Andrii Hrytseniuk

The Banker's CIO of the Year talks to Liz Lumley about building teams and working from bomb shelters. 

Andrii Hrytseniuk, chief information officer (CIO) at Alfa-Bank Ukraine, and the 2022 recipient of the The Banker’s CIO of the Year award — the only individual accolade in the annual Innovation in Digital Banking Awards — is quick to dismiss the honour for himself. 

Career history: Andrii Hrytseniuk 

  • 2020 Alfa-Bank Ukraine, chief information officer (CIO)
  • 2019 PrivatBank, CIO
  • 2017 B2B Soft, director of deliver
  • 2015 Luxoft, programme manager
  • 2012 National Bank of Ukraine, deputy IT director

“This is not my personal achievement,” he says. “This is the result of the work of me and my team of my stakeholders and partners, and it seems that we are doing something great.”

Mr Hrytseniuk joined Alfa-Bank Ukraine in September 2020. At that time, the bank was a “well-known legacy universal bank” in the Ukraine, but it was neither “modern” nor “digital”, he adds. 

The bank’s CEO, Rafal Juszczak, who joined the bank in 2019, gathered a new team of senior leaders, a chief digital officer, chief risk officer and more, says Mr Hrytseniuk, which created fertile ground for innovation and digital transformation. Mr Juszczak, along with executive director Olga Filipenko, who is responsible for creation and development of the Sense SuperApp, recruited Mr Hrytseniuk.

One of his first acts as CIO was to “break the barriers” between the IT departments “who create things” and the business units who are connected to the customers, so everyone started to work as “one team”, he says.

By 2021, Alfa-Bank Ukraine launched a new personalised client experience — the aforementioned Sense SuperApp digital bank. Last year, it saw almost three million downloads, with a record 560,000 in December alone.

“When we started the [Sense Super App project], we had a reorganisation of the way we work — how the IT department works,” he says. “We started to implement the scalable, agile approach, [instead of the] formal project management procedures that were in place, and we became able to work on important research projects at the same time.”

The bank’s strategy created completely new financial products, while maintaining the stability of usual services and the ability to solve as many issues as possible remotely. This year, Sense SuperApp became the core of the bank’s work, maintaining consistent, stable access in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The war is a test of the bank’s infrastructure stability, as well as ability to migrate between cloud and on-premises data centres. However, in addition to maintaining stable access to banking services for customers, the war has been a test of the bank’s staff and teams. 

At the start of the war, several members of the bank’s teams went to work in different countries or in western regions of Ukraine, says Mr Hrytseniuk. However, other members of staff continued to support customer needs while encamped in bomb shelters. 

“Different people react in different ways in such a situation,” he says. “We were lucky that we implemented our idea and had this approach … digital services became much more needed for our customers … because branches were often closed in some regions and almost fully unavailable for periods of time.”

Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and two months of martial law, six more updates and 18 new features were released by April. In 2021, the client base grew by more than 25% and, generally, the number of transactions every month exceeds four million.

In addition to the physical invasion, Alfa-Bank Ukraine suffered a series of cyber-attacks, including distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that started about two weeks before the invasion, says Mr Hrytseniuk.

“The bank was attacked; we have repelled tens of thousands of DDoS attacks,” he says. “In my experience, I have never seen such a level of toxicity … it was not like regular DDoS attacks — they were very intellectual attacks.” 

The bank successfully defended itself from the attacks, which were “definitely linked to sources from Russia,” he claims, even if “of course, it was routed from all countries around the world”. 

Innovation is still a main priority for the bank, says Mr Hrytseniuk, but now his teams have an additional priority to “help each other and the economy”. Military bonds have now been integrated into the Sense SuperApp, allowing anyone to buy war bonds online and help the army and government’s humanitarian programmes. 

“My personal philosophy is you cannot do anything without motivated, talented people,” he says. 

Innovation should be about improving the business and taking it to a new level. “This year and next year, something very interesting will be available. [We may not] know what this will be exactly, [but] I'm sure that in a couple of years a lot of new financial products will appear on the market.  

“It’s interesting to be part of these changes and create something new,” he adds. 


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