< Back to all interviews




We have approximately 62% ladies in our bank. Yet, if we look separately at the front office, the call center and our headquarters, then the proportion of women in the front office would be more towards 75% whereas in the headquarters we would have less women altogether.

What is especially relevant is that if we look at the executive team, we have 10 people who are making all relevant decisions for the organization,  and only 2 of them are ladies, which is not great.

I am also aware that this is not the case only in our bank. For example, in my Global CEO program we are 65 CEOs in total and only 3 women. This is not a good situation and I don't treat it lightly.

Kazakhstan is a very patriarchal society. They're very strict and traditional in their values. For example, when I first met my wife's parents, I was invited to dinner and my wife and her sister never joined us at the table. They were standing next to the table, waiting to serve everybody, but not participating in the conversation. Unless addressed, they wouldn't say a word.

This is the traditional Kazakhstan society. I know that and I discussed it with both my wife and my colleagues. Many husbands here just decline to allow their wives to go to work. So, in essence, ladies reach a certain level in their careers until they get married - and they usually get married rather fast here because of peer pressure - and then for some of them, this is the end as they are not allowed to go to back to work anymore.

On the other hand, looking at banking and the banking association in Kazakhstan, I see very good signs. The CEO of the biggest bank has been a lady for 15 years. The head of the banking regulator is also a lady and so are other at least 2 or 3 more key banks that are headed by a lady.

This is a modern phenomenon which brings us hope.

When you are part of an all-male team I wouldn't say it's terrible because, at the end of the day, if you're part of a sports team - and I was the captain of the national water polo team in Bulgaria - you do develop some camaraderie. You resonate in the same way, you are on the same frequency, you speak about the same things - which in our case is work.

However, in leadership this does have quite significant negative aspects, such as the excessive testosterone, competition, and excessive risk taking because we want to show to each other who's who and who is the smartest guys in the room. There is also a bias towards short term thinking, excessive risk taking and excessive competition sometimes at the expense of a win-win resolution.

I'm often citing statistics that say that companies with female CEOs usually have higher return on equity for the shareholders than their competitors. Unfortunately it is not not exactly clear whether it is the lady CEOs who are performing better or if it is good companies to begin who are allowing the ladies to lead them. This is a correlation yet to be established, but for me that's not really important at the end of the day.

For me, diversity is not only desirable, it is mandatory. I believe that mixed teams would always deliver better long term results than all male teams or more monocolor teams.

I've always seen and believed that male colleagues welcome the presence of a lady in the executive team for various reasons because it can improve the overall atmosphere in the discussion. The angle of the discussion stops being strictly about numbers and rational arguments, and we are able to see each other as humans, as people to appreciate our differences. In my experience, the more ladies we have in the executive team, the better it gets.

My vision and my own role in the company is about caring. This is our slogan: we're happy to help. This means caring about the people around me, caring about our customers, caring about the larger society. I think that the focus away from profit and towards what is important in life and in the society, actually and paradoxically, leads to better profits and better results.

I do believe that when we put our values and priorities in the right order, including diversity and gender equality, profits will come.

As my former boss used to say, on a personal level or on a company level, the money is just the proof that you're doing the right things. So I intend to show that by doing the right things.


Connect with Kiril Bachvarov via his LinkedIn profile.

Drop by the Home Credit Kazakhstan headquarters if you're passing through Almaty.

Join us in THE CEO ELEVATION CIRCLE for more similar inspiring interviews with women and men CEOs.

checkclosearrow-circle-o-downangle-double-upangle-downellipsis-vusercartmagnifiercrossmenucross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram