BNP Paribas is to end all business in Russia, becoming the latest big international bank to sever ties with corporate clients in the country after the invasion of Ukraine.
The French group, which had already said it would halt new financing operations, said on Tuesday it would stop processing other types of transactions for large companies.
The eurozone’s biggest bank, which dropped retail operations in Russia a decade ago, is less exposed to the country than many peers. It said it was now informing Russian businesses that it would “no longer be able to process their transactions from the end of March onwards”.
BNP’s exit highlights the contrasting approaches of lenders to Russia, with some grappling with how to continue to deal with their local operations and others heading for the exit.
BNP joins Wall Street and European investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank in signalling a Russian retreat, although it has not detailed what this will entail.
It declined to comment on how it would deal with its roughly 500 staff. Some companies have continued to pay local workers after suspending their Russian activities, including carmakers that have frozen production and retailers that have shut stores.
Those with mainly foreign staff have in many cases repatriated them or shifted employees to other locations.
BNP’s French rival Société Générale is among the foreign banks with the biggest exposure to Russia via its large retail Rosbank retail network, which employs 12,000 people. It has not expounded on its long-term plans but has clung on to the business so far, and has warned of potentially extreme scenarios such as an expropriation of its assets.
Other banks with Russian subsidiaries, such as Italy’s UniCredit and Austria’s Raiffeisen, have said they are considering exits but with few prospective buyers for their businesses, options include winding them down.
Pressure on companies to cut ties with Russia has grown in recent weeks even if many are not directly affected by western sanctions, which have hit Russian banks and oligarchs as well as the central bank.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has called on foreign businesses to withdraw from Russia.
BNP operates a retail bank in Ukraine, Ukrsibbank, and has previously revealed a total exposure of €3bn to Ukraine and Russia, which it said amounted to a 0.16 per cent slice of its total commitments.