Nikolai Podguzov: The EDB helps to shape the workforce environment in the EAEU

09 June 2021

St. Petersburg, 3 June 2021. Nikolai Podguzov, Chairman of the Management Board of the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), took part in the panel discussion titled Russia in the Race for Top Global Managerial Talent with the mentors of the Leaders of Russia competition, a flagship project of the Russia – the Country of Opportunities presidential platform, during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The participants in the session discussed how to create enabling conditions to attract staff from abroad. One of the tools used to this end is the Leaders of Russia competition and its specialised International Track, whose finalists will be able to obtain a residence permit and the winners to become Russian citizens through an accelerated procedure.

Nikolai Podguzov, Head of the EDB and mentor of the Leaders of Russia competition, shared his experience in attracting foreign specialists and told how the EDB contributed to the creation of an enabling environment for the workforce in the EDB region and what skills were in demand in the banking industry today.

“The banking industry is at the forefront of industry innovation. And the Eurasian Development Bank is not an ordinary bank. As a development institution, it contributes to building up an environment and generating an agenda that will be of interest to people across the six countries – the EAEU countries plus Tajikistan. This can be expanded to other CIS countries as well. We need experts in economic development, the environment, demand stimulation programmes, economic restructuring, and digitalisation. We also need leaders who can negotiate and are sensitive to the diversity of the countries where we are present. The Eurasian Development Bank is also shaping the workforce environment within the EAEU and in Tajikistan. For example, one of our tasks is to promote the Russian language and we are working to set up educational platforms and infrastructure facilities to this end. We are also trying to create enabling conditions for the movement of the workforce – our COVID-19 Free Travel app is already in operation. Another important project we are currently developing is the Working in the EAEU platform, which should make it possible for any citizen of the EAEU countries to find a job. I think it is very important to pursue ambitious and exciting projects and tasks that help people to fulfil themselves and get satisfaction from the fact that they can do something and do that. It is equally important to create the conditions and form an ecosystem for talent. This is a win-win story,” Nikolai Podguzov pointed out.


Sergey Kiriyenko, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and mentor of the Leaders of Russia competition, announced the closing of applications for the International Track of the fourth Leaders of Russia competition. Eleven thousand foreign nationals from 150 countries applied for the track.

“I saw a whole range of questionnaires and bios – these are from very successful people. These are company executives, researchers, educators, heads of media outlets, and public figures,” said Sergey Kiriyenko. “A peculiarity of our times is that people are free to make decisions. They can move not only between cities, universities, regions, or countries – they can also change professions. So, the most important thing is free choice. It is obvious that competition for the most creative, most talented, and most leadership-oriented people will only be getting tougher. And the only possible competitive advantage in such a case is to set conditions so that people can fulfil themselves.”

According to Sergey Kiriyenko, for people to fulfil themselves, a single solution such as raising salaries, increasing scholarships in a university, or reducing the cost of a square metre of housing in a region would not suffice. What is needed is a comprehensive support system and conditions for self-fulfilment. The government’s task is to create these conditions and provide them for the new generation. And such a consistent system for supporting talent, which has been created in Russia by the President, is yielding results. The government creates the conditions for development and invests in training, human development, and competencies.

“This is a space of opportunities, a consistent position that is being pursued by President Vladimir Putin. It includes projects and competitions from the Russia – The Country of Opportunities presidential platform. On June 26 and 27, on the occasion of the Youth Day, Moscow’s Gorky Park will host a big forum titled Russia – The Country of Opportunities to showcase all the opportunities that are available today for people who aspire to fulfil themselves in Russia. I would like to invite everyone to take part in it, regardless of their level, age or anything else achieved to date. There are opportunities for development at any age and at any time,” said Sergey Kiriyenko.

Alexey Komissarov, Director General of Russia – The Country of Opportunities and Head of the Leaders of Russia competition, moderated the panel discussion Russia in the Race for Top Global Managerial Talent at SPIEF-2021.

“Recently, the world has been transitioning to a knowledge economy. The main driver and value in the knowledge economy are, of course, people. Today we are talking about what conditions need to be created for people to be able to realise their full potential, as well as what countries and companies can do to achieve this,” noted Alexey Komissarov.

Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Rosatom and mentor of the Leaders of Russia competition, shared his experience in motivating employees and creating conditions in the company to attract the best talent, both in Russia and from abroad. Rosatom plans to recruit 45,000 foreign specialists to work in the construction of nuclear facilities in Russia and globally.

“When we worked on our corporate objectives and Rosatom’s strategic vision to 2030, we put in a simple phrase – to become the best at unlocking human potential. This is our corporate task number one. And it can only be achieved on one condition – working with people must be task number one for CEOs and for the management of any company, it must be on their personal agenda. The ideology of this work should be a matter of faith. It’s even more believing – it’s about trusting in this idea. If you go to sleep and wake up thinking about people, you’ll see results and people will treat you the same way. As for the generation that will replace ours, of course, we sense that people want to come to work, not even just to grow in their careers and personally – they do want to come to work to change the world for the better. And we need to show this connection very clearly – how their workplace, the unit they work at, and the tasks they perform relate to changing the world for the better,” commented Alexey Likhachev.

