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Swiss Re, other European financial institutions are turning their backs on Russia

FILE PHOTO: A logo of a Deutsche Bank branch is seen in Cologne, Germany
FILE PHOTO: A logo of a Deutsche Bank branch is seen in Cologne, Germany July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

March 14, 2022

By Tom Sims, Simon Jessop and Paul Arnold

FRANKFURT/LONDON/ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss Re said on Monday it would not start new business with Russian and Belarusian clients or renew existing business with Russian clients as European financial institutions are turning their backs on Russia.

The global reinsurer joins banks like Deutsche, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which left Russia after Ukraine’s February 24 invasion and subsequent Western government sanctions.

The movements increase the pressure on others to follow them.

In an emailed statement, Swiss Re said it was reviewing its current business relationships in Russia and Belarus.

The decision follows similar actions by major European insurers and reinsurers that offer coverage for large projects such as power plants.

Insurer Zurich is no longer taking on new customers in Russia and will not renew existing business, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday.

Hannover Re said last week that new business and renewals for clients in Russia and Belarus were on hold, while Italian insurer Generali announced its withdrawal from Russia earlier this month.

Insurance broker Willis Towers Watson also said on Sunday it would withdraw from Russia following similar moves by rivals Marsh and Aon.

Asset managers have said they will not make any new investments in Russia, and many Russia-facing funds have been frozen because they are unable to trade following sanctions and countermeasures put in place by Russia.

Ukraine said on Monday it had started “tough” talks with Russia over a ceasefire, an immediate troop withdrawal and security guarantees after both sides reported rare progress in negotiations over the weekend despite Russian bombardments.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.

TRANSACT

The German, who had been sharply criticized by some investors and politicians for its ongoing ties to Russia, announced late Friday that it would cease trading there.

It was a surprising reversal from the Frankfurt-based lender, which had previously argued it needed to support multinationals doing business in Russia.

“We are in the process of winding up our remaining business in Russia while helping our non-Russian multinational clients scale back their operations,” the German said in Friday’s statement. “There will be no new business in Russia.”

Britain’s London Stock Exchange Group also said late Friday it was suspending all products and services to all customers in Russia, days after suspending the dissemination of news and commentary in the country under new laws in Moscow.

“LSEG confirms that it is suspending all products and services for all customers in Russia, subject to regulatory requirements,” the company said in a statement.

“We continue to support our employees in the region. We also work with our clients outside of Russia who rely on us for data and pricing information within Russia. We are evaluating alternative options to continue providing these services.”

Index provider FTSE Russell said on Monday it would delete four UK-listed Russia-focused companies, including Roman Abramovich’s Evraz, after many brokers refused to trade their shares.

Evraz, along with Polymetal International, Petropavlovsk and Raven Property Group, would be removed from all FTSE indices during the March review, it said in a statement.

FTSE Russell said it had received feedback from its external advisory boards and market participants that trading in the shares was “severely restricted” as brokers refused to handle the securities, affecting market liquidity.

“Consequently, this will prevent index trackers from replicating the ongoing inclusion of these names in the FTSE Russell Indices,” FTSE Russell said.

According to JPMorgan, the bulk of the projected risk to European banks from the Russia shock will come from commodity and economic spillovers, with the sector down 16% since late February.

However, European bank stocks have broken off their lows, rising 3.1% on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Iain Withers and Joao Manuel Mauricio, writing by Carolyn Cohn, editing by Catherine Evans)

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DUSTIN JONES

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