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IFC: Russian banker competing for a Financial Times award in sustainable development for the first time ever

Vasily Vysokov, head of the Rostov-based bank Center Invest, is a finalist nominated for the Financial Times Sustainable Bankers of the Year Award. He will attend the award ceremony on 7 June in London.

Vasily Vysokov, the chairman of the board of directors at Center Invest, a bank in Rostov-on-the-Don, has been named a finalist in the Sustainable Bankers of the Year Awards, sponsored by the Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a division of the World Bank. The award ceremony will take place on 7 June in London at a conference on sustainable development in the banking sector. The winner will be chosen from a commission comprised of 250 leaders in international banking and experts in sustainable development.

The award from the authoritative financial publication will be bestowed upon bankers who proactively integrate the principles of sustainable development into banking operations. The concept of sustainable development in banking presumes not only social responsibility on the part of a financial institution, but its dedication to financial projects with a positive environmental and social impact.

“The number of applications and the geographical scope of these awards just goes to show that every year, banking issues focusing on sustainable development are garnering more and more attention,” notes Mr. Lionel Barber, the Editor-in-Chief of the Financial Times. “We hope that our competition will help portray the importance of these ideas throughout the financial community.”

A total of 32 bankers from countries around the world competed in the FT Sustainable Banking Awards. Vasily Vysokov is one of five finalists, thanks to Center Invest’s new banking product aimed at financing energy efficiency projects. This makes Center Invest the first Russian financial institution to offer a product of this kind. During the first year, the bank financed 12 energy efficiency projects for a total of $5 mln, and 27 new products valued at a total of $30 mln are currently in the works. Furthermore, the bank's services in sustainable development are not limited to financing energy conservation projects.

Center Invest was founded in 1992 by the first privatized enterprises in the south of Russia in order to support their sustainable development. In the years that followed, the bank lent its assistance to the general population as well as to companies in the south of Russia in maintaining sustainability during the reform process. It also contributed to the birth of the securities market, the investment project market, the debt market, and the introduction of best international practices in accounting standards and corporate conduct.

Presently, Center Invest is working on social projects involving online education for schoolchildren learning about the history and culture of the south of Russia. A total of 150 students have received stipends from the bank, and over 2,000 veterans of war are taking part in the bank’s special charity programs.

In May this year, Center Invest became the founder of the targeted capital fund Education and Science in the Southern Federal District. This fund is the first of its kind in the South of Russia and the revenue it generates will be used to support students, scientists and educators in the region’s institutions of higher education.

In collaboration with the IFC, Center Invest became the first Russian bank to introduce a code of corporate conduct (in 2004) and is an active proponent of the principles of corporate conduct among its clients. The high quality and successful realization of best corporate conduct practices at Center Invest is reconfirmed by the fact that the bank's shareholders now include the EBRD and the DEG. Furthermore, the ex-president of Bundesbank, Mr. Ernst Weltek, has been elected to Center Invest’s board of directors as an independent director.

In 1997, Center Invest designed and implemented its first program for supporting SMEs in the region, which helped legalize small businesses. At present, over 20,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs are Center Invest clients, and the bank has placed 8th in all of Russia in terms of the number of loans granted to SMEs.

Center Invest is an example for the rest of the Russian financial community and has demonstrated that sustainable development in the banking sector is not limited to the realm of social responsibility - it can also be a lucrative endeavor.


More Information

    Center Invest Bank

    Center Invest Bank’s head office is located in Rostov-on-the-Don and owns a branch network in the Rostov and Volgograd regions, as well as in Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai. On 01.01.2007, RBC rated Center Invest the second largest bank in the Southern Federal District (after Sberbank) in terms of the size of assets, equity capital, credit portfolio and the amount of private deposits. Center Invest's branch network boasts over 100 locations, making it the most expansive in the Southern Federal District. As of 01.06.07 the bank’s assets amounted to RUR 31.4 bln, with equity capital at RUR 3.8 bln and a credit portfolio totaling RUR 26.2 bln.

    Center Invest’s key institutional shareholders include the EBRD (27.45%), DEG (22.45%), the US-based Firebird Fund (9.9%), Renaissance Capital (8.2%) and Raiffeisenlandesbank (3.6%). Furthermore, Center Invest collaborates actively in financing mortgage loans, SMEs, and trade financing with international financial organizations and banks, including: the EBRD, the IFC, DEG, KfW, OPIC, Raiffeisenlandesbank Oo, RZB, Commerzbank AG, VTB Group, Landesbank Berlin, and National City Bank (USA).

    Center Invest is the first southern Russian bank to receive an international credit rating from Moody's Investor's Service on long-term foreign currency deposits of B1. On a national scale, Moody's has given the bank a long-term credit rating of

    Center Invest has successfully undergone IAS audits conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for ten years in a row. The bank’s independent director is Ernst Weldeke, the former chairman of Deutsche Bundesbank. He has guaranteed clients, staff and shareholders transparency and is dedicated to his independent status.

    Center Invest has a working corporate code of conduct developed with assistance from the IFC, the EBRD and the SECO.

    About Mr. Vasily Vysokov

    The bank’s achievements in sustainable development are based on a scientific foundation built by the chairman of the bank’s board of directors, Mr. Vysokov, a professor and Doctor of Economic Sciences. Professor Vysokov is the author of more than 200 books and articles on transitional economics. His doctorate dissertation (1995) examines the principles of sustainable development in transitional economics:

    • the success of reforms lies not within the radical nature of the steps taken, but in the way the measures that are taken are interrelated;
    • reforms are meant to restore social sustainability at every step in the reform process;
    • reforms are strong when they are supported by the masses;
    • reforms are not merely slogans, and they function based on the practice of the law;
    • reforms are achieved by those who take one deliberate step at a time;

    In his new book “Investor Interest in the South of Russia” (in Russian:, Professor Vysokov provides an extensive analysis of the economy of the south of Russia with a breakdown of markets by manufacturers, consumers, infrastructures, finances and investment and offers a strategy for the sustainable development of the south of Russia. About the IFC

    The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is an investment division of the World Bank Group that encourages the formation of open and competitive markets in developing countries and companies with economies in transition. The IFC supports sustainable privately-owned companies and other partners and provides assistance in creating jobs and providing services, which opens opportunities for improving people’s lives and lowering poverty. As of the end of the 2006 fiscal year (30 June 2006), the IFC had invested over $56 billion of its own funds and attracted another $25 billion in syndicated loans for financing 3,531 privately-owned companies in 140 countries. Together with the its partners and donors, the IFC has also provided over $1 billion for support for consulting programs aimed at developing small businesses, getting the private sector involved in infrastructure development projects, improving the business environment, expanding access to financing and increasing ecological and social sustainability. Encouraging the development of energy efficient technologies is one of the IFC’s most popular endeavors. On a global scale, the IFC has already invested over $400 million in energy efficiency projects. In 2005, the IFC launched a targeted program in Russia to stimulate investment in energy conservation. For more information, visit