Meet Kateryna Danylchenko, CEO, International Bureau of Credit Histories

Kateryna Danylchenko

Kateryna Danylchenko, has over 15 years in the finance industry and joined Creditinfo Group as the International Bureau of Credit Histories (IBCH) Ukraine CEO in 2020. In 2021, Kateryna was recognised as one of the top-50 most influential women of Ukrainian Fintech.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the CEO of the International Bureau of Credit Histories (IBCH) in Ukraine, which is Creditinfo’s subsidiary and one of the largest credit bureaus in Ukraine. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, I headed the office in Kyiv but now I’m temporarily living in Prague and leading operations from here.

Since the war broke, my main focus has been people’s safety, business continuity and trying to ensure Ukrainians, particularly those who have fled Ukraine still have access to financial services. We’ve been working on a project with central banks, international monetary organisations, banks and other financial institutions (FIs) to provide Ukrainian refugees access to credit reports through partner Credit bureaus, including other markets Creditinfo’s subsidiaries. Also, we have recently launched a direct-to-consumer channel via chatbot for Ukrainians to easily access to their credit history.

Using alternative data and data we already have on file, our credit bureau is able to facilitate access to finance for Ukrainians and our refugees living in Europe, so they can do basic things like open a bank account and prove their ability to make payments on time to landlords or new employers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think it’s hard to plan your career because you never really know what is going to happen. There have been several things that have had a major impact on my career and the direction it has gone in so far.

Firstly, when I started my career in Raiffeisen Bank Ukraine risk team in July 2007, I realised that effective risk management in banking is about more than just high-level policies and calculations. It requires close-knit teamwork and most of the people from that first team have gone on to become not just old colleagues but my true friends, mentors and above all valuable influences on my career path.

After the financial crisis in Ukraine, in 2015 I was offered the chance to join the advisory team of the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group). The switch from banking to consultancy was challenging but it was a great learning opportunity and exposed me to different cultures and markets.

Another thing that changed the course of my career happened when I was approached by Creditinfo to head up the Ukraine office. Everything that I had learned in banking credit risk management and the IFC consultancy project management proved to be instrumental to understanding how to address the growth needs of the credit bureau in Ukraine.

It’s extremely difficult to plan anything in life, and I think it’s important to be open to opportunities and always be willing to try something new and learn new skills, even if it doesn’t fit in exactly with your ‘plan’.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I’ve faced a couple of major challenges during my career so far but there are two which really stand out. The first major challenge came when the international subsidiary of the bank I worked for decided to sell its business in Ukraine. Knowing I would no longer have a job was hard to come to terms with, but I wanted to see my role through to the end. I stayed at the company to support the merge and help my team members find new roles within the new structure or at other companies. Although it was a stressful and challenging time, I am so glad I stayed. I learnt a lot during that difficult period but the main take away is that being a good leader sometimes means putting the needs of your team and peers before your own.

The second challenge – something that I am still learning to cope with – was fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion and having to start all over again earlier this year. I’m currently living and working in Prague and the rest of my team is spread out over Europe or staying in Ukraine. In spite of everything we have faced this year, we’re determined to continue business as usual and focus on launching new services and initiatives. This has been the most challenging time of my life and career, but our Creditinfo team has been a huge support.

During the first week of the war, I was staying in a shelter and every afternoon the whole management team had a call to talk about how the team and I were doing and discuss what support could be provided. My colleague Paul Randall – Creditinfo Group’s CEO – also took the time to regularly check-in on us and provide further advice on operations management.

Above all, this was a great psychological support – having the chance to speak with people outside of Ukraine and being able to continue working helped me to maintain some level of normality amid the upheaval and uncertainty.

Level Up Summit 2022

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, I’ve come to understand that the habits you pick up in your professional life feed into your survival skills – it’s all about having a good network of people around you, communicating effectively, and supporting others. As for most Ukrainians, this has been the most challenging year of my life and career. So, I would have to say that my biggest achievement to date, despite everything that has happened, has been continuing to work with and support my Ukrainian colleagues, business partners and clients. I have a great amount of admiration and respect for them – their level of dedication and team spirit in the face of such adversity are really something to be proud of.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I am a strong communicator – being able to communicate clearly and effectively with partners and teammates has been essential to building stronger, more successful teams and projects.  I always remember that a simple thank you plays as important a role as constructive feedback. Open communication is key to being recognised for the work you do and learning as much as possible along the way so that you can be the best version of yourself in the future.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Understand your core skills, develop good communication with colleagues and partners and get involved in projects that interest you, even if they don’t fall exactly within your remit. It’s important to remember that every new experience comes with its own set of challenges, but identifying the aspects that will help to develop your professional and social profile will  prepare you for the next stage of your career.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

In Ukraine, barriers to tech aren’t as high as in some other countries. This is mainly because lots of fintech companies and FIs companies in Ukraine are headed by women or have lots of women in senior roles. However, this isn’t the case in every country. There are many things that can be done to facilitate diversity and inclusion but having more women in senior positions is crucial to overcoming barriers.

The most important reason for this is that women in senior positions have a huge amount of influence as role models to other women who then believe it’s possible to emulate their success. They can also speak on issues that have impacted women for many years, like the gender pay gap and workplace diversity and help to implement long-lasting change. Having greater female representation in leadership roles means these barriers will gradually be broken down.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

In order to support female employees and ensure their successful career progression, it’s important to not jump to conclusions about individuals based on their gender, but to act based on what each female employee actually needs in order to feel like the company wants them to succeed and reach the next stage of their career. One of the most important ways companies can do this is through data. For example, using pulse surveys can help companies track employee sentiment and make tangible changes where necessary.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Visibility and recognition are key to accelerating the pace of change for women in tech.

As a male dominated industry, it’s also important crucial to have an equal number of women and men in senior leadership roles. This sends a strong message to other women who are considering a role in tech, that with the right skills and hard work, women are just as entitled to a successful career and to holding senior roles.

 What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

The tech industry moves at a rapid pace so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest news – whether that be through podcasts, blogs or tech-specific news websites.  It’s also a good idea to follow fintech start-ups on social media or in the news to see what they’re doing and for potential inspiration.

Networking is also key. Attending events or conferences is extremely helpful as you are surrounded by experts and other like-minded people who are operating right at the heart of tech. Speaking with people in the industry is a good way to learn and develop your own perspectives and industry knowledge, or to find out about possible partners to make stronger overall solutions.