Russia’s Central Bank tries to stem the tide of rubles leaving bank accounts

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With the declared intent of reducing risk, the moves look to cut new investors off from opportunities to get out of the ruble.

Beginning investors in Russia will soon find themselves with fewer options to beat plummeting interest rates offered at Russian savings accounts. In addition to the investors themselves, the big losers are likely to be trading apps like Robinhood, which aim at first-timers.

Per a Dec. 30 announcement, the Central Bank of Russia is working to get securities trading platforms to toe the line on 「risk-reduction」 measures first passed in July. In the latest announcement, the CBR recommends securities platforms and applications have systems to 「secure the impossibility of executing on-platform trades resulting in the acquisition of stocks or other securities from foreign issuers by unqualified investors,」 except those approved by the CBR. 

The CBR is likewise working to stop firms from offering 「complicated investment products」 — a term that largely lines up with leveraged trading or derivatives — to unqualified investors unless the firms offering those investments provide guaranteed returns of at least two-thirds of the central bank’s key rate. With the key rate at 4.25% currently, platforms would need to guarantee 2.83% returns. 

There are major doubts that the actual intention is to protect investors. While 4.5% would be enviable for a U.S. savings account, the ruble’s instability since sanctions in 2014 and, more recently, the market crash in March 2020 has driven huge numbers of investors to the stock market for the first time.

In October, the CBR’s similarly issued guidance to limit unqualified investors from purchasing more than 600,000 rubles (as of publication, just over $8,000 U.S. dollars) worth of crypto in a year. That guidance was part of an explanation of the country’s law 「On Digital Financial Assets,」 which came into effect as of the new year.

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