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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Societe de Prets de Perse


The

other important bank in Persia upon which great hopes are built, although worked on different lines, is the so-called Russian Bank, the _Societe de Prets de Perse_, as it was at first called when founded by Poliakoff in 1891. It was an experiment intended to discover exactly what was wanted in the country and what was the best way to attract business. The monopoly of Public Auctions was obtained in conjunction with the Mont-de-Piete--a scheme which did not work very well at first, the natives not being accustomed to sudden innovations. The concern subsequently developed into the _Bank Estekrasi_ (Bank of Loans), or _Banque de Prets de Perse_, as it styled itself, but financially it did not pay, and at one moment was expected to liquidate. It is said that it then threatened to amalgamate with the Imperial Bank. Mr. De Witte, of St. Petersburg fame, was consulted in the matter, and took exactly twenty-four hours to make up his mind on what was the best course to pursue. He bought the bank up, the State Bank of St. Petersburg making an advance on the shares. The Minister of Finance has a right to name all the officials in the bank, who, for appearance sake, are not necessarily all of Russian nationality, and the business is transacted on the same lines as at the State Bank of St. Petersburg.

A most efficient man was sent out as manager; Mr. Grube, a gentleman of much tact and most attractive manner, and like Mr. Rabino--a genius in his way at finance;

a man with a thorough knowledge of the natives and their ways. In the short time he has been in Teheran the bank has made enormous strides, by mere sound, business capability and manly, straightforward enterprise.

Mr. Grube has, I think, the advantage of the manager of the Imperial Bank in the fact that, when the Russians know they have a good man at the helm, they let him steer his ship without interference. He is given absolute power to do what he thinks right, and is in no way hampered by shareholders at home. This freedom naturally gives him a very notable advantage over the Imperial Bank, which always has to wait for instructions from London.

Mr. Grube, with whom I had a long and most interesting conversation, told me how he spends his days in the bazaar branch of his bank, where he studies the ways and future possibilities of the country and its natives, and the best ways of transacting business compatible with European principles, and in particular carefully analysing the best ways of pushing Russian trade and industries in Persia. In all this he has the absolute confidence and help of his Government, and it is really marvellous how much he has been able to do to further Russian influence in Persia. There is no trickery, no intrigue, no humbug about it; but it is mere frank, open competition in which the stronger nation will come out first.

It was most gratifying to hear in what glowing terms of respect the managers of the two rival banks spoke of each other. They were fighting a financial duel, bravely, fairly, and in a most gentlemanly manner on both sides. There was not the slightest shade of false play on either side, and this I specially mention because of the absurd articles which one often sees in English papers, written by hasty or ill-informed correspondents.

Russia's trade, owing to its convenient geographical position, is bound to beat the English in Northern Persia, but it should be a good lesson to us to see, nevertheless, how the Russian Government comes forward for the protection of the trade of the country, and does everything in its power to further it. Russia will even go so far as to sell rubles at a loss to merchants in order to encourage trade in Persia, no doubt with the certainty in sight that as trade develops the apparent temporary loss will amply be compensated in due time by big profits.


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