Russia

Guerman Ainbinder 

Director of Wind Power, a subsidiary of DTEK

 

 

 

 

Guerman, you are the director of Wind Power, a subsidiary of DTEK. What skills acquired at KPMG are helping you in your current job?

KPMG is one of the world's leading audit and advisory firms. It's no accident that when SCM (the holding company that owns DTEK) was recruiting a director of strategy and corporate development it looked at candidates from consulting. In terms of skills, one can pick out the following main aspects: (1) an ability to get a grasp of a totally new area in a short space of time (until I joined DTEK, all I knew about power generation was what I'd read in books; for example, I often got kilowatts and kilovolts mixed up); (2) an ability to synthesise, analyse and draw the right conclusions from information obtained; (3) a focus on the result rather than the process; (4) a sense of deadlines; (5) an ability to think in terms of "primary" and "secondary" (i.e. to separate what is important from what is not).

In 1999, you joined KPMG in the Strategy and Organisational Design group. What business sectors did you provide strategy consulting for then, and on what issues?

The very phrase "audit and advisory firm" already gives an indication of the huge advantage of the "Big Four". In providing audit services, we were able to get an idea of the day-to-day needs of our business partners, and not only with regard to confirming financial statements. Our key clients in the late 1990s and early 2000s were oil and gas and metals companies such as Lukoil, Severstal, NLMK, and so on. These were also the main sectors in which we provided advisory services on corporate governance, developing a regulatory framework for internal control, risk management, and organisational design. Admittedly, although the name of our group included the word "Strategy", we were weak strategists and lost out to other companies.

How has this area changed over time?

It has followed the market. At the same time, we were realistic in assessing our strengths. We decided to focus on areas related to control functions. Additionally, whereas at the start we sold what we were able to do, later we learned to analyse what clients needed and strengthen our team with specialists to meet the goals established by the advisory group.

Now that you're on the other side of business, would you invite outside experts to develop company strategy?

That's a difficult question. I probably would, but not to come up with a "turnkey" solution, but for individual aspects. But the company I work at now didn't come to that conclusion immediately: we had to take the long way round and learn from our own mistakes.

DTEK is the largest privately-owned vertically-integrated energy company in Ukraine. Is doing business in Ukraine very different from doing business in Russia?

In the mid-2000s, when the SCM Group decided to set up sector-based holding companies, the business structuring process at many large companies in Russia was already practically complete. Companies in Ukraine had to do the follow the same path, but faster, so the main difference is the rate of development. Whereas in 2005 DTEK had EBITDA of 150 million dollars, a year later the new team, with the same production assets had doubled that, and seven years later the figure was almost 15 times higher.

You started out at DTEK as Director of Strategy. What objectives were you asked to meet?

The position was called "Director of Strategy and Corporate Development". I was responsible for three major areas: devising a development strategy for the group; corporate development (the organisational structure, functions/powers, KPIs, corporate governance, system regulation, development of a risk management system); and IT. At one point, I was even the Corporate Secretary under the Supervisory Board (the equivalent of the Board of Directors in Russia).

What is the most interesting aspect of your profession?

You're always on the go: every day you start with a blank slate. Having done what I'd been asked to, I was appointed Director of Business Development in 2008. Everything falling outside the scope of traditional business (coal mining, coal burning at thermal power plants to produce kWh, supplying electrons to end users) was my field of responsibility. It was a unique period in my life: under a tight deadline, I had to put together a highly professional team of like-minded people (20 people applied for the analyst position, by the way), capable of cracking like nuts the toughest problems in some totally new fields: wind energy, oil and gas, water energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, bioenergy, the nuclear sector, power engineering, and so on. As a result, two new businesses were created: DTEK Oil&Gas and DTEK Renewables. Having championed the biggest investment project in firm’s history, with a budget of more than half a billion dollars, I became head of "Green" energy.

What do you think makes wind energy so promising?

When you stand next to a wind turbine and you feel the movement of the air currents, the first thing that comes into your head is how brilliant the engineers who managed to design such a majestic and useful structure must have been. No gas, oil, coal or uranium is required to produce the electricity. A modern wind power station doesn't need thousands of workers, and its output is clean and safe. Wind power is an inexhaustible energy supply. As long as there is sun and water, there will be the strong winds needed to drive the wind turbines.

In Ukraine, you run master classes for students. Have you thought about doing educational work?

Teaching helps me to keep my brain in shape. Students aren't fazed by authority: while subordinates might close their eyes to certain faults of their boss (thus deluding him), students notice everything. In addition, apart from it being good for my brain I am passionate about sharing my experience. You never know; the students you give lectures to today may stand at the helm of our companies in future.

Have you got any secrets of successful management you can share with us?

There are no universal recipes. But probably one of the main secrets is something I picked up from a partner at KPMG. I won't name him; I'll just say that when I was at KPMG he worked in the Tax practice, and he's American. This partner said: "If you want to grow yourself, help others to grow." I've seen this confirmed in practice more than once. After all, the most important yard stick of a manager's work is his ability to build successful teams, as it is on close cooperation between people that a company's success depends.

You have an MBA. What did you major in, and where did you get it?

It's an MBA from California State University, East Bay, under a joint programme between the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration and California State University. I studied both in Russia and in America. I majored in two disciplines: Applied Economics and Corporate Finance.

Do you often meet people from KPMG in your job?

"People from KPMG" is a generalised term. After all, auditors and consultants from the Big Four can work at different companies over their career. So in answer to your question, yes, I often meet with consultants and auditors.

Do you have time for any hobbies?

Of course. If you think only about your work, and don't switch over to other interests, you can very quickly turn into a dull workaholic who can't even talk to people about anything except work. In my spare time, I play tennis, I'm learning the nuances of good cooking, I restore old cars, and on my many flights I read books.