Evgeny has worn many hats throughout his career: venture investor, family office manager, and founder. However, growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, he always knew that becoming a founder was his predestined path. Leveraging his talent for attracting smart and driven individuals, he now leads a multicultural team that aims to set a new standard for the global wealth management industry
With a diverse team spanning 9 nationalities at Othis, what unique leadership challenges and opportunities does this present?
First, I am very proud of the team we’ve put together so far. Secondly, when smart and driven people come together in one place, magic happens, and many things flow naturally.
But indeed, leading a multicultural team is an interesting challenge.
What helps is that we all share similar experiences as immigrants that each of us can relate to. I also noticed during my career that most of the multicultural teams in startups share three traits in common which are risk taking attitude, perseverance, and hard work. I would say because of that, many things come naturally when leading a team.
At the same time, given the differences in our background, we benefit from a diverse set of views and opinions, sometimes to the point where you ask yourself: “how did I not think about it? It’s genius!”. This diversity allows us to create a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues and find unique solutions.
But with diverse perspectives, the probability of misunderstandings and therefore conflicts increase significantly. It would be shortsighted not taking this into account when leading a team. As an example, some cultures value hierarchy and formality, while others may thrive in a more egalitarian environment. Communication becomes especially complex with differences in social norms.
Sometimes, the perspective on a situation from your team member might not immediately make sense to you, and that creates the biggest risk of jeopardizing the bond and therefore culture in the company.
As a leader, traditional leadership styles might not resonate across all cultures, requiring you to be more open-minded, flexible, and adaptive. This also extends to all team members - everyone should acknowledge the differences our backgrounds create to communicate effectively.
At Othis, we navigate these challenges by encouraging open communication and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.
At the end of the day, everyone in our team shares common values that unite us as we pursue the ambitious goal to set a new standard in the wealth management industry.
Similar to many at Othis, you've relocated from your home country. What motivated your move and why did you decide to settle in Austria?
I left my home country to study in Europe thanks to my family who wanted to give me more opportunities and certainty, I would even say stability.
Since then, I studied and worked in a few countries across Europe before settling in Austria. Having lived in many places, often surrounded by other immigrants, I got the chance to get accustomed to many different cultures which now helps me to effectively lead a multicultural team.
Austria became my home base a few years ago when I finally relocated here and started to build my network and reputation locally. Since then, I had opportunities to work in Paris, Berlin, and New York, but decided to double down on Austria. It turned out to be the right decision.
Austria has a great reputation and gives us the opportunity to use its strong image to hire talent internationally and relocate them to Austria. We can provide a great quality of life for our employees here that very few other counties in Europe, if none, can provide. It’s been of huge help as we’ve relocated top class experts from all over the world.
Looking into the future, I see a great potential for Austria to lead innovation in capital markets on a pan-European level. With many initiatives under way and general interest of authorities to embrace innovation, the trajectory looks promising and we at Othis commit to contribute to this strong development.
Running a startup is fast pace and filled with uncertainty, how do you approach decision-making as the CEO?
It starts with embracing uncertainty and therefore high stakes. As a person who is constantly creating structures around him, this one was a hard pillow to swallow in the beginning.
As a first immigrant in the family who left his home country before turning 18, many things were uncertain - from obtaining a visa to finding a job. I fostered a risk taking attitude early on in my life. Yet, it took me more than 5 years to find a mental model for making decisions in high stake uncertain environments.
My most important aim was not to get stuck in endless planning cycles that result in analysis paralysis. For me it starts with the acceptance of the fact that you cannot minimize the risk at the time of making a decision. When things are uncertain, the risk is inherently high. Trying to find a path with less risk will most likely lead to nowhere. Understanding this removes the anxiety from making a decision and allows you to decide fast which is needed in a startup setting. As you move along, new information comes in which helps with revisiting the original decision and calibrating the path as you move along. Most decisions are reversible but must be made in the first place.
One thing I remind myself is to trust the process, retrospectively it will all make sense.
Your career has seen you transition from a founder to an investor and back to a founder role. Was this a premeditated trajectory or did it naturally evolve?
It definitely was a predetermined path for me.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs who started their journey in the tough and chaotic times of the late 1980s in Soviet Russia during Perestroika. One of the first, but most important lessons I took away from my family was to never give up in the face of adversity – you face it head on – which taught me a lot about resilience and adaptability.
As I was growing up, I have naturally developed interest for entrepreneurship which to me meant being proactive at taking up on different opportunities presented to you. During high school times, I did many things - from organizing a football team that competed regionally to setting up my first company that developed software for auto repair shops to manage their clients. Looking back at all these initiatives, I believe to have developed talent for attracting talented and driven people.