Evgeny Primakov, Head of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) and member of the Supervisory Board of the International Track of the Leaders of Russia competition, spoke about the opportunities and prospects for the development of foreign citizens in Russia, as well as about the objectives of the International Track of the fourth Leaders of Russia competition.

“We are regaining popularity and becoming attractive. This is because we are perceived as a country of a great present and a brilliant future, thanks to the technology that we have. As a federal agency that promotes Russia abroad, we would be interested in the people we have trained here to come back home and foster development in their countries, their economies, and their politics, to become our goodwill ambassadors, and to improve our relations. On the other hand, the nation would benefit if people who would like to associate themselves with Russia had an opportunity to stay here. Therefore, the International Track is certainly important both as a symbol and as a real way to enter the Russian landscape. Those who make it to the final get an opportunity to receive a residence permit, and those who win are offered citizenship and a million roubles to spend for their education in Russia. What they also get is, of course, the understanding that they will be handled by the best of the best – the best professionals and the best managers. We’ve got a whole lot of applications from motivated people,” said Evgeny Primakov.

Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of the President of Russia for International Cultural Cooperation, member of the Supervisory Board of the International Track of the Leaders of Russia competition, spoke about creating attractive conditions for the return of compatriots.

“When the Bolshoi Theatre began to renew itself, at the end of the 20th century, we faced a problem – people were not willing to work at the Bolshoi for two reasons, low salaries and the lack of ambitious projects. So, we had two tasks in mind – to make salaries comparable to what they would earn abroad (taking into account that they needed to rent an apartment there, pay 40% in taxes, and so on) and, most importantly, to launch ambitious artistic projects. And then, thanks primarily to the support of Vladimir Putin, the remuneration system was changed and we switched to a grant system. We invited Alexei Ratmansky as chief choreographer who was at the time in Copenhagen. We also invited Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who was also working abroad. This is just one example that has yielded very good results. When things start to happen and people get a sense of perspective, they start working. I believe today is a very good time, an amazing time,” said Mikhail Shvydkoi.

Dmitry Konov, Chairman of the Management Board of SIBUR Holding and mentor of the Leaders of Russia competition, shared his experience in attracting foreign specialists.

“If to talk about the full cycle, first we need to interest people, then offer them attractive compensation, and ensure understanding on the part of the team they work for as well as of the tasks they take on. And then they need to be adapted and retained. Generally speaking, this cycle is not just for foreign professionals. As for social mobility, we see that, unfortunately, it is still quite low in Russia and largely Moscow-centric. Many people want to move from regions to Moscow, including because of the social environment, and significantly fewer people want to move from Moscow to other regions. Working with core universities in the regions where we operate should be a very effective investment because in this case we can develop skills there and bring education to a level we are happy with to obtain high-quality employees in the region we need without having to persuade employees from other regions to move,” stressed Dmitry Konov.

According to Dmitry Konov, foreign specialists have been most attracted to Russia in recent months because they can get Sputnik V, while in Europe they lack access to vaccines. This part of social benefits has become a major factor in their decision to move to Russia.

Regina Von Flemming, Independent Director of Sovcombank, Independent Director of MTS, and Independent Director of Inteco, told the panellists why she had chosen Russia and moved from Germany 27 years ago.

“That was a challenge, an adventure. And today it is an experience. What I like about Russia are the governor programmes. There is no such education in Europe, an MBA for governors. I believe that any governor in a European country – Spain, Italy, Finland, or Germany – has to meet top management, leadership objectives. I see this as a good potential for export, and not only among students,” emphasised Regina von Flemming.

David Manzini, President of PepsiCo for Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia, explained how exchanging experiences between countries helps to develop business.

“I'm French. I love Russia very much. This is my second time working in Russia. I was here ten years ago. And it was a transformation for my career and for my life. My wife is Russian and we have two children. I have now been in Russia for seven months as president of PepsiCo. Russia is very important to us, it is a US $4 billion business. If we are talking about Russian specialists, we definitely send them abroad so that they could gain experience and practice there but we also want to diversify our talents and therefore we bring foreign specialists to Russia, too. And we have so many great examples. We are so proud that now, ten years later, the best talents from all over the world are flocking to Russia while Russian specialists are establishing connections with other countries and bringing in practices. If we talk, for example, about augmented reality or artificial intelligence, we have many examples that improve business performance. It was said here that it is very important to support specialists coming from other countries. What kind of support should they receive? And this concerns our small expat community – we exchange information, we support them,” said David Manzini.

