year, we are celebrating 30 years of operations in Armenia, were we have achieved a lot since opening our resident office in 1992. To date, the EBRD has invested more than €2 billion in 201 projects, 91% of which investment are in the private sector. On average, we invest around €100 million in Armenia’s financial institutions on an annual basis. These funds are provided through various projects on trade finance, MSMEs, and their competitiveness, green projects and support for women in business and inclusive financing.

How are things going this year, should we expect an increase in investments by the end of the year? Are there any plans to increase investments in the financial and banking sectors of Armenia? Is there any interest in increasing the number of partner banks in our country?

We remain fully committed to the existing clients. We are also open to explore new partnerships in line with our strategic priorities I mentioned earlier. So far, we are partners with 8 banks out of 17 in the country, covering more than 60% of the sector’s assets.

Ms. Renaud-Basso, taking this opportunity, we would like to find out what are the specifics of the financial products of EBRD and which one would you call your hallmark? Are you developing new financial instruments that would meet the digital agenda of the financial market, both globally and in relation to our country?

I strongly believe that all our products like support to international trade, MSMEs, green and inclusive financing are important in their own way - the only substantial difference is that they are designed to support various development topics - but all are equally focused to promote transition and development, and none can achieve that ambitious goal on their own.

Odile Renaud-Basso

That said, I would like to emphasize the SME Competitiveness framework which was designed and implemented with the support from the EU. It is the most recent financial product launched in Armenia in 2021.

It is designed to support long-term investments of Armenian MSMEs in upgrading their technology and equipment to meet EU standards in terms of product quality, health and safety measures, and environmental preservation.

Furthermore, at least 70 per cent of all projects are expected to count as part of the EBRD Green Economy Transition approach.

This facility is already implemented through 5 local banks, and we continue deployment as we speak. We are not stopping there by any means, and are considering new products responding to various transition gaps, for instance in digitalisation.
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