First of all, it is worth noting that Alona Shevtsova is the CEO of the LEO International Payment System. Since the beginning of the war, her company not only managed to resume business and reach the pre-war levels but also strives to help the military and displaced persons.Within the frames of the “Nesokrushimiye” (Unconquerable) Project, Alona told about her first thoughts at the time of the Russian invasion. She also shared her unique approaches, which helped to almost completely return the business to pre-war indicators. In addition, she talked about her fascinating discoveries during the 7 months of the war
The first thing I thought about was my family and our team
I was at home in Kyiv when it started. Everything changed at around 5 AM. It was another sleepless night when I came across a video from Vladimir Putin on YouTube. My children were already asleep, and my husband left for an urgent task at work. I felt fear and anxiety almost immediately. That night, every word said by the Russian dictator brought me into complete shock. At the same time, I was understanding that Ukraine had to face a difficult war. As soon as the speech ended, Russian planes began bombing Boryspil Airport, which is located next to our house. It was clear there was no turning back!
The first thing I thought about was my family and our team. The main task for me was to create a safe environment for children and our employees.
Right at 5 AM in the morning, I started calling Mariam Matiashvili (CBDO at LeoGaming), who was in Georgia, and Victor (a developer at LEO) from L’viv. Even though we were in complete shock, we started involving other colleagues and began evacuating people from Chernihiv, Sumy, Kyiv, and Kyiv Region. At the same time, my four children and I started turning our basement into a bomb shelter.
My family stayed in Kyiv. It was important for us to support each other, our neighbors, and our state. On the 8th day, when the situation in the Kyiv Region reached a critical point, I took my children and moved to Western Ukraine. Our road was hard, but I had to survive and save my children because I am responsible for them. At the same time, I have a team of 700 people who need to work and earn money for their families. In such conditions, the team was relocated to safe places with stable communication and connection.
We all know that we heard a lot of things about the war in February almost every day. Each company had a plan of action in order to minimize risks and remain as profitable as possible in the conditions of war. This plan was certainly not created in order to prepare for war. Our family plan was outlined in thoughts of me and my husband, but we would have never thought that it would be necessary. While having those plans, we were able to act intuitively, like most Ukrainians, on February 24.
We managed to return to pre-war financial indicators
After the beginning of the war, I began to work even more actively. I always strive to find ways to help our soldiers, and always listen more to my inner voice. At the same time, my priorities have not changed much. As in the past, the main thing for me was the preservation of jobs, security for the team and family, as well as maximum assistance to the preservation of the economic stability of Ukraine.
I have to confess that work really helps me to distract myself. During the first three months, we had to adapt to the new conditions of working online and offline. We had to spend a lot of time transferring our servers to the cloud, closing our branches, or providing them with all the necessary things. We also had to relocate the team of IBOX BANK. These first months of the war were difficult yet especially important.
People at LEO and IBOX BANK had to work day and night. The main goal for us was to return to pre-war financial indicators. Only a working business can help our state to reach victory. Our company was operating from offices in 3 cities: Kyiv, L’viv, and Warsaw. During the fourth month of the war, we managed to resume about 70% of our working processes. The company was able to achieve those indicators thanks to the expansion of the lists of foreign partners, the adaptation to new working conditions under the guidance of the NBU, and the expansion of the staff. At that time, the main problem was to forget about emotions and feelings in order to effectively solve all issues.
All operating businesses are obliged to help our army
All operating businesses are obliged to help our army. These days, we are also at the front. The main difference is the format of the fight. At LEO and IBOX BANK, we are at the economic front, as well as at the humanitarian and military fronts of this war. I have to highlight the fact that 16 of our employees were mobilized in the first days of the war. At the same time, we retain all work commitments and their places. Their colleagues are in constant contact with them. They provide them with everything they need: radios, gloves, uniforms, and even drones. During the first month, the lack of helmets, bulletproof vests, and thermal imagers was the most important one. We managed to find them in different countries all around Europe.
