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You are here: Home Focus "Stay safe and stay alert as we think the crisis is not over yet", Makar Paseniuk, ICU

"Stay safe and stay alert as we think the crisis is not over yet", Makar Paseniuk, ICU

19 June 2020, 00:18 CET

How are businesses in emerging markets leading during the pandemic? We speak to Makar Paseniuk, co-founder of ICU, the independent asset management firm specializing in Central and Eastern Europe, to see how his company is facing the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Makar PaseniukIn emerging markets, as elsewhere, companies are grappling with some of the same issues as those at home but also having another layer of how to manage their business and their employees through this crisis.

We speak to Makar Paseniuk, co-founder of ICU, one of the leading financial institutions at emerging markets, on the challenges they are facing and how they're approaching their business during this time of uncertainty.

How has ICU been affected by the pandemic?

Makar: Well, we are no different from other financial institutions let alone other companies as this is the first time we are seeing this phenomenon and that is exactly why this time it is different. We are all in this together and we have to work together on a community level.

How have you adapted to the crisis?

Makar: At ICU, we decided to implement a firmwide work from home policy before the official lockdown was imposed by the government to ensure the wellbeing of our staff and their families. And to our surprise, so far, we have been able to work more smoothly. Working from home has led to greater efficiency and a better work-life balance.

That is very interesting. And how has this affected your business?

Makar: We have been very fortunate as a company that we are still busy servicing our clients. Our focus remains on delivering the level of service that our clients expect, whilst doing our utmost to ensure the health and wellbeing of ICU staff, their families and the wider community.

Our agile response followed careful, specific preparation and planning on our working practices. Our internal team have been closely monitoring what other governments and companies are doing elsewhere and tried to adapt some of the measures internally. We have been able to work well remotely because we had invested heavily in our IT infrastructure many years before the pandemic. This has helped the team stay connected and be able to service clients seamlessly while working from home.

Many companies have furloughed their staff or have made redundancies. Has that been the case with you?

Makar: We believe that our employees are our biggest asset and their well-being is of utmost importance. As such, we have not furloughed any staff or made any staff cuts during this unprecedented time. In fact, we have continued hiring. We recently hired Sergiy Nikolaychuk as head of Macroeconomic Research, former Deputy Minister of the Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine just last month to enhance our offering to our clients.

What measures have put in place to help your employees?

Makar: Our employees are our biggest asset and we have put measures in place to ensure they are safe. They are all working from home as mentioned. Given that we might be working from home for a long time, especially if there is a second spike in cases, we have been trying to be creative to keep our staff engaged and motivated. To that point, we recently launched an initiative called 'Better Me' where employees are encouraged to take a new activity, course, be it languages etc. They then can choose to showcase what they have learnt to their colleagues or discuss their experience. We have had great feedback so far.

Of course, this period has also allowed people, including myself, to spend more time with the family. This is also important to our well-being and we have encouraged our staff to take that into account as well.

You mentioned earlier that we are all in this together? How so? What are you doing to help the community in Ukraine?

Makar: Yes, we are all in this together. There has never been a period like this in our lives where everyone around the world is experiencing some form of a lockdown or is stuck at home. There will be some long-lasting consequences of these measures but right now, it is our responsibility to play a part in our communities to help where possible. We at ICU are trying to play our part in the community by providing much-needed assistance to the hospitals in Ukraine. We recently purchased and donated COVID-19 tests and critical care equipment to support key hospitals in Kyiv.

The nature of this crisis is such that it has disrupted the supply chain quite drastically. It's been difficult to get medical supplies and we have been working with organizations to try to help to procure and deliver much needed medical supplies to those in need in the community.

It has been good to see how businesses of all sizes across Ukraine, have pooled their efforts to deliver PPE, support the vulnerable with food supplies, and to procure ventilators for key hospitals.

How will Covid-19 change the future of work?

Makar: I think one of the biggest change we will see is in the office. By that I mean, we will be seeing the decline of the corporate office space.

We will also see a massive drive for Digital Transformation. Companies will step up digital transformation and invest in infrastructure, if they haven't already, as they need to adapt to working remotely in the long term.

To aid with this, we will likely see a rise in technology that makes working remotely a smoother experience. The lockdown has given internet companies a boost, highlighting all of their socially beneficial initiatives despite years of bad rep. Similarly, apps like Zoom and House-party app have also taken off. We at ICU, foresee more such apps developing in the near future and it is one of the sectors we are closely monitoring for investment opportunities.

Companies will need to reconsider how they can establish more resilience as the impact from this pandemic will be much longer lasting than the global financial crisis. Businesses will also have to re-examine business model and operations. They will need to review their strategy, revenue model, and supply chains etc to identify opportunities for increased efficiency and profitable growth.

What advice do you have for other businesses in the community?

Makar: First of all, stay safe and stay alert as we think the crisis is not over yet.

I'd also say empower your employees as there's no better time to do that than now. We have been delegating more responsibilities to our teams and so far, this has been working well for us.

Finally, as businesses and engines of the economy, we must be nimble and adaptable in these challenging times and be there to support our staff and community. It is the only way forward. Ukrainians are very adaptable as we have experienced several crisis in the past few years so I have confidence that we will adapt to this one too.

About Makar Paseniuk

With twenty years in corporate finance spanning local and international markets, Makar Paseniuk is one of the leading investment managers and corporate advisers in Central and Eastern Europe. As co-founder of ICU, Makar has led the development of a leading independent asset management, corporate advisory and private equity franchise in Ukraine. He has been instrumental in building a US$500m asset management business and completing US$5.5 billion worth of M&A, equity and debt capital markets and debt restructuring transactions.

Prior to joining ICU in 2009, Makar spent over a decade at ING Bank's franchises in Ukraine and the United Kingdom, rising from equity analyst to Head of Securities Services to Managing Director and Head of Corporate Finance.

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