The Russian population remains financially illiterate, but small trading accounts have been growing steadily in the last few years and now number in the millions as the leading banks start offering easy access to the capital markets and Russians begin to cast about for investments with a better return.
Traditionally the main investment vehicle used by Russians is simply to park their cash in a bank deposit, and the main goal is to protect savings from the ravages of inflation.
However, after inflation fell to post-Soviet lows in 2018 and the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) cut rates three times, the return from bank deposits has fallen, although last year it remained the most profitable investment in 2018, apart from the stocks and bonds of AFK Sistema, which bounced back after a corporate war with state owed oil company Rosneft ended.
Russia’s banking services are rapidly going online and the leading banks are broadening their offerings to include investments.
Tinkoff Investments, part of Russia’s only pure online bank Tinkoff Bank, brought more retail investors to the Moscow Exchange than any other brokerage in 2018, according to the exchange’s data.
The Moscow Exchange acquired over 700,000 new customers last year, with more than 285,000 coming in through Tinkoff Investments. Tinkoff Investments helped the exchange gain 33,204 new active clients, the best result among peers.
“Technology made 2018 the year of the retail investor, with many traders entering the market for the first-time. Today, buying securities through Tinkoff Investments is as easy as buying a bottle of water in the supermarket. Our key advantage is a close integration of brokerage services with our customers’ bank accounts and credit cards to provide 24/7 access to money earned from securities trading. This solution is one-of-a-kind in the market,” Alexander Emeshev, vice-president, new products development at Tinkoff Bank, said in a press release.
Today, one in three accounts on the Moscow Exchange is opened via Tinkoff Investments. In December 2018 alone, the platform's mobile app was installed on 1.5mn devices.
Tinkoff Investments is a mobile app and a web platform for buying and selling exchange-traded products, offering broad functionality and a user-friendly native interface for a seamless customer experience.
Tinkoff Investments customers can buy securities any time the markets are open. There is no need to deposit money in the brokerage account in advance. The platform provides access to government bonds and other securities listed on the Moscow Exchange, the St Petersburg Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange.
Tinkoff Bank obtained a brokerage licence in March 2018, with the first Tinkoff Investments accounts launching as early as May 2018. Prior to that from 2016, the platform operated in partnership with BCS.
In 2018, Tinkoff Investments introduced a string of significant customer-focused innovations, including around-the-clock top-up and instant cash-out, automatic online calculation of applicable taxes, and a financial news feed.
The following key services were launched in 2018:
• A robo-advisor to help customers build balanced investment portfolios in just a few clicks (July 2018). The tool has been used to put together over 320,000 portfolios;
• Tinkoff Investments Premium providing access to over 10,000 global securities (the most extensive catalogue in the Russian market), portfolio building tools, purchasing options and personal manager services, accessible directly via the mobile app (September 2018);
• Candlestick charts showing price changes for securities over fixed time intervals to help with market analysis (November 2018);
• Individual investment accounts, enabling securities transactions and providing tax benefits (November 2018);
• Tinkoff Collections, allowing Tinkoff Investments account holders to buy into thematic investment portfolios in just one click (December 2018). This service features 26 investment themes, including Technologies of the Future, Anti-Sanctions and A Journey to Mars. More thematic securities collections are coming soon.
With no branches, the bank serves all its customers remotely via online channels and a cloud-based call centre staffed by over 10,000 employees, which makes it one of the largest in Europe. A proprietary network of 2,500 representatives across the country enables the bank to provide next-day product delivery.
The Tinkoff.ru ecosystem developed by the bank offers financial and lifestyle services. On top of traditional banking products, it includes investments, travel, SME services, mortgage, insurance, a mobile operator, entertainment and education.
The bank was founded in 2006 by a Russian entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov. Its parent company – TCS Group Holding PLC – has been listed on the LSE since 2013. The 9M18 IFRS net income of TCS Group Holding PLC amounted to RUB19bn ($290mn), while ROE grew to 72.9%.
Tinkoff Bank is the second largest player in the Russian credit card market, with a market share of 11.4%.