Access Interview: Ani Khoperia, Head of HR and Organizational Development at Credo Bank, Georgia

Published by Aixa Alabi on

By Katharina Schachtner

Ani Khoperia is working with Credo Bank since 2007, heading the HR and Organizational Development Department since 2019. She had the opportunity to manage several unique and complex HR projects last year. For her outstanding achievements, in 2021, she was nominated “Best Employee of the Year”.

Credo Bank has recently successfully completed the acquisition and integration of Finca Bank Georgia in unprecedented speed. Engaging people during such a substantial change process is highly complex and critical. Tell us what you did, how it went and what worked particularly well.

The HR role in the merger process of two banks started with performing an in-depth due diligence analysis to identify integration risks and help mitigating them by establishing a consistent and transparent communication and staff integration plan. Accordingly, we managed all people-related integration activities, held various trainings, and retained key employees of the acquired institution.  We also did a lot to maintain employee engagement and morale in both companies, to stabilize and optimize the workforce and combine the best HR practices and approaches of both institutions.

Our aim was to retain as many employees as possible and avoid bigger disruption by carefully addressing work ethics, being transparent and consistent in communications and decisions, and actively supporting employee adaptation and cultural fit. Eventually, in only three months we managed to retain and onboard 70% of Finca Bank Georgia’s employees without legal disputes.

What have been the main success factors in achieving common values, collaboration at eye-level and an inclusive working climate for the unified team?

Managing the HR integration of two companies is a big challenge. For our successful merger different factors played a role. Firstly, HR was involved in the acquisition process from the very beginning of the due diligence phase, which helped to understand the anticipated integration tasks and risks, which were addressed in the strategic staff integration plan. Our well-prepared, comprehensive integration plan and the aligned HR team was the fundament for successful coalescence. From the very first day when the acquisition was announced, we were ready and knew what to do.

Proper communication is essential to bring everyone on board and stimulate cooperation during times of change. How did you manage staff communication in the integration process? What did you do to handle difficult situations or emotions?

Such transactions create uncertainty for employees of both companies. HR helps smoothing out the situation and calming fears. Acknowledging that stress and other emotions exist, we try to address employee concerns as soon as possible. Providing transparent and consistent information about the process and decisions that affect individual employees plays a crucial role. We didn’t make promises we knew we couldn’t keep.

From the very beginning our aim was to focus on shared values and alignment, rather than on differences. We brought together both companies’ middle managers to facilitate the integration efforts on all sides.

To involve and connect with people as early as possible, we had one-on-one meetings and interviews with each employee of Finca Bank Georgia, held staff meetings, shared FAQ and sent ambassadors into each team. The Credo management team visited every Finca Branch and talked about Credo Bank as a new employer, the positive outcome of the deal, the shared vision and strategy, the progress of the integration and the anticipated benefits for everyone. Onboarding and induction trainings for newcomers gave people understanding about Credo – our values and culture – and that they are now part of a bigger and more exciting organization.

To close, please share with us the most important personal and professional lessons you learnt in the last year.

In merger and acquisitions, HR professionals are making deals successful. Many mergers fail to achieve their objectives because HR is not involved early enough. Early-stage involvement helps to understand the other company’s culture, structure, and upcoming integration risks. No one can manage integrations alone. Aligned, well-coordinated team and employee involvement plays a crucial role. Teamwork is important within and across different departments. Planning and making as many decisions in advance as you can helps a lot. In the active merger process the environment changes so fast, that you also need fast decision making. So pre-agreed important decisions and action plan gives you an advantage.

To summarize, with teamwork, vision, a proper strategy, and values that guide the process every big project can be achieved, and all challenges can be overcome.

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