The FINANCIAL -- Commerzbank obtained a license from the National Bank of Georgia in June
2011 to open a representative office without an operational branch or
commercial function. It started operation in October and was officially
opened in May 2012.
The responsibilities of the representative office include market research, risk evaluation and controlling, establishment of business contacts, or simply: “We are here to feel the pulse of the market - this allows us to react quickly to market changes and new business opportunities,” said Marco Graff, official representative of Commerzbank in Georgia and Armenia.
As Marco Graff says, “Commerzbank started to cooperate with Georgian banks in the early nineties shortly after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Traditionally Commerzbank has always been a strong market leader in export finance - therefore we were able to quickly react to the needs of the newly established banking sectors in former Soviet Union republics. Today Commerzbank runs 10 representative offices in the CIS, the Baltic countries and Georgia which represent the largest network of any European bank in the region. Commerzbank finances not only exports from Germany to the respective country - via our large international network we are in the position to additionally provide services in trade finance from nearly any country in the world - be it the US, China, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Japan, Brazil or France.”
Marco Graff has gathered extensive knowledge of the special economic, financial and cultural characteristics of Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. He speaks German (native), Russian, English and some Georgian too. As the bank’s representative, he is the contact person for local banks and German and international companies in Georgia and Armenia.
As he said in an interview with The FINANCIAL, “Commerzbank was closely looking at the developments in Georgia even before August 2008 when the economy had double-digits and one of the largest growth rates in the region. Georgia’s potential as the region’s hub is very interesting for us - we carefully study developments, and adjust our strategy according to the situation in the financial, banking and corporate markets. Nevertheless, for the time being we do not have plans to establish a fully fledged local bank in Georgia.”
“Germany’s economy is known as the world champion in exports. Commerzbank’s philosophy is therefore to follow our clients or even pioneer for them in countries and markets. As German, and international, exports grew strongly with Georgia and the latter’s economy was increasing over the last few years we decided that we would establish a representative office in Georgia in order to be closer to the market.
We are not here to compete with Georgian banks. Most Georgian banks appreciate our international banking knowhow and our network of 7,000 bank clients worldwide - with most of them we have a very good and fruitful client relationship in order to cooperate with them in international banking business. This includes international payment transactions in various currencies, financing of imports of consumer and capital goods, foreign exchange transactions, loans and others.
As the Georgian economy grows the market becomes interesting for other international banks too. We are facing growing competition in our business but nevertheless we are confident about keeping our leading role as THE international banking partner for local banks.
Before coming to Georgia I established and managed our representative office in Baku and frequently visited our Georgian clients too. We analyzed the growth trends of the Georgian economy and looked at the country’s strategic prospects to be regional hub for the transit of natural resources and energy from the Caspian area and Central Asia to Europe. The overall development is positively influencing social welfare which results in a growing demand for consumer goods and services. So overall the future looks very promising.
Azerbaijan represents the biggest economy in the Caucasus. We opened our representative office in Baku in 2007, which was responsible for the Georgian market as well until October 2011. Due to the oil-boom the Azerbaijani economy grew in big two digit numbers and became very important for our German clients. Our business in Azerbaijan is structured similar to our activities in Georgia. We’re cooperating with local banks in international trade finance.
Currently we do not plan to become an operational local bank in Georgia and to compete with Georgian banks. The banks acting in Georgia at this moment know the market well and have the relevant banking products in place.
Currently 19 licensed banks are operating in Georgia. We have close relationships with 75% of them.”