As a set my path in professional career, entrepreneurship became especially appealing for a specific reason: a lack of boundaries and a full freedom to explore your curiosity to see where it leads you. This was not something you could easily do in a consulting firm, which was an obvious career choice given my degree in Business Administration.
The first company I founded during university failed but taught me a lot of important lessons.
I knew I needed to gain more experience and learning from mistakes and success of other founders seemed to be the best shot at it. That’s when I switched seats and became a Venture Capital investor which was an incredible journey during which I backed more than 30 founding teams.
During my years as an investor, I’ve dreamed of returning to the operational side. I wanted to realize my personal ambitions and go after a big challenge that would attract talented and driven people, ready to go through fire and water together.
Over the last 8 years, I’ve patiently built my expertise and network to spot the right opportunity to fully commit to which turned out to be Othis.
Which other CEO or Founder is an inspiration for you?
I do not think there is one I could pin point. I picked what resonated most with me from several founders. There are 3 in particular that come to mind right away.
Sometime earlier in my career, I was consumed by the story of an American financier Charles Yerkes depicted in great detail in the Trilogy of Desire written by Theodore Dreiser. It’s an amazing trilogy of books that I would recommend to every entrepreneur to read as it provides an exhaustive case study in ambition, willpower, and strategic thinking. The story of Charles Yerkes served as a great inspiration for what is possible through determination and strategy, as well as the potential pitfalls of relentless ambition.
Another entrepreneur, and in this case a tech founder, is Tony Hsieh who was a founder of Zappos. What appealed to me in his story of building Zappos was the customer-first approach that made him go to great lengths to make customers happy. Some of his principles we are now applying at Othis.
About 2 years ago, when the first idea of Othis emerged, I found inspiration in the founder of Tinkoff Bank, Oleg Tinkov. Tunkoff was one of the most successful and profitable neo-banks in the world until recently, before Nubank took over. Oleg Tinkov is truly unique character with his assertiveness, charismatic personality, and outspoken manner. Under his leadership, Tinkoff evolved from a credit business to a financial super app, a goal that every FinTech startup aspires to achieve.
How important is company culture to Othis how are you shaping it as the CEO?
Of utmost importance.
I strongly believe that each business is an extension of its founders personality and values, especially in the early days. From there you start gathering like-minded people with shared values. For me, shaping the culture means primarily making the right hiring decisions. As Ray Dalio outlined in his original “Principles”, each hiring decision starts with the following question: are your values aligned? Only then do you look at the abilities and skills of each candidate.
For me and Stefan, as founders, it was never just about building a successful business. With Othis, we want to create a community of talented, driven, and ambitious individuals with shared values who come together to solve complex problems faced by the financial services industry.
Now looking at our team, we can confidently say we have gathered a stellar team of talented individuals who truly enjoy working with each other.
These are some of the traits that we found to be common among each other in our team:
1. Extreme ownership and responsibility
3. Stakeholder mindset
5. Thinking slow, acting fast
6. Hungry to learn
7. Ambitious to own career goals
8. Risk affine
While we are yet to see how our company culture looks at 100 and even 1000 employees, I believe we are on the right trajectory.
What is the best advice you’ve ever got?
That’s a hard question, there was a lot of great advice that I took.
But there is probably one piece of advice that stood out for me early in my life that I got from my father. He taught me to never assume that everyone is the same as me. Everyone values different things, has different motivations, and goals.
When you expect others to think, feel, or react in the same way you do, you're likely to overlook important differences in background, experience, and perspective. This might make you a poor communicator in your personal and professional life.
I constantly remind myself of this which I believe made me a better listener with more effective communication skills.
What tips would you give to a potential candidate who wants to join the Othis team?
Make sure Othis is the right place for you based on traits you value and career goals you set for yourself. Feel free to reach out to anyone on our team to get a better feeling on what you can expect from being a part of Othis.
Most of our team members joined Othis because they were drawn by the scale, ambition, and challenges the opportunity we are going after presents. All of us gave it a chance to impact one of the most important areas in every person's life - wealth.
Once you join Othis, it might feel like you are hopping on a high-speed train that's already on the move. While a bit overwhelming at first, you will quickly find yourself around as everyone in the company is very supportive. And you will realize that you’ve accomplished a lot in a short span of time and build something you can be proud of.
Sounds appealing? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me (evgeny.zasorin(at)othis.com) or anyone else on the team. We look forward to hearing your story and if it’s the right fit, welcoming you onboard at Othis :)