Yan Art: ‘Telecommuting is the biggest step to globalisation in a good way’

The editor-in-chief and owner of Finversia.ru portal of financial information, former vice-president of the Association of Banks of Russia on old school journalism and the influence of coronacrisis on the economy

Five years ago, one of the most noticeable sectoral online resources in the Russian banking sphere Bankir.ru was bought by its main opponent, today’s biggest portal in this market Banki.ru. Famous journalist Yan Art who comes from Kazan was the editor-in-chief at Bankir. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, Yan Art talked about the fate of the project after the absorption, why he left the post of vice president of the Association of Banks of Russia, what modern journalism should be like, why telecommuting is a step towards equality and his forecasts for the ruble rate and oil price.

“It is a successful deal”

Could you remind us why you sold Bankir.ru in the end?

The owner was tired of this business, he had his own cranky ideas of raising something different and the director became jealous of the editor-in-chief. Sometimes the success of a business is above the level of the person who owns this business. This is the case. He started to be uncomfortable that Bankir.ru wasn’t associated with his name, his energy. Secondly, it is sheer pragmatic reasons. Nowadays it is quite a successful deal to sell a mass medium, though it was profitable, for $750,000. While Banki.ru bought media projects hoping to create a kind of monopolist in the sphere of banking online resources.

Do you stay tuned for Bankir.ru, how it is doing now?

Compared to its meaning in the banking sector in the past, we can say bad. Now it is unnoticeable. The attendance has fallen five times compared to the one we had. The website became automated a long time ago: there is no editorial, it doesn’t have its own reports, reprinted articles on banking topics automatically go from Banki.ru. All staff that took up the business with noisy cries to the whole community: “Now we will do what Art didn’t manage!” worked less than a year and ran away to another project with the same joyful cries.

What lessons did you learn from what happened?

I made sure that the formula “Nothing personal, it is just business” has a great meaning in life. While a personal lesson is that one shouldn’t create a project that is a business with a capital B for you and your team if it is controlled by other people who are the owners. Enthusiasm is good when enthusiasts grip the business they decided to dedicate their life to firmly in their horny fist. This is why none of my current resources is controlled by anybody but me and my team: no investments, no loans.

One shouldn’t create a project that is a business with a capital B for you and your team if it is controlled by other people who are the owners. Enthusiasm is good when enthusiasts grip the business they decided to dedicate their life to firmly in their horny fist

At the same time, even a negative situation is a possibility to start something new…

Even though the departure from Bankir.ru was certain emotional stress because I considered it the business of my life, moreover, the owner and I promised each other I would never go even if I would be poached with high salaries and he would never sell the resource, I was glad that this allowed making the lifelong dream a reality that was constantly postponed in everyday life — to create a new resource dedicated not to the banking sector, not financial markets but specifically private investments. In a word, it is the free market — exchange, stock market, the unique market that has been formed for 150 years, and thanks to it and the Internet every person has a chance to open the door to the fire like Buratino. He can not use it, enter it and die there, but it is funny that the stock market first and then the Internet made Pinnochio’s story a reality: here is the key (though not golden but steel), here is the door of the fire, go if you want. It seemed to me important because it is not only a financial matter, it is a matter of model, the ideology of life, personal freedom, art, energy. Even if you start with tiny capital.

I think that we can say the same thing about the stock market that is said in the American saying: “God created men equal. Colonel Colt made them equal”. Here is the same: we have a very complex world, which is unpleasant from a perspective of the distribution of resources, finance, benefits and so on. But the stock market in general made everybody equal like Colonel Colt. Then it depends on you. It attracts me ideologically. It is a market of sensible, free, sound people.

“Art must be put on the conveyor belt

Did Finversia.ru portal of financial information appear then?

We created a technology company first to create a media. The age and experience tipped that the foundation must be laid first. This is why we founded FinArty five years ago that also deals with website development, support and hosting. We have about 20 websites, and three of them are акщь Kazan — the websites of Aleksandr Tarkayev’s fund, Kazan Stories and Makovsky Publishing House. FinArty supports the websites of the Russian Union of Journalists, Saint Petersburg Union of Journalists and unions of some other regions of the country and several big financial organisations.

