Create! Inspire! Drive! and Enjoy!
Deputy CEO, TBC Bank
Chairman of the Supervisory Board, TBC Bank Uzbekistan and Payme
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
Define your experience in the IMBA in one word.
What were some of the main challenges that you encountered on your way? How did your master program and IE help you through these challenges?
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.
How did your experience at IE prepare you for your professional career? In what ways do you think the program has changed your life professionally and personally?
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.
What was networking like in the program?
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.
What was your favorite memory from your time at IE?
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...”
If someone was considering going to IE, what would you tell them?
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.
Why did you choose to study this program at IE?
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).
What is one thing you wished you knew, when you were a student? What advice would you give to students who are about to begin the program?
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.
Tell us about the IE alumni community and the impact they have had in your life and/or career. Why do you think it’s important to engage with the IE alumni community?
#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.
As one of the first contributors towards the Illuminated Bricks campaign, how does it feel?
It feels very good. It is the minimum we all, Alumni, should be doing for the school and for the community. For me it is the first Donation to IE after the graduation back many years ago and happy to be part of it!
What made you decided to give your first gift?
Thankfulness to the school!
In your opinion, why is it important to give back? Why does this cause matter to you?
It is all about having responsibility in front of your community, community which created you and which has to be supported by you. I am thankful to IE for those skills, abilities, and mindset which I formed while being part of the IE family.
What can we do within our IE Community to create an impact and support education?
Preach that curiosity and being educated and informed are the critical components for successful and interesting lives. Be supportive in all ways, whether it be financial or other resources.
What would you tell someone who was thinking about contributing?
You are doing a very right thing!
If you had a billboard you could display to the entire world, what you would put on it?
“Create! Inspire! Drive! and Enjoy!