This blog post is destined primarily to foreigners when they shop for a bank for their small business in Georgia. It lists resources to help you make your own research and decision.
The largest commercial banks in Georgia by total assets reported on 31/03/2015 are(1):
- JSC Bank of Georgia, http://www.bankofgeorgia.ge/ (7 786 million GEL)
- JSC TBC Bank, http://www.tbcbank.ge/ (5583 million GEL)
- JSC Liberty Bank, http://www.libertybank.ge/ (1 530 million GEL)
- JSC Bank Republic, https://www.br.ge/ (1 297 million GEL)
- JSC ProCredit Bank, http://www.procreditbank.ge/ (1 134 million GEL)
- JSC VTB Bank Georgia, http://www.vtb.ge/ (1 124 million GEL)
- JSC Cartu Bank, http://www.cartubank.ge/ (920 million GEL)
- JSC Basisbank, http://www.basisbank.ge/ (674 million GEL)
- JSC KOR Standard Bank, http://www.ksb.ge (641 million GEL)
- JSC Privatbank Georgia (583 million GEL). Privatbank Georgia, subsidiary of the Ukrainian bank PrivatBank, was since acquired by JSC Bank of Georgia(2).
State of the banking sector in Georgia
Georgian banks are doing OK despite some issues affecting the country’s economy as a whole (high cost of credit, high rate of dollarization of the economy, etc.). That’s in essence the conclusions of a detailed report(3) of the Policy Institute of the International School of Economics (ISET) about the Financial Soundness Indicators (FSI) for Georgia.
The overall landscape may change, and while unlikely to affect your business directly, the “Law on the National Bank of Georgia” of July 2015 which strips the National Bank of Georgia of some of its banking supervision functions sparked a ongoing debate(4).
For reference, the website of the National bank of Georgia is https://www.nbg.gov.ge and the page for consumers is https://www.nbg.gov.ge/cp(5).
All of the main banks’ websites are in English and Georgian. VTB Bank Georgia also maintains a version of its website in Russian. Customer service representatives will help you in Georgian or English. In practice, Russian-speaking customers will be served in that language at most banks, but this is worth checking.
Fees, Multi-Currency Accounts, Online Banking…
Browse the banks’ websites and visit them to confirm your understanding of their respective fee structures. Direct access to the fees for each bank (when such pages are available, or corporate customers’ homepages in other cases):
- Bank of Georgia (corporate customers)
- TBC Bank (fees)
- Liberty Bank (fees)
- Bank Republic (corporate customers)
- ProCredit Bank (fees)
- VTB Bank Georgia (corporate customers)
- Cartu Bank (fees)
- Basisbank (fees)
- KOR Standard Bank (fees)
The legal currency of Georgia is the lari (GEL) and all payments in Georgia are made in GEL (typically at the day’s rate of the National Bank of Georgia if the amount is quoted in another currency). Opening a multi-currency account is easy: the most common currencies are GEL, USD, EUR and sometimes GBP.
Online banking is available for most banks. The websites of the 9 banks listed above also include “branches and ATMs locators”.
For foreigners: currency conversion, international bank transfers
Currency exchange rates at street booths offer better rates than those at commercial banks. For larger sums or currency exchange through online banking, you might want to stick with your bank and thus check their conditions and commissions for this service. The excellent Lari Explorer of Jumpstart compares the historical rates currency exchange of the 4 largest commercial banks(7).
International bank transfers can cost dearly. Check the rates as some stand out. For example, TBC has a competitive cap on the fees for transfers made by individuals to other banks, including abroad (about 15 EUR). Other banks may lure customers with attractive packages (for students for example), only for these to discover high hidden fees. Check online and check again with a sales representative at a branch.
Notes and Sources:
(1): Rating of Georgian Commercial Banks, May 11, 2015, http://cbw.ge/banking/rating-of-commercial-banks/. Please note that JSC Bank of Georgia is a commercial bank. It should not be confused with the National Bank of Georgia.
(2): http://expressbank.ge/ge/bank-of-georgia-and-jsc-privatbank-join-statement (Georgian)
(3): http://www.iset-pi.ge/images/Projects_of_MPRC/Financial_Soundness_Report.pdf. Pages 1-3 for the Executive Summary and page 57 for the Conclusion.
(4): http://dfwatch.net/constitutional-court-suspends-new-bank-supervision-agency-38591 (October13, 2015) and http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-parliament-of-georgia-took-the-recommendations-of-international-organisations-in-account-whilst-adopting-the-law-on-the-national-bank-of-georgia-2/ among many others.
(5) List of commercial banks operating in Georgia: https://www.nbg.gov.ge/index.php?m=403&lng=eng. Consumers’ page: http://nbg.gov.ge/cp/index.php. Statistics of the National Bank of Georgia: https://www.nbg.gov.ge/index.php?m=304&lng=eng.