Passion with purpose on the international stage
"The competitors were sound asleep in their complacency. When you shake things up and innovate under these circumstances, it is hard not to succeed."
Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, a country which shares its border with Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Gurgenidze received his MBA at age 22. He learned the ropes of investment banking holding a series of roles with increasing responsibility at banks in London, Warsaw and Europe. He rose to executive positions, as the head of tech banking for ABN AMRO, a prominent international bank, and after returning home in 2004, becoming executive chairman and CEO of the Bank of Georgia. During his three year tenure, the bank’s assets and market stock price skyrocketed, and the Bank of Georgia soon became the leading universal bank in Georgia and the region.
“The starting conditions for the Bank of Georgia turnaround were close to ideal: very low lending penetration, primitive banking services and lack of advanced service channels, CRM and sophisticated risk management were pervasive in the Georgian banking sector. The competitors were sound asleep in their complacency. When you shake things up and innovate under these circumstances, it is hard not to succeed,” commented Gurgenidze.
Then in 2007, Gurgenidze accepted the challenge and became Prime Minister of Georgia, continuing his banking reform efforts and implementing far-reaching initiatives that enhanced and revolutionized fiscal and monetary policy. He served through 2008.
From 2009 to 2017 Gurgenidze implemented, as executive chairman a similar turnaround of Liberty Bank, a Georgian bank he took from a bankrupt state in 2009 and transformed into a highly profitable, technologically advanced mass-market lender. Concurrently with building Liberty Bank, Gurgenidze helped modernize two African lenders, serving from 2009 to 2015 as chairman of the Bank of Kigali, Rwanda’s largest bank, and from 2014 to 2018 as chairman of Bayport Financial Services, which is active in seven African markets.
"Reforms he and others pioneered to add efficiency when he was prime minister of the Republic of Georgia were adopted by many nations."
In 2010, Gurgenidze received the Sheth Distinguished International Alumni Award for his passion for country, opportunity and a free market society.
“It is through liberty that you unleash opportunity; equal opportunity, at least as equal as humanly possible, for the entire population,” Gurgenidze said of the guiding principles that made Georgia one of the top three places in the world to start a business. “Then you design a set of policies that help the poorest in the country, but helps them without taking their dignity away. That’s really what we’ve done.”
Since 2012, he’s continued to add his voice and expertise as an early-stage investor in several prominent fintech ventures, including two unicorns — CoinBase, and TransferWise — as well as several other well-known fintech companies in Europe, such as Raisin (where he serves on the board) and Bonify. He has also invested in — and exited successfully — several digital startups in his native Republic of Georgia Most recently, he became chairman of the supervisory board of 4finance Group, a leading European digital and mobile consumer lending group, providing international best practice in governance and reporting within the firm and helping to modernize TBI Bank, its wholly owned banking subsidiary in Bulgaria and Romania.
“As an early-stage investor, I stick to what I know, which is financial services and the digital disruption the sector is beginning to experience. I look at the disruptive potential of the company, size of the opportunity, quality of the founding team and ensure that the company will have at least 18 months of funding secured after the fund-raising round, to give the talented founders sufficient headroom to execute on their vision,” said Gurgenidze.
Throughout this trajectory, Gurgenidze has stayed true to his core values. Experiences enrich who he is, not define him. As mentor and former professor Jeff Rosensweig explained, “Lado's skills extend beyond the technical: he is creative, understands complexity, and is a superb communicator.”
Of Gurgenidze’s work, he added, “Lado excels in both business and politics. Reforms he and others pioneered to add efficiency when he was prime minister of the Republic of Georgia were adopted by many nations. In business, he turned around a few frontier market banks and is also a serial early-stage investor in the fintech arena.”
Throughout his global endeavors, Gurgenidze has remained active with Goizueta. He co-chaired the Emory Center for Alternative Investments, and recently returned to campus to share the stage with Rosensweig, who is the director of the John Robson Program for Business, Public Policy and Government, during the launch of the Robson Conference last year. Gurgenidze is a board member of the Robson Program.
Gurgenidze stays on the forefront of events, by constantly learning and reinventing himself. The future for him is endless.
“As much as I enjoy investing in and watching (and helping) talented entrepreneurs succeed, I might have another bank turnaround or two in me in a senior executive capacity — if the right opportunity presents itself,” Gurgenidze said. “At the same time, I still face a steep learning curve to get the work-life balance right, and need to be mindful of the attention my five kids need from both parents as they grow and mature.”