Eastern European veteran came to region in 1995, now with PWC
With 17 years of experience working in Central and Eastern Europe, Rob Shantz is no stranger to the region.
After working at corporate law firms in the United States, Shantz came to the Poland office of Pricewaterhousecoopers (the predecessor of PWC) in 1996, after a year in the U.S. Peace Corps, also in Poland.
Three years later, he moved to Bucharest with KPMG, another Big Four auditing firm, before switching to Ukraine in 2001. He became tax and legal partner at PWC in 2011, the same position he held in KPMG since 2004.
The previous experience in the region made the move to Ukraine quite comfortable, but Kyiv still managed to surprise him in at least one respect:
“[It’s the city with] the biggest number of non-japanese places serving sushi,” Shantz laughed.
A native of Michigan, where he grad- uated from law school, Shantz said the transition from U.S. precedent-based law to East Europe’s obscure and everchanging systems wasn’t too hard.
Moreover, it’s precisely the challenges and instability that makes working in Ukraine so interesting, Shantz highlighted.
“Fun is doing hard things well,” he said.
In some cases the complexity of Ukraine’s laws can even be boon for business, the lawyer conceded, as clients need more legal advice to cope with the trying environment. In the long run, however, clear rules and a proper supervisory system are better because they attract more business, he said.
“The secret to an attractive business environment is pretty simple: having clear and reasonable rules, a fair and impartial system of regulators and the judiciary to help monitor compliance and settle disputes,” the lawyer advised.
Meanwhile, PWC is expanding in Ukraine. Building upon its network of offices in Kyiv, Lviv and Donetsk, the firm opened a further office in Dnipropetrovsk, seeking to benefit from the city’s growing role as a regional business hub.
For Shantz, however, the key to a successful growth strategy is in the people.
“For a business like ours, a professional services firm, a big part of our success is having very good people,” he said. Thus, in order to ensure continued growth PWC has to keep striving to attract such workers and support their development.
There is no lack of work, with the bulk of it focusing on tax litigation, anti-monopoly work, mergers and acquisitions, and a lot of corporate restructuring. The latter is picking up at the moment, Shantz said, and notably aims to optimize a company’s structure ahead of a sale, merger, or initial public offering.
Despite the frostiness of his home state, Shantz said weather is the biggest downside to working in Kyiv. Paralyzing traffic jams have also become a headache. One solution is the occasional trip to Siesta Key, a barrier island off Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, where Shantz’s U.S. home is located.
But the lawyer isn’t moving back to the tropics any time soon. Asked when he plans to leave Ukraine, Shantz said it’s a difficult question.
“In 2001 I planned to stay until 2003. But its 2012 and I’m still here,” he laughed.