08 September 2022

Serhii Kruhlyk, a diplomat, a banker, advisor to Kyiv Mayor, and MIM-Kyiv MBA was in Irpin when the Russians invaded. “Hostomel and Bucha were nearby and there were air raids all the time,” he recollects. To bring the relatives who came to visit them, they left on the second day of the invasion for Lviv and managed to escape the occupation.

Soon after settling his family, Serhii Kruhlyk enlisted. He serves as a deputy head of the analytical service of the State Cyber Protection Center of the State Service of the Special Communication and Information Protection of Ukraine (SCPC). He recollected the first days of the war in the Kyiv region and discussed why public servants need an MBA degree and why Kyiv needs its municipal bank.

- On February 24 you were…

- In Irpin, at home alone. The relatives stayed next door. We quickly decided to move them to Lviv. We were lucky to escape the occupation. I tried to come back to Kyiv but could not because the bridge exploded. I returned to Lviv and spent a week there. I helped foreigners who brought humanitarian aid or evacuated injured people and people fleeing the war. I engaged in volunteering because the military commissariat did not contact me. I visited three commissariats to enlist. Together with my friend who came to Kyiv by evacuation train I returned to the capital and joined the unit defending it. I had to refresh my military skills because the last time I did military drilling was 35 years ago when I served in the army. In early March we were defending one of Kyiv's neighborhoods.

- Was it a territorial defense unit?

- A kind of. We were defending the checkpoint and State Special Communication point. Later I joined the analytical service at the SCPC. It was a kind of a coincidence.

- When the war started, how did your former colleagues react? Did they offer any help?

- They were bewildered because they were used to me wearing a suit rather than a uniform and gun. Two years ago, I was one of the candidates for the position of NBU chairman. So, my move was unexpected. My former colleagues did not understand my decision, because I could stay with my family in safety. But I decided to defend Kyiv. It was difficult but I saw no other way out.

- How did you benefit from the knowledge and skills acquired at MIM-Kyiv?

- I graduated from USAID’s Special MBA Program. I have four more degrees, in particular, Ph.D. in economics. MBA is arguable the most comprehensive and interactive. It was an MBA program where international faculty taught us from the point of view of a business. MIM-Kyiv is about outstanding people, making friends, and developing your network. It is very useful because you know the right people who you can bring the best solutions. In other words, MBA means knowledge and instruments to implement new experiences into real-life situations.

- You spend much of your career in the public sector, however you took the iconic private-sector program. How can you combine those two areas?

- When I was taking my entry tests and interviews, I was often asked why I need the program. My answer was simple: the public sector cannot do without the private. We have a hub of public and business administration and public and private economy. If complemented correctly, the economy works much better.

- Tell us about your pre-war project of the Municipal Bank. Is it working now?

- The city needs a bank like that. The best example is the cantonal banks in Switzerland. They are considered the most reliable. There are some municipal banks in Norway, Japan, Italy, France, and Germany. Practically every country has municipal banks servicing local businesses. Municipal banks offer project funding, provide access to funding for SMBs, and finance social programs. For example, the “Kyivite’s Card” can work much better if supported by the bank. Local businesses can establish mutual aid funds to help each other. Businesses can save on transaction fees, payroll accounts, etc. Unfortunately, the project was suspended. But now it is possible to buy the shell bank and transform it into the municipal bank for Kyiv and Kyiv region. It is important to include the Kyiv region because we are facing the challenge of restoration of Bucha, Borodyanka, Hostomel, etc.

- What is your opinion on the wartime public fiscal policy?

- It is extremely challenging to run the banking sector during the war. We can assess it long after the war. I might have made different decisions, e.g. in cash regulation, or cooperation with international financial institutions. I think, their activities allow more activities. There are many organizations other than IMF or the World Bank or the EBCD. For example, the Nordic Investment Bank is active in “green” funding. We have friends of Ukraine there. We do not work with banks or funds from Asia or Africa. As far as I know, they have the capacity. With my background in diplomacy, I believe that we can work with nearly all countries. Now, when Ukraine is making headlines, unfortunately, because of war, it is the right time to make the most of any opportunity.