The Internet has become technological in the last 10 years, one can’t go up with enthusiasm, creative drive like before, this is why we had to learn how to work with websites. And when we mastered this competence and created the technology company equipped with all types of communication — TV, including a studio and equipment, the photo service, which is probably the biggest in Russia’s financial market, I mean its photo bank, we began to create our online project. And the ideology changed in this resource, I too had to get rid of old school ideas of the media as a process and business. They still harm Russian journalism.

How should journalism change to stay up to date?

First of all, art must be put on the conveyor belt. This means for many the end of art, we are artists. We are artists, of course, but it would be good to start good mass production that saves freedom of opinions and art and have correct organisation. Secondly, one shouldn’t fight for the exclusiveness of media.

In my opinion, a desire to give people information first, allure a reader with it is a wrong approach for modern successful media projects. A lot has been said, written about this, and this point of view has adepts and sceptics, while the truth is in the middle — today is the era of multimedia.

Art must be put on the conveyor belt. This means for many the end of art, we are artists. We are artists, of course, but it would be good to start good mass production that saves freedom of opinions and art and have correct organisation

Could you explain this with an example? What does it mean?

What is Finversia? It is multimedium with an audience of over 400,000 people. But the attendance of the website itself is about 10,000 people a day. There is a channel on Yandex.Zen too, where the audience fluctuates between 300-500,000 people. There is separate Finversia-TV channel on YouTube, it has 67,000 subscribers and will soon have 10 million views, there are accounts on social media, but in total we can say it is a multimedia project with an audience of about 400,000 people.

“Nabiullina’s strict policy made banks stronger”

In 2011-2017, you were the vice president of the Association of Banks of Russia. Why did you leave this organisation?

I left it when the team changed, when President of ABR Anatoly Aksakov stepped down and handed over the baton to today’s head of the association Georgy Luntovsky, the ex-first vice chairman of the Central Bank. The organisation is still powerful, big, though the banking market not in a depressive state, it doesn’t develop rapidly, which affects it a bit. The number of banks increased, the activity goes down, the crisis influences them, of course. After Aksakov went to the State Duma where he chairs the Committee for Financial Market, I became an expert of this committee. It is quite an interesting work. Even though the people often thinks that the State Duma is a “crazy printing machine”, a lot is done to develop the sector.

How do you think Russian banks have gone through the pandemic? And how will this influence their further state?

I am not in the banking sphere anymore, but I can express my personal opinion. As strange as it might sound, they have gone through it quite well for several reasons: a blessing in disguise.

Nabiullina’s strict policy on purge of banks partially made them stronger. They have been in a state of Spartan training of the CB in the last six years. This policy has its pros and cons, but the banks’ resistance to stresses increased in Russia. And this is why they have gone through the coronavirus crisis better than the crisis in 2008-2009, at least now, it will get clearer in autumn.

But this business doesn’t have great prospects. And a lot of banks are in a state of looking for new solutions because there aren’t growing segments. It is mainly linked with the macroeconomic situation. Russians’ incomes have gone down, and we can’t talk about the development of the banking sphere. Pawnshops start to blossom in such a society. Another moment is that a lot of banks, and not only they, shifted their employees to remote work and suddenly made sure that this format was not only a compromise with the reality but can also be more profitable and comfortable. I am familiar with a lot of bank executives who won’t return their employees to the office.

Banks will soon become one of the flagships of the moments that will affect many businesses — telecommuting, which has been talked about a lot. In this sense, the coronavirus crisis was a kick in the pants.

For instance, in our company that already practised telecommuting (our people work in Kazan, Tel Aviv and Krasnodar), a part of Moscow employees began telecommuting during the pandemic. We made sure when their work is arranged correctly, their efficiency went up, and now we are planning to switch to a four-day week ex-Premier Dmitry Medvedev talked about.

So do you think that telecommuting is good?

