MOSCOW -- The son of Russian President Vladimir Putin's powerful national security adviser has won an industry award proclaiming him "Banker of the Year" despite woeful results at the state-owned bank he presides over.
Handed out by the Association of Russian Banks, the honor appears to recognize 38-year-old CEO Dmitry Patrushev's willingness to extend Rosselkhozbank's (aka Russian Agricultural Bank, or RusAg) credit exposure in a shrinking economy, one battered by the tumbling ruble, falling oil prices, and Western sanctions.
Rosselkhozbank, which Putin established by decree in 2000 with the aim of financing Russian agribusiness, appeared on track for record losses in 2015.
Patrushev's father, Nikolai Patrushev, currently serves as secretary of the consultative Security Council of Russia and is seen as a key ideologue in the ongoing confrontation with the West over Ukraine. The elder Patrushev was also director of Russia's Federal Security Services (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB, during Putin's first two terms (1999-2008).
In a statement, Rosselkhozbank said the award jury praised the younger Patrushev for his bank's "contribution to the development of the domestic economy, in particular Russian agricultural business."
The statement continued: "Despite macroeconomic challenges and the sanctions imposed on the Bank by the US, EU and other countries, in 2015, RusAg has significantly increased financial support of agricultural business, with its loan portfolio and new loan issuance growing above market average."
Import substitution is a key plank in the Russian government's response to international pressure since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine, and Russian financial institutions are expected to play a major role to help domestic businesses fill in the gap left by the Kremlin's import bans.
Rosselkhozbank noted alongside its preliminary 2015 results recently that it accelerated the pace of new lending "by 25 percent versus 12 percent system-wide decline."
Rosselkhozbank is listed among "speculative grade" institutions by Western ratings agencies like Moody's and Fitch, according to its website.
The award statement was published on December 23 but just came to Russian national media attention.
Despite the association's praise for Patrushev, local media like Rosbalt were quick to point out that the bank posted record preliminary losses of 67.9 billion rubles ($901 million currently) in the first three quarters of 2015.
The bank was among those targeted by economic sanctions by the United States and European Union in July 2014, as the West sought to punish Moscow for annexing Crimea and supporting armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and European measures prohibit extending capital to Rosselkhozbank and a handful of other major Russian banks and their subsidiaries.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced in March 2015 that the government would grant 10 billion rubles (around $177 million at the time) to Rosselkhozbank as part of a crisis-management plan, citing such institutions' restricted access to international capital markets.
Dmitry Patrushev was named chairman of Rosselkhozbank in May 2010, when he was 33 years old.