- International Relations
- Like-minded people
I have been an investment banker for over 20 years. Even at the beginning of my career I had a clear idea about the qualities that an investment banker needed. Whether you like it or not, an investment banker is a type of servant. He serves clients, making them richer and more successful. Therefore, being able to understand the client, having respect, the ability to listen carefully, personal integrity and the skill to build long-term relationships based on trust – these are the qualities required for those in this profession.
I consider that trust is an essential element of building anything. If you work on the premise that nobody can be trusted, then the costs incurred in overcoming this mistrust make everything that we do ineffective. For this reason, increasing the radius of trust and the creation of institutes, and not personal relationships, is vital for building a stable and successful society in the future. Trust is a key criteria for measuring the success of any person, business or society. For me, it is the cornerstone upon which personal and business relationships are built. Together with my clients and partners I have been lucky enough go through a large number of real life situations, in which it was our mutual trust and desire to work towards the long term that brought us success.
For nearly a quarter of a century, my team and I have worked on many landmark deals and projects in Russia. We were there at the beginning of the stock market, contributing to the establishment of common standards and regulations, and taking part in its construction as members of advisory councils in dozens of state and public organizations. We participated in the privatization of the largest companies in Russia, the creation of the RTS stock exchange and other institutional infrastructure, the restructuring of Rosgosstrakh, creating the partnership between AvtoVAZ and Renault, bringing Daimler in as a strategic investor in KAMAZ, numerous IPOs and SPOs by domestic companies, including on the international stock exchanges and attracting investments on the domestic and foreign markets. We accumulated experience, were confronted with multiple complex situations that the Russian financial industry had never faced before, and we dealt with each of our client’s problems as if they were our own. In the process of building Troika Dialog we overcame a number of difficult stages: a management buyout, capital raising and the arrival of a strategic partner, the creation of a unique system of partnerships in Russia and sale of business. We made it through the economic crisis in Russia with dignity, and helped our clients and partners to do so as well.
The unique thing about Troika was that we were able to become a trusted and accountable partner for Russian private business, government, domestic and foreign investors and institutes all at the same time. Thanks to this approach, I was lucky enough to strike up partnership and friendly relations with a large number of businessmen and public figures from around the world. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with different people, learn something new and expand my social circle and outlook, share information, and connections. As I see it, one of the main tasks for us is overcoming the general level of distrust. Holding conferences and forums is one of the methods that help people to better understand each other. Because of this we decided to launch a series of events to which we will be happy to invite our friends and partners. The next forum will take place in February 2017.
My wife, Veronika Zonabend, and I have been involved in charity since the beginning of the 1990s. At the start of the 2000s these activities became more formalised, and in 2007 we created our family foundation and formulated the principles for selecting and implementing social-entrepreneurial projects. We believe that the projects that we work on can become a catalyst for change in society, the country and the world. At the same time, we are aware that no one person, working on their own principle of what is important and right, can achieve anything significant by themselves. We think that the most important asset in the XXI century is people, and our goal is to create the infrastructure, through which people who have money will be able to gain access to talent and to jointly develop projects that have a significant socio-economic impact. I am happy that a growing club of friends, partners and associates has already formed around us.
I invite everyone to look carefully at our projects and our platform. I’m certain that anyone could find something interesting there to which they can devote themselves. We are building a community of successful, passionate people who feel they have the strength to change the world.
Education – it’s the largest industry in the world, it’s got the highest demand from people and at the same time, it’s sorely in need of investment and new impetus. It’s only through education that we can, in the long run, change the world. Our goal is to develop human capital through introducing new holistic models of education based on the UWC (United World Colleges) international network and Teach For All. In 2014, UWC Dilijan, the first UWC college in Eastern Europe and the CIS opened, its doors to its first students from 46 counties. Today, our college has students from 72 nations. This is a significant project, which has become a catalyst for change not only for the town of Dilijan but also for the entire region.
In 2006 the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO was opened. It’s a unique project in Russia and last year marked its tenth anniversary. Notwithstanding its relatively young age, the SKOLKOVO Business School has already become a platform for bringing together talented young people, businessmen, public figures and lecturers, who understand that the world is changing, and want, on the one hand, to understand how to be successful in these new times and, on the other hand, want to direct these changes. Thanks to its research institutes, the SKOLOKOVO Business School is a centre of expertise for those who are betting on the Russian market in this fast changing economy.
Impact investing. The existing international and regional institutions designed to find and fund the growth areas in developing countries are not able to fully cope with their task. In their place, in our opinion, private institutions must be developed – Private Agencies for Social Economic Development (PASED) – which can more accurately determine the growth areas and become a catalyst for the emergence of new projects. These institutions need to monitor the entire process, from the initial design to the implementation and the subsequent management of these projects. Right now we are creating a platform like this in Armenia – the IDeA Foundation. It is unique in that it mixes different types of capital – commercial money, donations and social investments. It implements projects that aim to deliver tangible socio-economic effects. I hope that in the future we will be able to export the PASED model to other countries and regions. Interest in this model has already been received from Tatarstan and Macedonia.
Wealth curation. For many wealth possessors, the main complexity with transition to a new stage of life – whether it’s the creation of a new or a structural change to their existing business, the decision to devote himself to philanthropy, family or just to a hobby – is inability to turn to the next page. There is an enormous number of things which have to be dealt with: issues related to partners, management, restructuring of assets, relationships with heirs and successors. It sounds all very complicated, but not urgent, and is therefore postponed indefinitely. On a personal level, I went through all of this five years ago. Now my team at Phoenix Advisors is able to guide my friends and partners safely along this twisting path.
Property management. We know that commercial real estate projects play an important role in the asset portfolio of large Russian businessmen. Traditionally, their owners see these projects as reliable assets that generate a stable rental income. Unfortunately, the latest round of the current crisis has shown that the commercial real estate can be a source of frustration for the investor, and requires a more active involvement in management, operations and tenant relationships. That is why we, together with my partner Gagik Adibekyan, formed a joint venture with the German Otto family, which operates more than 200 facilities throughout Europe. Our joint venture already manages shopping centres such as Vremena Goda, Zolotoy Babylon and Dream House amongst others.
Philanthropy infrastructure. Each day in the USA $1 billion dollars is donated to charity, with 14% being donated via mobile devices. In Russia, it’s impossible to even guess at what the figures are. At the same time there are a large number of businessmen and philanthropists who, guided by their hearts, want to engage in charity, which requires the need to build new infrastructure. We have to increase the level of transparency and the effectiveness of charity funds to restore benefactors’ confidence in the sector. PHILIN (Philanthropy Infrastructure) is our project aimed at the professionalization of the charity industry in Russia. It also allows my friends and partners who want to engage in philanthropy to use our infrastructure, rather than reinvent the wheel and create all the operating and financial institutions themselves.
Ruben Vardanyan (born May 25, 1968 in Yerevan) is an impact investor, social entrepreneur and business leader; co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative; founder, chairman of the Board of Directors of PHILIN (Philanthropy Infrastructure); founder and partner of Phoenix Advisors; one of the founders of Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and its first president (2006 – 2011); former CEO and principal partner of Troika Dialog, an investment bank (1992 – 2012).