It was virgin territory — with millions of customers who previously had little or no access to credit — and the Western European banks carved up business along geographical and historical lines. The Scandinavian banks took the Baltics, while Austrian banks worked in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and other places that had once been ruled by the Hapsburg dynasty.
At the same time, Russia evolved into a crony capitalist economy, breeding oligarchs and officials who wanted to move money to havens outside the country. A logical place for them to go was Estonia, which has a large Russian-speaking population. Tallinn, the capital, is less than six hours by car from St. Petersburg.
Danske Bank became a major force in Estonia in 2007 by acquiring the Finnish bank Sampo, which had a large foothold in the country. Sampo’s Estonian subsidiary was already a destination for foreign money. More