We recently sat down with Roman Shiiko, an economic advisor at the Bank of Russia, who recently graduated from IE Brown. Roman is a highly accomplished financial professional with an extensive background and experience in asset and liability management, treasury operations and corporate finance. He holds a PhD equivalent degree in finance and a master in law from top universities in Russia.
With all of these accomplishments, we wondered what Roman gained from his IE Brown experience. Read the interview below to find out how IE Brown taught Roman to approach business from the perspective of narrative and how this orientation helped in the design concept of the “Innovation Lab” at the Russian Central Bank which recently announced the rollout of the first phase of this program, the “Sandbox.”
What was your major take-away from the IE Brown EMBA?
The importance of narrative. We had focused a lot on this topic particularly from an ethnographic perspective. But the South African immersion experience gave me the opportunity to actually apply this approach in a business setting. My group was tasked with cultivating business in the arts in the township of Khayelitsha. There are few tasks as foreign to a Russian banker as this. Narrative gave me a way to tack into this project.
The pivotal moment took place when my group was talking with an artist about his work. Originally we peppered him with questions about selling his artwork. His answers were as uninspiring as the questions. Thinking back to our entrepreneurial course, I felt we needed to dig deeper and connect on an emotional level. We needed to understand the social context – the story – before we could identify a business opportunity.
In this spirit, I asked him what he wanted to express when he painted. Suddenly his eyes became animated. He captured our attention with his passion about what inspired him to paint. This information gave us insight into how we could connect his work with buyers and who and where they might be. By digging deep for the emotional component of the story and its cultural and historical context, we were able to summon the passion and more significant data points you need to develop an impactful business idea and canvas.
You only recently graduated. How are you integrating this narrative technique into your professional life?
It actually started during the program. For my capstone project, I conducted a number of interviews with bankers. The story I heard over and over again was the need for greater financial literacy. I dedicated my capstone project to address this social need using fintech based technology. I gained new respect in the power of innovative technological solutions to improve banking services and address social needs.
I returned to work focused on helping the regulatory division of the Russian Central Bank be a source for innovation. My IE Brown colleagues connected me with a number of banks that had launched “innovation labs” in Singapore, UK and the USA. I combined their stories with a series of interviews I conducted with colleagues at the Bank of Russia to create a plan for a Bank of Russia Innovation Lab.
I’m proud to say that the Russian Central Bank announced the first stage of this proposal, called the “Sandbox,” where new global innovative services can be explored and developed. This achievement represents a major step forward in the creation of an innovation ecosystem in Russia’s young fintech community.
Would you have made the proposal if you hadn’t gone to IE Brown?
No. Business is more than spreadsheets and finance. It’s understanding society, its needs, and how products and services fit in with the larger cultural and historical fabric. It’s about understanding stories. With this new found vision, IE Brown gave me the confidence in my ability to identify new opportunities for innovation and go for it.