As soon as our employees managed to get to Warsaw, we were able to create a support hub there. Those were our female workers who left Ukraine and collected everything they needed in Europe. By doing so, we were able to supply our soldiers with bulletproof vests, helmets, military uniforms, thermal imagers, and many other things. The hub was located in our Warsaw office, which we rented for the LEO team. We were also able to restore the company’s economic indicators from there. Nine of our employees from the HR, PR, and IT departments became responsible for volunteering. Logistics services were provided by friends with a license to transport military products. They made this process move in all meanings of this word!
I am especially emotional when I think about helping internally displaced persons. we help families from Nikolaev, which have to stay in Odesa. They live in the Alice Place Hotel, where they are provided with food, clothes, and rooms. There are many projects, which are aimed at different groups of the population. In addition to military assistance, we finance surgeries for children with heart diseases, provide scholarships to talented students, send money to the First Maternity Hospital in Odessa, conduct medical care training with Dobrobut doctors, and do a lot of other important things. We also offer everyone to join these projects! All our initiatives are implemented in a transparent way within the frames of the Leo Charitable Foundation which was established shortly before the outbreak of war, in November 2021. All financial and practical operations are carried out by the management and employees of LEO and IBOX BANK, as well as our partners.
Our team managed to impress me! Every employee stood up for the country. Some of them were mobilized, while others were responsible for safe working conditions for the team. Many of them went to Europe to find and bring ammunition. Everyone has found something for themselves that brings us closer to victory.
We continue to grow despite the war
I have to highlight the fact that both LEO and IBOX BANK teams are working for a joint victory. We share our profits to support the army and help temporarily displaced people. We also keep working places and pay taxes. It may seem that such things are not that important, but such an approach of companies can support the vital activity of the country in war conditions.
In addition, LEO and IBOX BANK managed to go beyond the borders of Ukraine. During the last 7 months, we have been preparing a legal and technical base for providing payment services to Ukrainians abroad, as well as embedding domestic services into the assortment of European payment service providers. Our team also attracted new foreign partners for the development of the payment sector in Ukraine.
LEO and IBOX BANK never stop growing. We hired 42 new employees since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Such an increase is directly associated with entering new markets. This war forced us to work harder, move online, and pay attention to geopolitical factors in the fintech and banking sectors. At the same time, there are still many difficulties. They are directly connected with the occupation of the territory of Ukraine. We still have our people, service users, and displaced people, who need our services in Europe. Therefore, during the next months, we plan to expand our presence in Europe and help our Armed Forces even more in order to liberate the territory and return to peace. The main goal of volunteering for is our military personnel dressed and armed according to NATO standards, as well as internally displaced people provided with everything they need. And we are moving towards it!
The last seven months have confirmed that Ukrainians are brave, unique, and stubborn people. Talking about me, I have to confess that I have discovered an incredible desire to live and enjoy all facets of life. I want to live on our land. I want to live with a united national idea for every Ukrainian. I want to live in a prosperous and free state without remnants of the past. I want to live for myself and my neighbor to build a better future for Ukraine.
I may say that our people have not been so united in the entire history of independent Ukraine
The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the following, “If Russia stops fighting, there will be no war. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine will cease to exist.”
We have to defend our home, our children, and the future, so we are ready to go down fighting. I may say that our people have not been so united in the entire history of independent Ukraine. On February 24, we had to realize that only by standing side by side can we overcome the enemy that the entire world was afraid of.
Our plans after the victory
First of all, we are going to celebrate a bit. Then we need to restore, restore, and restore! Our company has opened a European direction, but Ukraine has been and will be the center of our interests. Our team works for the future. We popularize Ukrainian payment services in Europe, we provide secure and profitable payment offers in Ukraine, and attract investors to our market. People in Europe learn from us, while we are ready to share their experiences. There is a lot of work, so, we have to prepare even now!