From Journalist to Financial Expert

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7 Feb, 2011
From Journalist to Financial Expert

The FINANCIAL — The story of Nick Piazza, CEO of BG Capital, is a good example of one enthusiastic American who travelled a long career path from journalist to financial expert, now heading the investment bank owned by Bank of Georgia.

Piazza was appointed as CEO of BG Capital in 2008, during the time of the world financial crisis and the 5 day war between Georgia and Russia. Piazza changed the strategy and vision of BG Capital, turning it from a reactive business to proactive, making business profitable for the past two years already.

“I never thought I would be the kind of guy to end up working in an office, but what I have found out is that being an investment banker is really about meeting with people and helping them build their dreams, which for us is really exciting,” Piazza said.

“I guess my expectations have been more than met. The dreams you have as a child and thoughts you have as an adult are quite different but in the end it turned out being what I had always wanted. I wanted to be involved in international affairs, to travel a lot, meet different people and be able to define their lives,” Piazza added.

“We had to bring a new culture to BG Capital. Whereas previously it was a culture of being reactive, sitting and hoping that somehow money would fall out of the sky, we had to become wolves, and that idea turned out to be quite successful as we are now in the second year of profitability. The company has made huge strides. Currently we have a smaller team than we had in 2008. However one that is much more experienced, aggressive and driven both in Ukraine and Georgia,” Piazza said.

Before joining BG Capital, Piazza worked for various companies in the world, including Interfax in Moscow and Concorde Capital in Ukraine.

Piazza, who is a grandchild of Italian emigrants, was born in Chicago, USA. He graduated from Lake Forest College with a degree in the arts, studying history, the arts, and journalism.

Journalism has been a part of his life since childhood. “I was involved in journalism in school and later at university. There is a lot that is interesting in terms of being a reporter, being a foreign correspondent, travelling all around the world, and meeting with other people,” Piazza said.

“I never thought I’d be a guy sitting in an office all day, working on his computer. I really liked going outside, talking with people, learning about different things, because in journalism every day you have new coverage stories, different topics, and that’s what I really enjoyed about it,” Piazza added.

Being a journalist gave Nick access to a lot of people, broad understanding of what was going on in the world, how people made money and tried to live their lives, as well as got to know lots of facts about how the world works.

Piazza worked for Interfax, covering business issues. “I was working for English language press, not so much in Russian. When I arrived in Moscow in 2001 the question everyone asked me was “what the hell are you doing here it’s a terrible place, you came from the US, why would you come here?” and after three years the question was still “what are you doing here?”,” Piazza recalls.

“In the US I think the media is almost a victim of its own freedom. After talking to my journalist friends, I think American journalism was better 10 years ago and even better 20 years ago. I think what you have in America across all segments of culture, is concentration on attracting the most readers, fans, spectators and what’s necessary in order to do that, or instead of keeping the standards of their publication or product at a high level and remaining focused on an educated audience, constantly downgrading to a less-sophisticated audience, which is what we are steadily seeing in American media coverage,” Piazza said.

In Ukraine Piazza found new, young, very aggressive media, growing in different aspects in business, in investigative reporting.

After leaving his journalism activities Piazza met some people who were starting an investment bank. The idea of getting involved in the real business of building a company really appealed to him and Nick shifted in the financial sphere.

“I got to know a lot of business people and it kind of make sense for my career as I wanted to try and do something new to have the chance to help deal with business and the economy. The job offer came through investment banking in Ukraine and I immediately accepted,” Nick said.

Piazza was appointed as the director of corporate relations at Concorde Capital, coordinating the sales, research and corporate finance departments in the company.

“I consider myself very lucky. I decided to take this chance, basically relying on my experience using the information I gathered through my work. I started as an analyst analyzing companies, then I moved to selling these companies to foreign investors and now this is my job – meeting with the owners of companies and helping them build their businesses. That was the kind of ladder I took, I was a foreigner and from a place where service is more developed so it gave me initial advantages,” Piazza said.

Nick sees much similarity between being a journalist and a financial expert. In both professions you have communication with people, which is a key part of his job.

“A lot of my work as financial analyst is similar to journalism. I was on sale and investment banking, the key thing that looks great is meeting people, different businesses, you want to expand how their business works, to try to match their needs with the capital and financing to help the people reach their dreams. The other side is you help investors find different attractive investment opportunities,” Piazza said.

Piazza believes the key part of his job is the ability to relate to human beings and to talk to people. “When you are a journalist you have to be out there, in people’s faces, talking with people, asking questions and making the public interact with you. I would say that was something similar to being a financial expert, you have to go to them, talk with them and understand their business in order to help them,” Piazza added.

In Georgia, the stock market is still in its early stages of development. Piazza believes that several things need to be done. First is to improve the infrastructure of the current stock exchange, basically bring new instruments to the Georgian public, so that the population love and take part in the stock market, as well as raise public awareness of Georgia in international markets as a good place to do business.

Piazza believes Georgia is lucky to have specific laws concerning taxation, securities, all the things needed for the foundation of a good stock market.

Piazza considers himself lucky as the two countries he loves most are Ukraine and Georgia, where he lives and works. Nick first arrived in Ukraine in 2000 and was overwhelmed by the natural beauty. As he states he spends almost a third of his time in Georgia and comes to the country as often as he can.

Piazza has already planned his retirement. As he says, he will be spending his summers in Ukraine and winters in Georgia, namely in Kakheti or Batumi.

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