Overseas bankers learn from Coweta visit

by Sarah Fay Campbell


Ekaterina Zemtsova talks about things she learned during the trip to Georgia, while translator Ilya Zlotnikov looks on.

Several young banking professionals from Russia have learned more than they expected to during their two-week visit to Coweta County.

The group of seven and their translator spent the past two weeks learning about various facets of the U.S. banking industry and speaking to bankers, banking consultants, economic development officials and investment advisors.

It ‘s a program of the Center for Citizen Initiatives, a non-profit organization "dedicated to helping build and foster constructive U.S. - Russian relations."

Since the CCI was founded in 1983, more than 7,000 Russians have attended training programs in the United States.

It is the fifth delegation to travel to Coweta with the program, said Cowetan Don Chapman, who has served on the board of CCI for 20 years.

The seven visitors were from different areas of Russia and hadn't met each other until they arrived in Coweta County, except for Konstantin and Galina Tsivileva, who are married.

They visited several different area banks and visited the headquarters of United Bank in Zebulon, where they toured the call center.

They traveled to Total Systems in Columbus, the largest credit card processing center in the world, and toured the Kia Motors plant in West Point. There were presentations on economic development, and investments and pensions, said Chapman.

A final meeting was held Thursday at United Bank in Newnan, and each of the guests was asked to talk about what they’ve learned on the trip.

Anton Degtyarev, who is the head of the finance department for a bank, said he was glad to learn about the things American banks do well, and the things they do wrong. "You can take the good with you and leave the bad here," he said.

He was surprised at how many employees at the banks they toured have been there for many years. That's not common in Russia.

He was also impressed by the civic involvement of banks and bank officers. He found that civic engagement projects don't always have to be done on a global scale. "They can be done in regions, or even locally."

Alexei Podlesnov, deputy chairman for a commercial bank, said he took part in the program because of general curiosity, but he also wanted to learn new ideas.

He originally thought both the U.S. and Russian banking systems were completely different. "In actuality, there are a lot of similarities," he said.

Podlesnov thinks it would be beneficial to take back some of the things he learned about and "see if there is any room to improve" at his bank.

Natalia Khokhlova, a branch director, said she also "developed a number of ideas I would like to take back to my management and see if they could be implemented."

Anna Isakova is an auditing and banking consultant lawyer. She said that, until she visited, she "didn't quite grasp the idea of how it is possible to regulate banks," because in Russia, everything is very centralized. Pension funds are new to Russia and they are still trying to figure out how they should be run.

Ekaterina Zemtsova, a bank office manager, said that because of what she’s learned, she wants to concentrate more on sales when she returns home.

"I was able to learn things in the U.S. that will make me a lot more effective," she said.

She was surprised people in Georgia were "so open with us. Every topic was covered in detail."

That’s a sentiment echoed by her comrades.

"America is called the financial center of the world for a reason," said Konstantin Tsivilev, a management director for a large mining company. Just before the trip, he was offered a promotion. While in Georgia, he learned a lot more about the new job he might be doing. "For me to understand how it is done here is life-changing," he said.

Tsivilev's wife, Galina, is a pension administration manager. She's more interested in pension funds than in banking and had expected to be completely lost, but she wasn't. "It exceeded my expectations.”

The group was sponsored by the Newnan Kiwanis Club, and the visitors stayed in local host homes.

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