A Moment in Bank History

By Sergei Boboshko

In September 1994 we had completed the work necessary to establish Chase’s Russian banking subsidiary, Chase Manhattan Bank International.
That whole summer we had worked hard not only to establish the bank, but also to organize a suitable event to commemorate its opening. I was especially sensitive to do this in a manner consistent with the importance of Chase Manhattan in global finance, to live up to the reputation of quality and professionalism that had been the hallmark of Chase under David Rockefeller, and to underline the significance of our expansion from a Representative Office to a full service bank in this ‘new’ and important market.
I had always felt that we should ‘color’ this event with an important element of Russian culture – music. Accordingly, we agreed with the Russian National Orchestra (RNO) that they would perform a program of Russian and American music at this concert. The RNO was a unique orchestra at this time in that it did not depend on the government for financial support. It was therefore natural for us to demonstrate our support for them by inviting the RNO and its Musical Director and principal conductor, the famous pianist Mikhail Pletnev, to be a part of this celebration. We also needed to find the appropriate venue for this event. We first went to the Bolshoi Theater, but there was a scheduling conflict that precluded us from holding our reception and concert at this most prestigious cultural monument in Moscow.
We then tried the Colonnade Hall, a very beautiful 18th century hall decorated with columns and chandeliers. This was unsuccessful as well, primarily because the fee the director insisted upon was so obscenely high that I am sure not even one of the oligarchs could have afforded it. So, rather than earning a reasonable fee for such a prestigious event, he ended up with nothing!! We probably would not have agreed on this venue anyway, even with a more reasonable fee, since it became obvious that he would be unable to provide the required level of quality catering for our reception.
We finally agreed to hold this event at one of the large hotels in Moscow, the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel. This hotel had a large concert hall, many large reception rooms, and the capability to offer a very high quality catering service. Moreover, it had been approved by our security officers in both NY and London, and probably because it would frequently number as its guests various international dignitaries, including the President of the USA.
The reception and concert in the evening on September 16, 1994 was a resounding success.  Our 400+ guests were greeted by Arthur (Art) Ryan, the President of The Chase Manhattan Corporation, who had flown in from New York for the occasion. The program to be performed by the RNO included music from Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite and the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.
However, it was the encore which Pletnev chose that ‘brought the house down’ and served as the most memorable portion of this festive evening.
Please imagine a 105-piece symphony orchestra playing ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever’ - in Moscow - just three years after the fall of the Soviet Union!! Not only was this piece played with great gusto, but it also energized the audience and you could hear the excited murmur throughout the concert hall. For years thereafter, I would often be reminded of this unique event by both Russians and foreigners who had attended, usually emphasizing how emotional it had been for them, and how they never thought that they would ever live to hear this piece of music in Moscow.
This was by far the proudest moment of my professional life.


From the author

I have spent some time in retirement writing short ‘vignettes’ recording and describing events in my life that were interesting, unique, and often humorous. I write them for my family with no interest in publishing any of them. However, I am offering this ‘vignette’ to you in response to your request for such material for the Alumni Association during this difficult period. 


As you may know, Chase was the first foreign bank to establish an office in the USSR, in April 1973, with Al Wentworth, SVP, as our first representative.


After the fall of the USSR in 1991, there was a lot of interest within the international banking community to enter that new market. The Russian government under Boris Yeltsin finally agreed in 1993 to allow 10 foreign banks to establish full banking operations as subsidiaries. Chase was one of those first 10, and I was appointed as Senior Country Officer in the Spring of 1994 to relocate to Moscow and establish Chase Manhattan Bank International, which would replace our existing representative office.


I hope that our members enjoy reading this ‘vignette’ as much as I have enjoyed writing it.