Telecommuting is the biggest step towards globalisation in a good way. For instance, a person lives in Kazan, he has an affection for it. While telecommuting he can work in a New Zealand company or, on the contrary, he can live in Kazan and hire employees in New Zealand, invest on Wall Street. I am perhaps a romantic, but this process mixes the world division into exploiters and the exploited, into the famous “golden billion” of the West and the rest because there will be more economic stability in the world thanks to this availability. Telecommuting intensifies Europe’s dream on whose basis the European Union was built — free movement of labour resources, capitals and people.

Telecommuting intensifies Europe’s dream on whose basis the European Union was built — free movement of labour resources, capitals and people

About world crisis, ruble rate and oil price

Putin’s announcement of the imposition of tax on bank deposits led to an outflow of money of the population from banks. What should we expect when the tax is imposed?

Delivering a speech due to the coronavirus crisis at the most critical moment, Mr Putin named the imposition of tax on capital withdrawal to offshore sites and banking deposits, I was slightly shocked. It felt the aide gave him a piece of paper that was drawn up in a hurry. The tax on capital withdrawal is a logical, normal action. It is twice higher in the USA than Putin offered here: ours is 15%, in the USA, it is 30%. The story with Tinkov who was held accountable is about this. If you want to withdraw capital from our jurisdiction abroad — pay a tax. This is why this can be only welcomed. Another thing is that our large businesses, which are often sly, will find ways to avoid it.

While the tax on incomes from bank deposits is, in my opinion, a shot to nowhere. The state imposes or doesn’t impose such taxes depending on if it wants to stimulate the deposit activity of citizens or not.

We aren’t in a situation to want to destimulate this activity. We don’t have an excessive amount of money in the banking environment, on the contrary, we have a problem of a deficit of liquidity, this is why I don’t see any sense in this law. Judging by how deposit income reduced, 13% of this is nothing. And, of course, this will intensify the outflow of Russians who will store their money on deposits.

Though this outflow began earlier — citizens who got used to a big interest income are sad about the profitability of deposits year after year. It feels to me that this presidential initiative is just a result of operational negligence at the moment when his speech was prepared urgently.

Should we expect a world crisis?

The topic of the world crisis is very harsh. I think the question should sound this way: was there a world crisis? The coronavirus crisis is a bit unusual form of the global crisis. The story hasn’t ended. It won’t get worse, my assumptions are quite optimistic — we will perceive something comparable with the rest of jolts after an earthquake in early autumn. Some businesses can have defaults that seemed to survive the crisis but they will finally understand they aren’t handling it. Consequently, the world banking system may have problems, it has loan portfolios of these businesses, there can be sectoral changes that were literally knocked out by the coronacrisis — it is tourism, restaurants, hotels. The situation is up in the air, of course, plus there is the state of trade wars we have partly ended, but aftermaths are still heard, the US presidential election also overlaps.

How will it influence Russia?

Our economy has been in stagnation for a long time, this is why any crisis is a serious blow for it. Nothing good can happen in Russia. We are back to the situation with greater dependence on oil than before. So now we are in the same boat with Trump and the world.

The oil issue today is an issue of budget replenishment, while it is the most important thing for authorities not to lose manageability and keep control.

Another interesting moment is that one can notice a strange thing with the naked eye: such an organisation as Gazprom has stopped being mentioned in the news, some initiatives in the last six months, except the fuss about Belarus. The case is that the world entered an era of very cheap prices for gas. Such organisations as Gazprom are simply struggling everywhere. And if earlier the Russian budget was oil and gas, today it is oil only. Of course, this worsens our economic situation. But the situation gets more serious, Russia will finally have a kick in the pants to start the departure from feedstock dependency. This has been said for 25 years, but it has constantly been put off. It will be a painful process for the population — the return to the quality of life like in 1999 at best.

What’s your forecast for oil, dollar and euro against ruble?

I think a positive situation will dominate in the world, while WTI oil, moreover Brent (it is always more expensive) will anyway be above $40 per barrel, and this will help save the Russian budget. As for the ruble, my forecast is that it will be below 70 rubles per dollar until July, then gradual devaluation is possible. My forecast for world indexes (as key in the measurement system of the world economy) — there will be a very volatile period in summer and a serious rise in October.

Interviewed by Eleonora Rylova. Photo: Roman Khasayev