Nika has around 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, which includes five years at UniCredit Group in Austria, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. Immediately before joining TBC Bank in 2014, Nika was the managing director at Kaspi Bank, a leading retail bank in Kazakhstan.
Prior to obtaining his MBA degree in 2007, he served as head of the retail banking division of Bank Republic Georgia, Société Générale Group, and held several positions at the Bank of Georgia between 2003 and 2006. He has expertise in post-acquisition integration and restructuring, retail and SME banking, as well as Fintech.
Between 2008 and 2010, Nika held the position of senior sales support expert at the CEE retail division of Bank Austria, UniCredit Group, responsible for Turkey, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Serbia. Between 2010 and 2013, he was head of the retail division of ATF Bank, UniCredit Group in Kazakhstan. Currently at TBC Nika is responsible for Payments, Marketing and Communications, and International Expansion, as well as the Fintech Platform “Space.” He is the Chairman of the Supervisory Board at TBC Bank and Payme in Uzbekistan, as well as TBC Pay and UFC in Georgia.
Nika obtained his MBA degree from IE Business School in 2007 and currently is on the IE Global Alumni Relations board. He holds an MSc degree in International Economics from the Georgian Technical University and completed BBA studies at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany and the Caucasus School of Business.
Q&A WITH NIKA:
First let’s define my path – by the age of 39 I successfully worked in banking for almost 20 years, 10 of which in executive roles. I lived in 7 countries. Studied in Georgia, Germany, and Spain. Played professional Basketball for several years. Own several small businesses. And most importantly have three wonderful kids aged 17, 15, and 10 together with my wife for more than 20 years now.
There were many challenges, but one major challenge which never goes is the need to know how to overwork (conducting research, analysis, and knowing the methodology of structuring information), meaning to be able to very quickly get into various topics and have the ability to learn and manage. Learn to put in more hours and work more intensely than others in the work environment. This allows you to understand the topics and navigate through unknown situations quickly. This I call work ethic or discipline – which definitely came mostly after one super intense and diverse year at IE.
Personally, one major thing I took was a constant hunger for information – or call it otherwise – super-curiosity for things. On the professional side, I would say what I mentioned above – work ethic.
I am not a big fan of networking for business purposes only. I am for finding people who fit culturally. At IE I found lots of people who are so interesting and pleasant to keep in touch with even after 12 years after graduation.
I was late for the start of the course by a week. Somehow the Spanish embassy was in Moscow and not in Tbilisi and they were late in giving me the student Visa. The first class I had to attend was Marketing. The Professor was Eduardo Fernandez-Cantelli. He asked me to introduce myself to the class. This introduction keeps hitting me as a friendly joke ever since “I am Nika, 24 years old, have two kids and I manage the retail bank in Georgia …” The class was quite shocked as for them it was very surprising to see that I am so young, already married, with two kids and the eldest child being almost 3 years old and plus already managing a big retail banking division at a leading bank in Georgia. Everybody kept coming to me and asking how is that possible… so everybody from the class recalls my 1 minute speech when we meet “I am Nika, I am married, I have two kids, I am 24 years old, etc…”
I would tell them that one should expect from IE not only a superb experience in terms of academics, but a mixture of culture, people, urban life in Madrid, and many other things that are not written in standard MBA brochures. If not ready to exploit all these things, pity to imagine one planted into textbooks only. Take advantage of living in Spain and all it has to offer.
This question was given to me back in 2006. Madrid + IE’s Reputation and Ranking + Different approach to selecting people + a strong focus on creating something (entrepreneurship).
Make sure to look outside of the program curriculum. There are so many things during the program that are possible, happening and there are so many interesting people – just make sure you do not concentrate on studies only.
The fact that this kind of a board exists says a lot already – the school tries to listen and learn. The board is very diverse in terms of nationalities, ages, profiles, and it provides a very good format to give feedback, ideate, and challenge certain ideas.
#weareIE – is not just a hashtag – it is an unwritten culture/code that we all share. I am always trying to surround myself with IE people as it gives me a boost of energy and ideas.
I think, in these fast-changing times, IE must help all IE people to keep an eye on trends, topics, issues, and pain points the world has. We must keep ourselves global, the same way we felt while on the campus. And I think this is possible through various formats that the school can power.
Somehow, once you are featured in these types of famous magazines, you understand that it is not a big deal, the story is much more important than the fact that you are featured somewhere. But I don’t want to sound arrogant, it is of course an honour, but the story and the team behind the story is the key.
I think what brought me personally to the point where Forbes was interested in my profile were several big topics (for Georgia at least), which I can outline:
I am a big believer in emotional thinking – not everything can be analysed or “business-cased.” Of course, the needed analysis has to always be performed, but one should always leave space for understanding if something feels right or not.
Day-to-day at TBC is always the same – average of 12-14 hours of meetings, emails, calls… very frequently using weekends for calm thinking and organizing. But the fact is that these hours are filled with so many things that one never gets bored, as TBC is one of the biggest companies in a country that is growing and developing very rapidly, therefore so does our company.
We started to digitize our processes and services back in 2011-12. Now more than 95% of all client interactions are perfumed through digital channels. Customers can open accounts in 90 seconds through the app. Our staff is allowed to work from wherever they want, and this is not only due to the pandemic, but has been the case always. So I would say that culturally, technologically, and methodologically, we somehow were ready and switched very smoothly to the new mode.
Technology is 1 of 2 important components for readiness. Very important indeed but not enough. The second one is the mental readiness and organizational culture. Agile, trust based, and non-hierarchical organizational set up is very important too.
In Commercial Banking one must be ready to think, work, and deliver exactly the same way as one would do in any other industry. Good understanding of Design Thinking methods, UX, and branding I would say are the top areas, the rest is a commodity.
There are two:
Customer Research skills – understanding the customer.
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