"War is never a good thing" but neither is "cutting off a whole country" says MarketFinance boss Anil Stocker
UK-based MarketFinance is understood to have between 15 and 20 software engineers dotted around Russia. The SME lender does not want them to feel cut off from MarketFinance, or the rest of the world.
“War is never a good thing” but neither is “cutting off a whole country,” says the CEO of SME lender MarketFinance, which is trying its best to support its Russian-based staff as the West closes ranks on the country.
It has pre-paid its Russian employees their salaries up to the end of May 2022 and has also put forward other measures to help in Ukraine, as have other fintechs.
The moves come amid sanctions and other punitive measures against Russia by the West, including Russian banks being excluded from international payment system Swift and Visa and MasterCard blocking payment services to Russian banks. MarketFinance does not have any lending exposure to Russia.
The SME lender does not have an office in Russia, but staff are continuing to work remotely amid the conflict.
Anil Stocker told AltFi: “The average person there will go through a lot of uncertainty as to payments, banking systems etc. We wanted them to not have to worry about that given that they are our people.
“There are many tech companies that have talent in Eastern Europe and Russia and there are still paths of getting money in. But it's a lot harder than it used to be.
“There are some banks that are sanctioned and others that aren’t at the moment.
“We continue to work with other fintechs, payments fintechs, that are looking at the market closely and advising us as well how we can move money.”
The co-founder of MarketFinance, Ilya Kondrashov, is half-Russian, half-Ukrainian. Kondrashov is a non-executive with the fintech but is no longer operationally involved with it.
But Stocker says it was his decision to pay staff upfront until May and put forward the other packages of measures to help out in Ukraine.
The measures also include sponsoring UK visa applications for Russian employees if they want to move to the UK; and donating 10 per cent of the firm's new revenue in March to the Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine Humanitarian appeal.
It is thought this could amount to around £100,000 but Stocker would not confirm this, while the CEO says it’s too early to talk about how many Russian staff will take up the visa opportunity.
"All these decisions have been my decisions. We are a UK company, we only do business in the UK," Stocker says.
"We have always had a very global approach to talent, we have always sponsored visas, we have relocated people to the UK, we’ve employed people in different counties.”
“We feel that it’s our duty as a company to A to help the situation in Ukraine and B also help our staff, who have nothing to do with this war and are against this war and bring some stability to the situation.
“War is never a good thing, neither is cutting off a whole country, that doesn’t seem to be a good thing either.”
On Russian staff continuing to work, he said: “They are embedded into our team and fabric of the company.
“They are on zooms, they are town-halls, they are working together in their teams which are cross-functional.
“They are continuing to work hard and deliver. So far, we are continuing well as a team.”
But he closes by pointing out the conflict is a “fast-moving” situation and things could change quickly.