“Believe that sometimes when the opportunity sounds too good to be true, it may be true. In fact it may be the best decision in your professional life. So, never shy away from the opportunity. Always aim just a little out of the range. And you may be surprised to realize how much more you can really do.

Attending IE’s Master in Finance program was one of those fortunate decisions in my life. It gave me a strong boost right after graduation and consequently always comes up at one point or another in my professional life. If you want to learn everything about financial market, including the type of work you should expect in the industry, IE is the place to go.” (Papuna Lezhava, Master in Finance alumnus at IE Business School, Class of 2009/2010)

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my recent interview with Mr. Papuna Lezhava, alumnus of the Master in Finance at IE Business School, class of 2009-2010, who is now working at the World Bank, Washington D.C. Papuna is the first student from Georgia who has come to IE for the Master in Finance. 

 Papuna 5


Viet Ha: Papuna, could you briefly tell us about your career path after you graduated from IE in summer 2010?

Papuna: I am a 28-years-old banking professional with 7 years of professional experience. My academic experience includes the Master in Finance from IE Business School, a Bachelor in Business Administration from American University in Bulgaria, and I am a CFA Level III candidate. I was also part of the team that won the 3rd place amongst more than 10,000 participants at the BNP Paribas´s Ace Manager Competition Final in Paris.

Currently, I am employed at the World Bank Group as an Advisor to Executive Director representing a constituency of 13 countries at the resident boards of the World Bank Group institutions (IBRD, IDA, IFC, MIGA and ICSID). My daily work load is divided into three categories, each of which I devote about one third of my time to. First, as an advisor to one of 25 board members, I contribute to prudent oversight of the World Bank Group. This includes lot of background work (meetings with staff, other advisors, and different stakeholders, collecting relevant information from public or internal sources, analyzing proposals) leading to the board discussion twice a week. Topics I cover include: all private sector projects and corporate matters of IFC around the globe, World Bank projects in South Asia, Audit Committee, Budget Committee, Pension Finance Committee, and Financial Products. Second, I am responsible for fair representation of two countries – Armenia and Georgia – at the World Bank Group institutions. Third, due to a very broad network I have access to, I act as an liaison of relations between different divisions of World Bank Group, IMF, other International Organizations, private sector, governments, NGOs, academia, and press. I have to admit that the third component of my work is the one I enjoy the most and in often cases I can see some concrete results, achievements of which are owed to me.

After the Master in Finance at IE and prior to joining the World Bank Group, I worked at the Banking Supervision of the National Bank of Georgia. I held multiple positions at the National Bank, ranging from individual bank supervision, to supervision of specific risks, and elaboration of regulatory policies. Before leaving the National Bank, I was the Head of Financial Risks and Macro-prudential Policy Division.

At a personal level, when I am not working, I try to use my free time for traveling, skiing, playing football, playing poker, or trading securities. I am recently married and have a 3-month-old baby girl.

   Papuna 3                Papuna 6 


Viet Ha: So after IE you´ve had a very outstanding career path, first of all a fast track career development at the National Bank of Georgia and now at the World Bank. Could you tell us about how you made it to the top position at the National Bank of Georgia? And how did you make it to Washington D.C?

Since childhood I always liked to differentiate myself, I was never lazy to go an extra mile, and never hesitant to tackle new challenges. Apparently this attitude pays off well in professional life. I tend to get noticed pretty quickly and this helps me a lot in keeping up a steep career track.

The role of IE in my fast-growing career path cannot be underestimated. I started to feel the value IE gave me after returning to the banking supervision sector. A large part of the knowledge I gained at IE was directly applicable to everyday work. My thorough understanding of some of these topics clearly distinguished me and put me a step ahead of my colleagues. This eventually resulted to my promotion to the head of the division in one year after graduation.

Having spent 5 years at banking supervision, I was ready to tackle a new role. Though not in a rush, I was openly speaking about this in my professional network. At some point I was offered to apply for the position of the Advisor to Executive Director of World Bank Group. Having reviewed the profiles of my predecessor as well as future colleagues, I clearly lacked age and years of experience. I was a bit hesitant, though being bold enough to apply and after successful rounds of interviews I was offered the job at World Bank Groups Headquarters in Washington DC.

Papuna 2

Viet Ha: You also set up your own company PuntoPay, could you tell us about how it all started?

Papuna: The idea was born while I was still in Madrid. Using the scratch cards and standing in the retail store lines to top up my mobile account was very annoying. At the time a technologically more advanced and practically much more convenient service was already available in Georgia.

PuntoPay is an imported innovation from Georgia to Italy. The business envisages the set-up of a self-service kiosk network that can accept the payment theoretically for any type of service (mobile top-ups, utilities, taxes, auto fines, travel tickets, event tickets, banking products, and so on). The kiosks are to be massively located in almost every corner. For customers this is a convenient way to pay for their services and for service providers each kiosk can be seen as an additional branch/sales point.

This business is best applicable to the regions where cash is still popular. After a thorough market research and evaluation of our capacity, we chose to start from Milan. Some key determinants of the decision were: high cash turnover, high population density, high income per capita, good wealth distribution and underdeveloped payments market.

Having freshly graduated from IE, I was well positioned to work on a comprehensive business plan, which eventually resulted in finding a seed financing of USD 500 thousand. Currently, we are undergoing through a second stage of start-up financing for EUR 3 million that will support our expansion plans.

Papuna 4


Viet Ha: Looking back, why did you choose to join the Master in Finance at IE?

Papuna: This was not a hard decision. When I decided I wanted to pursue master in financial field, I started screening programs based on three criteria: rank, program length, and location. I wanted to attend the top rated school that offered a one year program in Europe. IE Master in Finance turned out to be the best rated among the programs I shortlisted.

To be honest, due to IE’s competitiveness, I was not 100% confident I would be admitted. Thus, I submitted applications in couple of other schools in Barcelona and Milan. After being admitted to all of them it was not a tough decision to select IE. 

Viet Ha: How did the IE Master in Finance prepare you for future career success?

Papuna: From my first day at the Master in Finance at IE Business School, the program created a shockingly intense environment for us. It was practically impossible to tackle all group projects and individual assignments, go to classes and career fairs, be on top of the news, send job applications and at the same time resist the temptations of Madrid, which was calling us to party every night. This was not easy. The first semester was the toughest. It took some time, lot of effort, lot of sleepless nights and strong personality to get used to the new reality and to keep up the speed in the coming semesters.

Later on I realized that the program was deliberately constructed in a way that would resemble a tensed working environment. We often face similar real life situation, where we have to prioritize and be efficient.

IE taught me time management and efficiency at work. Here I learned how to work through the night and still be sober the next day. At IE I received the theory from practitioners, which I found to be a very unique, innovative and effective way of teaching. At IE I learned how to compete with peers at work and be friends in personal life.

Papuna 1         Papuna 7

Viet Ha: Do you have any advice for the future candidates to IE´s Masters in Finance programs?

Papuna: Believe that sometimes when the opportunity sounds too good to be true, it may be true. In fact it may be the best decision in your professional life. So, never shy away from the opportunity. Always aim just a little out of the range. And you may be surprised to realize how much more you can really do.

Attending IE’s Master in Finance program was one of those fortunate decisions in my life. It gave me a strong boost right after graduation and consequently always comes up at one point or another in my professional life. If you want to learn everything about financial market, including the type of work you should expect in the industry, IE is the place to go.

(By Viet Ha Tran, Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Finance Master Programs, IE Business School.)

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