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An International Banking Conference and Workshop on Trade Finance was held from 28-30 March in Yerevan, Armenia by Armeconombank and the EBRD.

Secondary support was provided by prestigious international sponsors, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Citigroup, Grant Thornton Amyot LLC , the electronic Business School International (eBSI) and Global Trade Review (GTR).

On the morning of 28 March, day one of the international conference was opened by the conference chairman, Mr.Ashot Osipyan.

The panel of speakers for day one of the two day conference event were introduced by Mr. Osipyan as follows:

28 March 2006 – Day One – Speaker List

Chairman: Mr. Ashot Osipyan
Moderator: Mr. Vincent O’Brien
1. Mr. Vardan Movsesyan
2. Mr. Michael Davey
Director, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, EBRD
3. Mr. Carsten Theuer
Relationship Manager Central Asia & Caucasus, COMMERZBANK AG
4. Mr. Peter Chiang
5. Mr. Carl Williamson
Director, Trade Sales, LLOYDS TSB BANK PLC
6. Mr. Vincent O’Brien
7. Ms. Ardak Kuzhanova
Senior Manager, GFI & Sovereings, RAIFFEISEN ZENTRALBANK

The International Banking Conference on Trade Finance was delivered in Yerevan, Armenia from 28th to 30 March 2006. The venue was the Marriott Armenia Hotel in the center of the capital city, Yerevan.

The conference was attended by approximately 140 delegates which comprised international banks, local Armenian banks and corporate importers and exporters.
Following registration, delegates attended a cocktail reception at the prestigious Government House of Meetings in Yerevan. This event provided an excellent introduction to the conference and a valuable networking event for delegates and presenters alike.

The highly engaging introduction by the Chairman, Mr. Osipyan, the overview of the Armenian financial environment by Mr. Vardan Movsesyan of the Central Bank of Armenia and the EBRD presentation by Mr. Michael Davey provided the delegates with a strong foundation knowledge in terms of the local economy, financial institutional development and developments in Armenia and regional investment by EBRD and other organisations.

This solid foundation on local or regional issues was followed by an interactive presentation from Mr. Carsten Theur of Commerzbank who focused on the experience of Commerzbank as an award winning Confirming Bank under the EBRD

Trade Facilitation Programme.
The next presentation from Mr. Peter Chiang of the EBRD focused in more detail on the EBRD Trade Facilitation Programme(TFP) with examples of transactions supported by the TFP between Taiwan and the countries of operation of the EBRD.

This was followed by a practical presentation from Mr. Carl Williamson of Lloyds TSB Bank Plc on operational trade finance issues. Mr. Williamson focused on the key elements to be agreed between an exporter and an importer under an international contract of sale. He also highlighted trends in international trade finance with an emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS. His introduction to the various methods of payment to settle international trade transactions generated a lot of interest for the trade finance workshop to be delivered on the third day of the conference event.

The next presentation was delivered by Mr. Vincent O’Brien of the electronic Business School International to provide the delegates with a detailed insight into the results of the Letter of Credit Market Intelligence Survey 2005, undertaken on behalf of the EBRD, the IFSA and the International Chamber of Commerce by ICCDCPro.

The results of the LC Market Intelligence Survey 2005 highlighted the increased trade activity under traditional trade finance instruments, especially in the countries of operation of the EBRD.

This set the scene for a presentation by Ms. Ardak Kuzhanova of RZB who presented the experience of RZB in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS. Ms. Kuzhanova highlighted the importance of trade finance to RZB and highlighted the many awards received by RZB, especially it’s position and leading bank in syndicated loans during 2005.

