"For us the war began on February 15 - on this day there was a massive DDoS attack on Ukraine, which blocked all our services"
Mariusz Kaczmarek, Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of PrivatBank
Privatbank is the biggest bank in Ukraine. There are more than 20 million people who have used the services of PrivatBank at least once in their lives - half of all users of banking services in Ukraine, from private individuals to companies and entrepreneurs. Almost 18 million Ukrainians regularly use the services of PrivatBank, and there are currently 13.5 million customers of the Privat24 digital bank.
The situation with the company before the war. How would you describe the state of the industry and the bank before the war
Before the war, the bank was in excellent financial shape, so even now, despite reduced interest income, customer preferences, and discounts on a number of fees, we are in a better situation than anyone could have been expected.
Was the bank preparing for a possible war? How exactly?
For us the war began on February 15 - on this day there was a massive DDoS attack on Ukraine, which blocked all our services. This attack covered not only the bank, but also all ministries and government institutions. We dealt with the threat in a few hours because we already had part of the infrastructure in the cloud.
In the first month of the war, almost every week we had an attack 40 times larger than on February 15. Fortunately, today it has no side effects, we are well protected. Our clients can be sure of the safety of their funds and accounts, their data, and that they will have access to convenient banking services in any situation.
What business and team (personnel) decisions did the company make in the first hours and first weeks of the war?
When Russian missiles hit 200 meters from our data center, we already knew that transferring data to the cloud environment is the only right way out, because the security of our customers' data is always a priority. On March 8, we received approval to migrate customer services to the European Union, Canada, and the United States.
We worked on the migration of our IT systems from the physical data storage center to the "cloud" in order to minimize the dependence on the physical presence of computer equipment located in different regions of Ukraine, which could be destroyed during the war. As a result, all the main applications and services of PrivatBank were successfully transferred to the cloud storage to ensure the access of customers to financial services (banking services, access to cash, etc.) at any time and to ensure the financial security of both our customers and the entire country. This is a matter of state security.
It took us less than 45 days to safely deploy and launch all important applications and services from the cloud environment. For comparison: the amount of work we have implemented for projects of such complexity and such a scale in a "normal" IT project cycle usually takes 1.5 years or more. To assess the scope of what the PrivatBank team has done, here are a few numbers: we moved 3,500 servers and more than 270 important applications to a secure cloud environment. More than 4 petabytes of customer data and transactions are protected and uploaded to the "cloud". Personally, as a client of PrivatBank, I felt in complete financial security.
How did the company's product change or adapt because of the war?
Since the beginning of the war in March, a large part of card commissions, including cash withdrawals, transfers and crediting of funds, have been abolished. For business, in the first months of martial law, the fee for trade acquiring was canceled, a 0% rate was set for LiqPay online acquiring, and the subscription fee for using pos-terminals was canceled. Since May, the fee for acquiring was partially restored, but at a significantly lower level than before the war. Credit holidays for a period of 3 months were also introduced, and from June - preferential interest rates for card loans are in effect.
What has changed in approaches to corporate management because of the war? (e.g. planning horizon, planning approaches, management methods and tools, etc.)
We will see the full picture a little later, so we do not make any estimates for now. The bank is very interested in helping customers who have a chance to survive the war in an economic sense. In a few months, we will see what mechanism of assistance and to whom we will be able to provide it. There will be such an opportunity. After the severe crises of 2009 and 2014-15, Ukrainian banks learned how to qualitatively restructure problem loans, and business accordingly knows how to negotiate about it.
What is the state of the company after six months of war. What are your plans for the future?
PrivatBank remains operationally stable. At this time, I would not like to make any predictions about the results in 2022. I can say that we set ourselves the task not only of continuing to serve clients in the payment infrastructure, but also of providing them with new loans.
What are the main lessons you learned as a manager through the war?
I think one of the most impressive points is that even despite the war, the banks were able to maintain the trust of their customers. PrivatBank will try to make maximum efforts to help the country and Ukrainians survive these times and then, after the victory, join the recovery process.