MOSCOW Major Russian banks fear a loss of business when large companies gain direct access to currency and money markets next week under new rules that supporters say will boost liquidity on the Moscow Exchange (MOEX.MM).
The new rules, debated for many years and finally due to take effect on Jan. 16 under a central bank decree, are intended to lift market turnover and lower costs for those who trade currencies or money market rates.
But they may also disrupt the established balance of power in the market: companies that have always paid commission to commercial banks for certain operations will no longer do so.
"This is an impersonation of the role of banks," said Oleg Gorlinsky, head of treasury at VTB (VTBR.MM), Russia's second largest bank.
"An exchange should not, in my view, be attracting resources from companies in order to pay them some sort of interest rate," he said.
Alexey Lyakin, head of treasury at top bank Sberbank (SBER.MM), said it would become more expensive for large banks to attract money from the corporate sector once companies can manage their needs on their own.
While banks are unhappy with the new state of affairs, it will make life easier for companies, said Dmitry Polevoy, chief economist at ING Bank in Moscow.
"But, as always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Relations between banks and clients will remain in place as there are many more services apart from FX conversion and trading of money market rates," Polevoy said.
To qualify for direct trading access on the Moscow Exchange, a firm must have capital of at least 1 billion rubles ($16.6 million), a dedicated treasury department and annual trading volumes of no less than $100 million in the past two years.
Bankers claim they can address risks related to trading on currency and money markets better than companies, even big ones.
"The functions of taking on interest-rate risk and liquidity risk, transforming resources onto the active side of the balance sheet - those are functions for the banking system," said VTB's Gorlinsky.
(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Gareth Jones)