This year’s Leaders of Russia competition launched an artificial intelligence check of video interviews that each participant had to record at the registration stage. The artificial intelligence software evaluated terminology, semantics, intonation, and 6,000 other parameters in seconds.

“I remember that video. It is rather difficult to explain in three minutes to the person on the other side of the screen what you want to say. We have involuntary emotions, which artificial intelligence is very quick to evaluate and compute. It is therefore a very interesting area that should be dealt with. The biggest challenge right now is strong artificial intelligence. At Bauman University, we are setting up a Centre for Artificial Intelligence in an attempt, among other things, to overcome limitations in creating strong artificial intelligence. We invite those who would like to become our industrial partners to participate in the federal competition because there will be the most interesting things,” commented Vitaly Milke, winner of the first Leaders of Russia competition, Professor at Bauman Moscow State Technical University, author of the national strategy for developing artificial intelligence, PhD in Computer Science and Machine Learning from Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge.

The discussion was concluded by Irina Makiyeva, Chief Managing Partner for Urban Development at VEB.RF and General Director of MONOGOROD.RF. She spoke about the VEB.RF programme to improve the competencies of city managers.

“Last July we launched an ambitious development programme for Russia’s 100 largest cities. Before that, single-industry towns underwent a similar programme. I’d like to say that we do have very strong mayors and management teams in our cities. Our task is to make them better, to strengthen their competencies. We need to 'grow' our staff, there is a huge number of talented specialists in Russia,” concluded Irina Makiyeva.

Read more at: ЛидерыРоссии.рф.

Additional Information

The Leaders of Russia competition for managers:

The Leaders of Russia competition has been run by the autonomous non-profit organisation Russia – The Country of Opportunities on behalf of the Russian President since 2017 and is a flagship project of the platform of the same name, which brings together 26 independent projects. The competition is supported by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

Leaders of Russia is an open competition for the next generation of leaders that is intended to form a community of leaders who will shape the future of Russia. The competition aims to identify, develop and support promising executives with a high level of leadership skills and managerial competencies. The selection of participants is done in several stages to assess their managerial competencies. Participation in the project is open to residents of any country or territory in the world.

The competition is supported by major Russian companies such as Russian Railways, Sberbank, Gazpromneft, Rostelecom, Rosseti, Rosatom, Roscosmos, Norilsk Nickel, Rostec, Inter RAO, NLMK, Rosneft, RusHydro, SIBUR Holding, and Lukoil, as well as the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the RT Television Network (Russia Today), Alpina Publisher, LitRes, and the Mail.Ru Group as the general technical partner. The partners provide targeted support for the finalists and winners of the competition.

The Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) is an international financial institution promoting integration and development in its member countries – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, and Tajikistan. The EDB's charter capital totals US $7 billion. The Bank was established in January 2006 and is headquartered in Almaty. The EDB’s portfolio mainly consists of projects with an integration effect in the areas of transport infrastructure, digitalisation, green energy, agriculture, industry, and machinery.

The EDB Media Centre:

Azima Sapargaliyeva +7 (777) 750 00 08 (Almaty)

Sergey Gorbachev +7 (916) 727 22 00 (Moscow)

Russia – The Country of Opportunities, an autonomous non-profit organisation, was established at the initiative of President Vladimir Putin. Its key objectives are to promote social mobility, ensure personal and professional fulfilment of citizens, and create effective social lifts in Russia. Russia – The Country of Opportunities’ Supervisory Board is headed by President Vladimir Putin.

The organisation is developing a platform of the same name that brings together 26 projects, including the Leaders of Russia competition for managers; the Leaders of Russia. Politics competition; the I Am a Professional competition for students; the Your Move competition; the My First Business international competition; the Big Change all-Russian competition; the Career Time all-Russian project; the Topblog project; the Professional Internships 2.0 project; the Culture Code project; the Russian Student Spring festival, the Masters of Hospitality all-Russian competition; the Grant Competition for Youth Initiatives; the Digital Breakthrough competition; the Teacher of the Future professional competition; the Best Social Project of the Year competition; the Russian Movement of Schoolchildren – Territory of Self-Government all-Russian project; the Abilimpix professional skills competition for people with disabilities; the Manage! all-Russian youth cup in management; the Student of the Year national award; the Worldskills Russia movement; the Dream with Me charity project; the All-Russian League of Counselors competition; the My Country – My Russia competition; the CASE-IN international engineering championship; and the NTI.Junior Olympics.

In February 2019, the Senege Management Workshop, an educational centre, was set up by Russia – The Country of Opportunities. The centre trains participants in the platform’s projects and competitions, young people, managers, and civil servants. It is also a platform for various educational and youth forums, including the Territory of Meanings forum.

Contact details:

Press Secretary

Leaders of Russia competition

Anastasia Kontareva

+ 7 (968) 512-22-02

Head of Communications, Russia – The Country of Opportunities

Sergey Kolyada

+ 7 (495) 198-88-92,

+ 7 (910) 647-88-88

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