Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 17 April 2024

 Raiffeisen hails Russia growth plans in dozens of ‘embarrassing’ job ads


Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International has posted dozens of advertisements for Russian-based jobs indicating ambitious plans to expand in the country, in an apparent contradiction to its official pledge to exit the market.

The Financial Times found the offers among more than 2,400 job advertisements posted in Russia by the Austrian lender since December, of which almost 1,500 are for sales management and customer service roles.

One of the ads, issued by the bank’s unit for medium-sized businesses in Russia, said its “key goals are a multiple expansion of the active client base and stable double-digit income growth”.

Raiffeisen is “looking for a client manager who will attract clients”, reads another offer, from the division targeting small businesses in Russia. Another notes the company is “actively expanding our base of corporate clients”.

The ads appear to contradict repeated statements by Raiffeisen that it intends to shrink and sell its business in Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Two years on, the bank is the western lender with the largest operations in Russia. It is under scrutiny by officials at the US Treasury department and has come under pressure from the European Central Bank to quit Russia.

Contacted for comment, Raiffeisen said that the FT findings had prompted chief executive Johann Strobl to order an immediate inquiry.

According to a report delivered to Strobl by the board of the bank’s Russian subsidiary, the adverts had been released using boilerplate information about the bank and its ambitions in Russia, which had, erroneously, not been updated since the Ukraine war began.

Raiffeisen said in a statement: “The reduction of the Russian business will continue in 2024. Raiffeisen [has] continued to work on a potential transaction, a sale or a spin-off, which would result in the de-consolidation of Raiffeisenbank Russia from the group.”

A senior Raiffeisen executive in Austria said the ads were “highly embarrassing” and had triggered a panicked response to have them rewritten.

A senior executive at a rival European bank operating in Russia said Raiffeisen had been poaching its staff in the country across a range of roles.

Raiffeisen said the volume of postings was due to staff retention problems.

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