Promsvyazbank, one of ­Russia’s largest private lenders, announced last month that it would launch its initial public offering later this year by listing shares in Moscow and global depositary receipts in London, in an attempt to raise an estimated $500 million in capital. The bank is among the latest in a growing number of companies that are eager to tap the burgeoning demand for depositary receipts, which provide investors exposure to foreign stocks without the inconvenience — and many of the risks — of direct ­investment.

The global financial crisis has helped spur growth in this market. As of March the value of GDRs held by investors totaled approximately $700 billion — nearly double the $360 billion owned in 2008, according to Nancy ­Lissemore, global head of Citi’s depositary receipt services in New York. Issuers like them because they offer access to a vast universe of potential investors, and buyers like them because “depositary receipts facilitate diversification into non-U.S. securities,” she says.

The process is simple: A global depository bank issues receipts on shares purchased in the local market by a custodian (which can either be a standalone entity or a separate division of the issuing bank); in most cases, one receipt equals one share, traded in hard currency on the relevant exchange. Bank of New York Mellon Corp., No. 1 on ­Institutional Investor’s ranking of the World’s Largest Global Custodians for a fifth consecutive year, is also the dominant player in the DR space. It is the depositary bank for more than 2,500 of the 3,500 DR programs that were operating in some 75 countries as of March. That figure includes sponsored programs — those initiated with the cooperation of the companies whose stocks back the receipts — and unsponsored, which are issued without company participation. (For more information about our annual survey of custodians, including firms ranked by gains in both dollar and percentage terms, please visit our website, ­

DR trading volume climbed 14 percent last year, to 171 billion, with a value of $3.8 trillion (up from $3.4 trillion in 2010), J.P. Morgan reports; some 56 issuers raised more than $15 billion in capital through DRs in 2011. In the first six months of this year, according to BNY Mellon’s Depositary Receipts Midyear Market Review, investors traded nearly 80 billion DRs, with a value of $1.5 trillion. During the same period 11 transactions raised $1.25 billion through IPOs and secondary offerings.