Issue 2, 2018. April-May

   

REVERSING THE BRAIN DRAIN: EXPERIENCED DIASPORA ARE RETURNING TO TAKE JOBS IN GEORGIA'S FINANCIAL SECTOR

Well-educated members of Georgia's diaspora are leaving good jobs at major financial institutions overseas for the chance to make a difference in the country's growing banking sector.

Sally White

While Georgia still lacks an official re-migration program, like those in place in the Baltics and some other Eastern European countries, studies show one part of the country's diaspora wants to come home: high-salaried financial specialists.

The major Georgian banks need them, as they cannot carry out their international capital market operations, including funding, without highly experienced professionals conversant with the practices and regulations of these markets.

Another factor is that the sector's level of profitability can accommodate remuneration packages competitive with those in European and U.S. financial centers. It is hardly surprising then that the two major Georgian commercial banks have the most 'returnees,' employing them right across their management.

From Paris to Tbilisi

Galt & Taggart managing director Otar Sharikadze

At Bank of Georgia's investment banking and investment subsidiary, Galt & Taggart, managing director Otari Sharikadze lived and worked abroad for 14 years before returning. His reasons for doing so are those frequently voiced by Georgians who have come back: 'I always knew that one day I would come back. I wanted to take part in developing the country. I think that we are living in a very exciting, but also challenging period for the country and I wanted to be part of this history,' he told Investor.ge.

Prior to joining Bank of Georgia Corporate Advisory in August 2014, Sharikadze served as Chief Investment Officer at the Partnership Fund, the Georgian state-owned private equity fund. Previously, he worked as an Associate at Arjil - Altium Capital, a Paris-based investment bank. While at Arjil, he participated in numerous transactions throughout Eastern and Western Europe. Sharikadze also worked at HSBC in Paris.

His professional education was also in France and he holds a master's degree in Corporate Finance from Paris Graduate School of Management and a master's degree in Economics from Pantheon-Sorbonne University.

What is he seeking to build at Galt & Taggart? 'The objective is to develop and grow a team of professionals who will drive further business growth; to maintain the leading position in Georgia and in the Caucasus region and to strengthen further our brokerage capabilities supported by our research team.'

What does he feel he has accomplished so far? Fulfilling his ambition to help create history, Galt & Taggart is not just a vital voice to the international investment community in Georgia alone, but is acting as a hub for the region with extensive research and conference calls.

'We are at the forefront of capital- markets development in Georgia. We aim to leverage our superior knowledge and capital-markets capabilities in the Georgian and neighboring markets in terms of both reach and expertise that we have accumulated over the past several years through our corporate advisory, debt and equity capital market research and brokerage practices,' he said.

'Our brokerage business serves regional and international markets, including hard-to-reach frontier economies. Our macro and sectoral research currently covers various sectors of the Georgian economy and developments taking place in regional economies.'

Bringing the Experience of London's City

Irakli Elashvili, TBC Bank

His industry colleague at TBC Bank, Irakli Elashvili, is a much more recent returnee, having come back only in September 2017, to lead TBC Capital. This is the bank's wholly owned investment banking subsidiary whose main lines of business include debt and equity capital markets, research, brokerage, and corporate finance advisory. It is, Irakli makes a point of stating, also a shareholder in the Georgian Stock Exchange and plays an active role in the development of its infrastructure.

Reasons given by Elashvili for his return include family, a reason echoed by other returnees-he is the proud father of a four-year-old daughter. He also lists 'an attractive career challenge with a leading financial institution and a team.'

'Also, to give my daughter an opportunity to spend her childhood in Georgia,' he adds.

A graduate of the London Business School, Elashvili has more than 15 years of experience in management consulting, energy-sector and financial services. After several years at PA Consulting in Tbilisi, working in the top power and privatization teams, he went to London. There he worked at Barclays Bank, Barclays Capital and BNP Paribas, focusing primarily on strategy, project finance, treasury and investment banking (M&A).

Additionally, at Barclays he participated in a number of strategic initiatives in the renewables and clean energy space, including working on a thought leadership piece for the World Economic Forum - 'Carbon Capital.' Then, in 2017 he moved to become an independent corporate finance advisor acting for a leading financial services player in Baku.

Others on the Bank of Georgia team who have come back after working abroad include CEO Kaha Kiknavelidze, whose 15 years of experience in financial services include roles at Switzerland's UBS and Russia's Troika Dialog; he also founded Rioni Capital Partners LLP, a London-based investment management company. David Tsiklauri, CFO at the Bank, spent years at Deutsche Bank, working in Debt Capital Markets, Treasury, and other departments. Another is CFO at the new de-merged BGEO Group and at its investment business, Giorgi Alpaidze, who went to the U.S. and was for several years at EY's practice in 2010, becoming a U.S. Certified Public Accountant.

At TBC Bank, returnee professionals with international CVs include Giorgi Shagidze, Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer, whose career includes time at Barclays Bank in London as a Global Operations Executive. Deputy CEO in Corporate Banking George Tkhelidze went from Georgian insurance group Aldagi to the London Business School and then on to Barclays to work in various departments, including Debt Finance and Restructuring and on European M&A, debt and capital market transactions. Deputy CEO and Chief Risk Officer David Chkonia brings 15 years of international banking and risk management experience and was at investment groups BlackRock, PIMCO, European Resolution Capital, Goldman Sachs and the EBRD. Nikoloz Kurdiani, Deputy CEO in SME & Micro Banking, has more than ten years of experience in the banking industry which includes five years at UniCredit Group in Austria, Turkey and Kazakhstan. Harvard graduate Ekaterine Egutia, General Counsel of TBC Bank, worked in the United Nations Development Program and the European Union on a variety of projects.

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