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Ukraine: The perils of PrivatBank

Assailed by conflict and politics, Alexander Dubilet admits that the task of running Ukraine’s biggest bank is complicated. But he insists that PrivatBank can cope with the loss of large parts of its network and dismisses rumours about secret loans and the need for state support.


Illustration: Andrew Archer

"How’s business?” Euromoney asks of Alexander Dubilet, a man with one of the most challenging jobs in international banking. He is chief executive of Ukraine’s biggest bank, PrivatBank.

The question, of course, is loaded. Ukraine is at war, its economy close to dysfunctional. Members of PrivatBank’s staff have been kidnapped and held hostage, its branches firebombed and its network is under near constant siege from hackers. Also constant is a nasty whispering campaign about the bank, some of the rumours plausible, most of them not, but any of them liable to set off panic.

If all that wasn’t enough, since 2014 PrivatBank has lost as much as 20% of its branch territory, the outlets in the seized Crimea and across Ukraine’s contested eastern flanks. And then there’s its divisive owner and Dubilet’s boss, the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, whom Russian president Vladimir Putin has called “a unique crook” and a “scammer”. 

Not one to back away from a fight with the Russians, Kolomoisky responded by describing Putin as a “schizophrenic shorty, totally out of touch, completely insane”.

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