Burning Bridges

 On June 22nd, 2022, I posted the article “I will burn this money on Crimea Bridge” on my Russian website. Let the title not mislead you: the customer I quoted had referred to the Crimea bridge in Moscow over the Moskva river. The quote dates back to 2008, when Crimea was part of Ukraine, and that bridge to the island of Crimea did not exist.  The June post “I will burn this money…” told the story of my bank account opening in Portugal. That little victory over the red tape is now past, so the English version is more about banks’ rules and compliance procedures in general.  Nothing new for bankers but might be interesting for bank customers. I am finalising this English version much later. I have not heard a voice approving the war among my close friends and relatives. Yet there is a vast country out there. Some people are in shock and enduring reality; others accept sick ideas and follow criminal orders. Two months ago, young friends from Moscow came to stay with me, medical doctors who did not want to be mobilised. They miss their dog and their flat; they keep working online for their pharma companies doing business in Russia. One can blame them for not being interested in politics but I do not see that they differ much from European young people I know. The posts I write here and in social networks are my way to stay connected with my own voice and with others. Life is with people. Transparent, accessible, and fair financial services connect people.

Reading Group, Actually

In a small British-Russian group we read Russian classics in English, role play dialogues, discuss translations and translators’ comments. Online, on Tuesdays, at 7 pm Moscow time. This article describes nine sessions devoted to Mikhail Bulgakov’s famous novel “Master and Margarita”. 30 min read

Unveiled Faces, Open World

This is a second post reflecting on a project I did last summer, with European, Kyrgyz, Tadjik and Uzbek colleagues. Our team studied demands for financial services in Central Asia focusing on women. I conducted interviews, listened to focus groups discussions and described different groups of women-in-business. In this post, I collect impressions and quotes that will not make part of an official report. The goal is to save the impressions, images and ideas. Inspired by Mathilde ter Heijne and her art project Woman To Go.

What women want

Last summer I participated in a research aimed at identifying financial needs of women entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In this post, I share some findings that may be of interest to practitioners delivering banking services to entrepreneurs, and colleagues interested in gender issues.

Credo, credis, credit. On banks, credits and small businesses

In this article, Daria Lyubchenko and I look back at the time when we worked for the EBRD small business lending projects. Russian banks were only starting to work with small businesses and “high interest rate” seemed to be the main stopper for potential borrowers. Today, doing research for a project in Central Asia, I hear similar concerns from entrepreneurs and can only repeat what we used to say to our clients twenty years ago: interest rate is not the main thing when one talks about small and micro loans. In the growing markets, banks should learn to work with small businesses, examine their numbers and listen to the voices of their owners. When a “meeting of minds” takes place, both banks and businesses benefit.

Service and inequality

On Facebook, an intelligent and conscientious person criticized Moscow upmarket food store “ABC of Taste” for certain excessive services, which, in his opinion, highlight inequality and exploitation. Service quality is dear to my heart, so I would like to separate the complex issue of inequality from simple truths about customer service, staff motivation and competencies of managers.

April 2021

 In April I went to see a documentary closing the ArtDocFest festival and to a couple of photo exhibitions. I participated in the online conference “Walls – Open, Closed, Sliding? The Virus, Europe and Our World Today” and in a rally organised to support imprisoned politician Alexey Navalny on the 21st. My virtual round of applause goes to Nikolai Formozov, a Russian biologist and environmentalist, who went on hunger strike in solidarity with Alexey, and to my friend Angelika from Heidelberg. Angelika says she and her husband find it inappropriate to travel to palm tree resorts when millions around the world get neither travel nor covid19 vaccine. I am also sharing translations of a couple of posts from social media. In the first one, a medical doctor Fedor Katassonov explains his reasons to join the April 21st rally. In the second one Dmitry Bykov, poet, novelist, lecturer and political activist talks about the Soviet space project and reckons that 60 years ago the world was a better place.