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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Banker Becomes Soldier In Ukraine's Frontline

Tom Burroughes

22 March 2022

A few weeks ago, Eric Kadyrov, a former investment banker at Russian economy, asking business leaders and CEOs globally to stop any business with Russia,” he told this publication in a Zoom call from his home. 

This isn’t the first time Kadyrov, like some of his compatriots in civilian life, has had to pick up a weapon. But the circumstances could not be more different.

“I actually served in the Russian army when it was a Soviet Army. When we still had the USSR. So I served like 35 years ago. And I had basic military training but also I had the training, specialising in radar systems. I am a scientist and technologist, and my career was in technology and finance,” he said. 

Along with more than a dozen other family members, Kadyrov is in a house in the Kiev suburb of Borshagovka, 20 minutes from the city centre. When the Russian invasion started in February, Kadyrov decided he was going to stay and fight. 

In a document outlining his life and events in Ukraine, as well as his VC business, one sentence stands out: “I take care of food, medical supplies for all, playing with kids, overall security and killing every Russian soldier that I detect in the neighbourhood.”

Financial background
It is a far cry from the world Kadyrov has inhabited until a few weeks ago. He previously worked as a technology executive at Hewlett-Packard, Imaging and Printing Group, Office of Strategy and Technology, in California’s Silicon Valley and he was also a tech-focused investment banker with Credit Suisse (Geneva) and UBS (Zurich). Studying for a PhD in physics at the University of Wisconsin, and taking an MBA at Cornell (2004), he also founded, an AI-driven venture capital-as-a-service (VCaaS) company, and co-founded Langua Metrics, a speech analytics company. His business has offices in Kyiv, with about 50 data science and AI engineers in that city. 

The wealth management industry – as this publication has mentioned in the past – has a tradition of bringing former military personnel into its ranks. It is not uncommon to come across a private banker, recruiter or family office figure who has spent time in the army, air force or navy. It is therefore all the more striking when matters pivot 180 degrees the other way. (Kadyrov was introduced to WealthBriefing by a wealth management executive search figure who has previously served in the British Army.)

Scenes of war
Kadyrov’s 67-page document describing Ukraine’s situation contains photos of burnt tanks a few yards away; pictures of Ukrainians with Javelin missiles; pictures of people making “Molotov cocktails” – now known as “Bendera Smoothies.” Some photos depict “before” and “after” scenes – elegant houses, gold-topped churches and town squares, juxtaposed with knocked-out tanks, dead Russian soldiers and smashed buildings.

Photos from Eric Kadyrov's Private Tech Network document, shown to this publication

There’s more to fighting Russian forces than arms. Kadyrov remains very much aware of the financial angle; he described the efforts that he and other Ukrainian business figures have undertaken to put pressure on Western firms – such as his former employer, Hewlett Packard, to cease doing business with Russia. 

It is a struggle, Kadyrov said, to mentally process what’s happened. 

“No one believed that Putin would attack at this scale, support of Ukraine in this war against evil. Despite the huge price Ukraine is paying with destroyed infrastructure, lives of its citizens and innocent children, we will win and freedom will prevail!"