Edinburgh Uni has announced a ‘review’ of its investments in ‘Russian-related assets’
The uni has come under fire over its £1.1 million stock in Russia’s largest bank
The University of Edinburgh is conducting a review of its investments in “Russian-related assets” – including £1.1 million in shares of Sberbank (Russia’s largest bank).
This week Edinburgh has been criticised for its Sberbank stock which it has held through a third party fund manager since 2016 (two years after the US and EU sanctioned the bank after Putin annexed Crimea).
However, a spokesperson for the uni told The Edinburgh Tab it was now reviewing this fund – along with other Russian-linked savings or investments in its £500 million endowment portfolio
They said: “We are reviewing our endowment portfolio, a small proportion of which includes indirect investments in Russian-related assets. Where these are held in pooled funds, we are engaging with fund managers as part of our review.”
As of January 2022, the University of Edinburgh’s Investment and Endowment fund is currently worth £524,610,000, with an extra £210,407,000 in “other investments”.
The uni uses these portfolios to save and grow the money that it doesn’t intend to spend on its day-to-day operations.
Most of this money is not held directly by the uni but is entrusted to external investment companies – importantly, the uni’s review includes these funds.
The £1,109,251 Edinburgh holds in Sberbank stock, is held via fund manager Baillie Gifford – an investment firm based in the Scottish capital.
Financial records show the uni has held stock in the bank since at least January 2016, though Sberbank had already been sanctioned by the US and EU following Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
Sberbank is Russia’s largest lender and accounts for 35 per cent of all of Russia’s banking assets.
This week it was sanctioned further by the international community as part of a package of measures designed to cripple the Russian economy and make it harder for Putin and his allies to finance the invasion of Ukraine.
Sanctions imposed on Sberbank include being banned from making payments through UK financial markets or from using the Swift global payments system, effectively cutting it off from all banks outside Russia.
Edinburgh Uni’s investments in Sberbank have been criticised this week by several politicians over concerns they allow Russia to profit from or hold influence over it.
Michael Marra, Scottish Labour shadow education secretary, described the uni’s continued investment in Russian banks as “untenable” and has called for all Scottish unis to divest from Russia.
He tweeted: “He Russia shouldn’t profit from our world-class education system, nor hold cultural or educational influence. I have written to all universities today asking them to conduct a full analysis of all of their investments, holdings, partnerships and contracts.’
“Scotland’s response to the unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine must be unequivocal and immediate. Strangling the Russian economy can only be effective if financiers have no place to turn and funds have no place to be hidden. Our Scottish universities know that they have a duty to the public good. This is not a time for equivocation or delay. It is not a time for fund managers to await a good price elsewhere for the relocation of investments. Stakes in Russian funds and banks must be dropped immediately.”
Additionally, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has joined calls for the university to pull out of its investment with the Russian bank. He said: “Scotland needs to play its part in putting the squeeze on Vladimir Putin and his regime, and that means using the financial leverage we have. It is important to send a message that Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine will not be tolerated or supported.”
These calls for Edinburgh to divest from Russian banks and businesses follows its decision to recall its Year Abroad students in Russia last week. It has also told Russian and Ukrainian students who have been financially impacted by the ongoing conflict that they can apply for hardship funding.