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Azerbaijani Banks to Hold their First Forum in the United States

Azerbaijan's banking sector will be holding its first banking event on May 26 in New York City.

A key aim of the "1st U.S.-Azerbaijan Banking & Finance Forum" is to acquaint American financial institutions and other companies with investment opportunities in the petroleum-rich country's financial industry.

An equally important aim of the event, organized by the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC), is for Azerbaijan'sbanks to identify investment opportunities in the United States.

"We would like to see a new level of cooperation between American and Azerbaijani banks," said Farid Akhundov, chief executive officer of PASHA Bank, one of Azerbaijan's leading financial institutions. "This would help expand economic ties not just between the United States and Azerbaijan but between the U.S. and our entire region."

While recent commodity-price drops will mean an easing of growth in the short term, the oil- and gas-rich country's long-term growth prospects continue to be bright.

When it became independent in 1991, Azerbaijan had no experience with a market economy, including banking. But industry leaders, determined to make the sector top flight, began introducing international best practices, a process that continues today.

A decade ago, Azerbaijan introduced deposit insurance and allowed foreign banks to obtain stakes in its financial institutions. Today, half the country's 44 banks have foreign capitalization.

Azerbaijan also adopted international accounting standards, and in 2014 quintupled banks' capitalization requirement to make the sector even healthier. It eased the capitalization requirement in 2015 because of the drop in the price of oil, the mainstay ofAzerbaijan's economy, but the easing will be temporary.

Banks have played an important role in helping Azerbaijan become a petroleum powerhouse the past 25 years, and are now helping it diversify its economy by providing more money to non-petroleum sectors.

Before and after the Soviet period, Azerbaijan's banking industry developed close ties with the European financial sector. France'sfamed Rothschild family, for example, financed much of the country's petroleum-industry development in the late 1800s.

Today's Azerbaijani banking leaders want to take the financial system to the next level by developing strong bonds with American banks. Not only do U.S. banks offer a huge source of capitalization for Azerbaijan's banks, but American banks offer some of the best investment terms available internationally.

"That's why events like ours are so vitally important — they help to further grow and diversify the traditionally strong relations betweenthe United States and Azerbaijan, two historically strategic partners," Susan Sadigova, the Executive Director of USACC, said.

The "1st U.S.-Azerbaijan Banking & Finance Forum," which will be at New York's illustrious Harvard Club, 35 West 44th Street, will be powered by two leading Azerbaijani banks, International Bank of Azerbaijan and PASHA Bank.

Speakers and panel participants will include Azerbaijani and American financial leaders, representatives of the World Bank, IFC and other development institutions, and representatives of Azerbaijan's petroleum industry.

The forum will consist of three sessions. One will cover finance and trade prospects in Azerbaijan and the rest of the South Caucasus region. Another will look at investment opportunities in Azerbaijan. And the third will focus on changing financial dynamics in the region and its implications on the banking industry.

American and Azerbaijani companies interested in one-on-one business meetings can get together in rooms set aside for this purpose immediately after the sessions. The forum will end with an evening reception that offers a great networking opportunity.

Companies and individuals who want to attend the forum can register at the website: www.usacc.org/usazebanking-financeforum/.

Source: USACC

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