A Passion for transition

By Larry  Sherwin


Even after they leave, EBRD alumni make their mark

It is well-nigh impossible to generalise about the careers of former EBRD employees. More than 5,000 people hailing from all corners of the globe have worked at the Bank or in its ever-expanding network of resident offices. Armed with on-the-job training in the intricacies of transition, they have used their experience at the Bank to catapult themselves into every describable activity, conventional and unconventional.

A number of EBRD alumni were politicians before coming to the Bank; others assumed political office after leaving the Bank. The EBRD’s third president Horst Koehler springs naturally to mind, moving from Exchange Square to become Managing Director of the IMF and from there to become president of the Federal Republic of Germany. Or Djoomart Otorbaev, who went from the role of senior advisor at the Bank to become prime minister of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Many former EBRD staff members left the Bank and used their skills to do something entirely different. Take Jean-Marc Debricon who left a 16-year-long career in investment banking (including a stint at the EBRD Treasury Department) to build a school in Cambodia under the auspices of a French NGO called Enfants du Mekong. This led to a number of jobs in the non-profit sector and, most recently, to his becoming CEO of the Green Shoots Foundation, an NGO focusing on sustainable development across Asia – as well as in the Kyrgyz Republic, where it launched an HIV/AIDS initiative.

Or take Mariam Megvinetuhutsesi who joined the Bank in its formative years in 1996 – and whose career path in many ways reflects developments in the region and the impact of the Bank. After a year in the United States, Mariam worked in the Georgian president’s office where she ended up interpreting for the EBRD’s first president, Jacques Attali, during his visit to the country in 1992.

As fate (and history) would have it, the Bank’s first “resident office” was a single fax machine in her Tbilisi apartment which could only receive (and not send) faxes, meaning a visit to the post office for communication with London Headquarters. And with no functioning banking system in the early years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, staff salaries were brought every few months in cash.

Fast forward from those pioneering days to her transfer to London where she became a fully-fledged banker working in the Banking Department. After 11 successful years at the EBRD, she moved back to Tbilisi to join TBC Bank where she became Deputy CEO – only to return (briefly this time) to London in 2014 to celebrate the listing of TBC Bank on the London Stock Exchange, itself a true EBRD success story which had a real impact on the Georgian economy.

EBRD alumni paths are indeed diverse, but they tell a tale of talent, commitment and, frequently, continued public service. Beyond government, Bank alumni have made their way to think-tanks, universities and public policy organisations around the world. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is now home to numerous former EBRD economists. One is Professor Nicholas Stern, who was the Bank’s second Chief Economist, serving from 1994-99, before moving to the World Bank as senior vice president. Since 2008, Lord Stern has been Chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the LSE. His ground-breaking review on the Economics of Climate Change, released for the British government, was one of the most significant reports on this crucial issue, and has had an impact on policy-makers to this very day.

The EBRD has nurtured and launched a broad range of talent which people have used in new capacities. It has also incubated budding artists and writers. Japanese novelist Keiko Ito springs to mind – as does former EBRD compliance officer Stefan Losi who is now in a senior position at the United Nations. Stefan has always been a creative person, moving from publication of an independent art and poetry magazine to the visual arts. His latest activities include a series of glass sculptures which incorporate his poetry.

The recently formed EBRD Alumni Association has made a concerted effort to find the many employees who have left the Bank. They are a peripatetic bunch, hard to track down, and spread across all of our shareholder countries and around the world. Thus far, over 2,000 have been located and become part of an expanding network on the Association’s website.

The Bank has come to view its former staff members as an amazingly varied, influential and experienced human resource waiting to be fully tapped – for business development, mentoring, advice and contacts. If the past quarter century is any guide, we can continue to expect great things from future alumni in the decades to come.