A Word with … Nick Piazza

26 Mar, 2008
A Word with … Nick Piazza

Nick Piazza (Konstantin Klimenko)

An adventure seeker, caught by Ukraine

Shaking hands with Nick Piazza, originally from Chicago, it struck me how truly small the world is. In the summer of 2001, Nick worked in my native city, Zaporizhia, and even worked in the very village where my parents own a house. So, our discussion got off to a good start.

As I soon found out, Nick tried his hand on a collective farm as a combine driver assistant – the old combine worked barely 30 minutes a day before breaking down and the driver needed someone to go back and reap everything missed by the old machine. I was even more amazed when Nick told me he had bought a dacha in Zaporizhia, near its famous picturesque island Khortytsia. It astounded me so because the region can hardly be called the healthiest in the country.

“That was my best investment basically,” he argued, smiling, and told me the basis for the decision: “We were sitting and drinking late at night with my friends at somebody’s father’s dacha and I asked how much a dacha like this would cost. I was told, ‘two hundred bucks,’ and I thought, ‘why not?’”

Besides, Zaporizhia, according to Nick, is the place where his “Slavic existence” actually started, since it was the first Ukrainian city where he began to work and take Russian language lessons. Being a football fan and a former player himself, Nick said his “heart is still with Metalurh Zaporizhia,” though now, living in Kyiv, he follows Dynamo Kyiv and his friends are trying to convince him that Shakhtar Donetsk is not that bad.

Back in 2000, before coming to Ukraine, Nick worked in Moscow. So when he moved to Kyiv fulltime in 2005, everything already seemed familiar to him. Having lived in the thick of things for the last seven years, Nick excitedly discussed the changes that have taken place in Ukraine both in terms of the national identity and business during those years.

“In 2005 Ukraine really jumped on the world stage,” he noted. “We’ve seen the stock market develop so much in the last three years, when I look back it’s hard to believe how much has changed. In 2005, most investment banks traded with smaller international funds and the PFTS got little support from the local market. Over the last two years there has been an explosion of local funds fuelled mainly by the more than 100% returns annually Ukrainian equities have brought back.

Nick is also bullish on Ukraine in 2008 despite the turbulent times western markets have faced since the beginning of the year. “Ukraine missed out on a lot of the bull run that started in the CIS in 2000 and still has room to catch up. Strong steel prices will continue to support economic growth, with reforms in the agriculture sector and growing consumerism putting both these sectors in many investors’ sights in 2008.” Nick also named the UEFA EURO 2012 football championships as a catalyst for the country’s further development.

Going back in time, Nick recalled his plans of becoming an “Indiana Jones type historian.” Back in the States, he graduated with a degree in classical history, and had planned to continue his studies, but first wanted to visit Europe and see how people live there. He studied for some time in Spain and also fulfilled his other dream – to visit Italy, where his roots lie. Besides, ancient Rome is one of his favorite historical periods and subject of studies, since he “likes the Roman mentality, their way of thinking and building social relations.” His plans of returning to the US and getting his doctorate have been put off to a future date – the Ukrainian rhythm of life has grabbed hold of him for at least the next few years.

After becoming interested in Eastern Europe, he found a position as an English teacher in Russia, then moved to Ukraine, bought a flat and a dacha here, and now owns a basset hound and, accompanied by his wife, feels absolutely comfortable here.

Just before our interview, Nick accepted a new position as Head of Sales at Galt & Taggart Securities, one of Ukraine and Georgia’s biggest investment banks, and is excited to have the opportunity “not only provide investors with new products in Ukraine, Georgia and Uzbekistan, but also having the chance to work with a group of people that he has known and respected for a long time,” he said. “As the market continues to develop, investors and issuers are looking for more sophisticated financing opportunities. I think with the backing of our retail arm we will be in the best position to meet these demands.”

According to Nick, although he abandoned many of his hobbies due to a harsh work schedule, he still remains an adventure seeker – making crazy trips around Ukraine, for example. “We made a trip on a 30-year old Antonov, which is a flying museum. It was a little bit scary but exciting!” he recalled laughing. Actually, Nick prefers travelling outside the usual tourist places. He feels that coming closer to nature and visiting places where normal people live their regular lives is like plunging into real life.

Source article: https://archive.kyivpost.com/lifestyle/a-word-with-nick-piazza-28682.html