East­ern Euro­pean veteran came to re­gion in 1995, now with PWC

Kyiv Post - - Business - BY JAKUB PARUSINSKI [email protected] Kyiv Post staff writer Jakub Parusinski can be reached at [email protected]

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.

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