The end of day summary for day one of the two day event was provided by Mr. Vincent O’Brien. Mr. Osipyan thanked the presenters and delegates alike and invited the delegates to an organized visit to the Museum on Ancient Manuscripts in
Yerevan which was followed by a visit to the Yerevan Brandy Company and subsequent dinner at the Bellagio Restaurant in Yerevan. The panel of speakers for day two of the two day conference event were as follows:

29 March 2006 – Day Two – Speaker List

Chairman: Mr. Ashot Osipyan;

Moderator: Mr. Vincent O’Brien
1. Mr. Ravi Saxena
Citigroup Trade Services Head for the EMEA region, CITIGROUP, N. A.
2. Mr. Pavel Andrle
Secretary of Banking Commission, ICC CZECH REPUBLIC
3. Ms.Zhanna Sahakyan
Head of International Operations. ARMECONOMBANK
4. Mr. Armand Pinarbasi
5. Mr. Daniel Bolschun
Principal Banker TFP Team, EBRD
6. Mr. Rodion Plaksin
Head of Trade Finance,
The morning session kicked off with a lively presentation from Mr.Ravi Saxena of Citigroup. Mr. Sazena highlighted the fact that Citigroup is the leading financial institution worldwide in the area of export credit financing (ECA). He also highlighted the experience and capability of Citigroup in arranging and structuring trade finance transactions.

He then went through the process of explaining how ECA financing operates and the steps to be taken in organising a ECA backed deal. 

The next presentation was delivered by Mr. Pavel Andrle, Secretary to the Banking Commission of the International Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic.

Mr. Andrle’s presentation focused on the revision of the international rules for letter of credit operations. The current rules known as UCP 500 (Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits, Publication No 500 of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris France) are under revision to reflect modern day practice in documentary credit and trade finance operations.

Mr. Andrle took the delegates through the main changes that are anticipated with the revision of UCP 500 to UCP 600. He highlighted the impact on bank trade procedures and operations and suggested that banks start getting prepared for the introduction of UCP 600 very soon after the formal international adoption of UCP 600 which is anticipated in October 2006.

She then provided a detailed insight into the development of trade finance activity in Armenia in recent years. The fact that the use of letters of credit, guarantees and other trade instruments issued subject to international rules is gaining pace within Armenia was of particular interest. To illustrate the use of trade finance instruments Ms. Sahakyan selected a number of transactions undertaken by Armeconombank and took the delegates through the transactions on a step by step basis.

Mr. Armand Pinarbasi of Grant Thornton Amyot LLC provided the delegates with practical advice on how to interact with a bank in order to obtain their support for trade finance and other financial transactions. He highlighted the importance for companies to have audited accounts prepared to international standards and the need for companies to provide their banks with up to date and accurate financial information on an ongoing basis.

He also highlighted the fact that banks in Armenia are becoming successful in developing relationships with international banks and that the application of international standards and rules is critical to economic development in Armenia.

The final two presentations focused on practical issues in relation to the development and expansion of trade finance in the region.

Mr. Daniel Bolschun, of the EBRD TFP Team provided the delegates with a detailed understanding of how the EBRD Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP) supports local Issuing Banks as they develop their relationships with international banks. Mr. Bolschun illustrated the benefits of the TFP by taking the delegates through a number of case studies. He demonstrated the procedure for utilization of the TFP, as well as an indication of pricing for particular transactions.

With Russia remaining a leading trade partner for Armenia it was not surprising that the final presentation came from a leading trade finance bank in Russia.

Mr. Rodion Plaksin from the Bank for Foreign Trade of the Russian Federations. (Vneshtorgbank -VTB) delivered a presentation which in the first instance examined the trade relationship between Armenia and Russia. Mr. Plaksin then went on to highlight trends in the development of trade finance in the Russian Federation.

There was a clear message from his presentation that trade finance volumes under traditional and non-traditional trade mechanisms are on the increase. He highlighted that this trend is also having a direct impact on trade activity within Armenia. The increased trade finance activity between Russian and Armenian banks is driven by the fact that international trade contracts between corporate entities in Armenia and Russia are on the increase.

Mr. Rodion finished his presentation by giving great credit to the organizers of the conference in terms of the logistical arrangements, the content and administration of the event.

Mr. Vincent O’Brien provided a summary of the proceedings during the second day of the conference. Mr. Osipyan, the conference chairman again thanked the delegates, highlighted the importance of trade development to Armenia and invited the delegates to a conference closing ceremony and banquet at the Mariott Yerevan.

The conference concluded with a draw sponsored by Coastline Solutions with a prize of a single user license to ICC DC Pro Focus worth over EUR 2,500!

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