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Особистість / Личность / Personality / Persönlichkeit


Director General of Ukrainian state enterprise of posts «Ukrposhta»
Oksana Plotnikova:

«There is nothing more important for practice than a good theory»


Oksana Mykolaivna, your career is developing rapidly. You started as an accountant, were head of large companies, and held ministerial positions ...
What gives you more room for self-fulfillment and professional development: accounting practice or vast managerial experience?
– Each place of work is a solid experience that I have learned to draw and send in the right direction, because sometimes the important thing is not what you can do and know, but how you operate with professional tools. No matter what position you occupy: accountant, company director or deputy minister, it is important to be able to carry out the main function in profession, be an integral element of the company and achieve its goals. So I always say, status and position do not matter; only what you’re doing matters.

What type of profession is «accountant», and who, in your opinion, is an accountant?
– Accountant is a world of reality with concrete results of activity. I consider professional accountant, no doubt, to be a part of managerial position, as this person monitors and records activities of the company, and is charged with massive responsibility.
If we compare profession of «accountant» to a living organism, it is, of course, the human brain, on whose functions all body depends, from mental abilities to coordination.
Not only financial independence of company, but also its reputation often depends on professionalism and integrity of accountants. So this is one of professions that requires continuous improvement and enhancement of area knowledge.

It is often believed that accountant is a cost center in company. Attitude comes from here. What do you need to do to change the stigma about accountants in the business, in the society?
– Working for Ukrtransgaz, I completely changed the attitude of the management and the whole enterprise to accounting profession. I remember them saying, «You made everybody work for the Accounts, not the Accounts for the enterprise». Together with the staff and consultants we have signed accounting policies and laid them within the framework, which concerns the whole enterprise, rather than only Accounts Department. Accountant’s mission is to organize processes so that all documents, submitted were clearly prepared, processed, and, most importantly, comprehensible. Eventually, at Ukrtransgaz even senior managers posted entries, and accountants only confirmed them.
As to the society, it won’t change the attitude towards accountants unless they do. When I came to work at Ukrposhta, from day one I was telling my team: «Let us not be shy about the fact that postal service is a much respected profession, that others are to love and respect it in the same way as we love our profession». And this needs to be spelled out, what and how we do, what difficulties we have, what benefits to society and country there are. And it does work. After all, because we are not silent, attitude towards us and our line of work in general is changing. Even some negative moments and minor issues are perceived differently by our customers, competitors, and the society in general.

Having professional education of an accountant and a certified auditor, you may set the bar very high for your Accounting Department. What essential skills must a modern accountant possess?
– He must be a good manager, a person who can organize, clearly set the task and monitor its implementation. Accountant needs to understand what he wants from the organization and documentation. I always say that every step in the company must be confirmed with a primary document. An accountant should be aware of all the steps. Often destiny of the entire company can depend on a representative of this profession.
In today’s environment, I believe, an accountant should be able to implement and operate not accounting software, but managerial accounting.
What should be the main motivator for accountants? How do you motivate your Accounting Department?
– Motivator is transparency in all transactions, document management systems and balance. I am convinced that the Chief Accountant should know each underlying figure in the balance sheet, and therefore clarify it to the Director. If an accountant is able to quickly and accurately analyze the balance sheet on the basis of common principles, he is a professional, and this should be the motivation. He may know the standards, understand the entries, but if he does not study the balance sheet and all financial records in depth, he has no motivation system.
I think that the right motivation system is, above all, a desire to hold control over the situation in the company, which then makes it possible to move on to a higher level.

Oksana Mykolaivna, you have worked as accountant and auditor. What is the main difference between the two professions? Do you think every accountant can become an auditor
– Not every accountant can become an auditor. This is clear. There are people who like numbers, everyday methodical work: process a document, make an entry, form a balance. Such a person is unlikely to ever be reconstructed and become an auditor. Because an auditor is not just a person with deep knowledge of audit and accounting, but also, and above all, it is a creative person. He sees a bigger picture than registration of documents, their implementation in entry or statements. This is a person who can become good manager, director, system reformer, person who can quickly see a problem that does not lie on the surface and give a clear optimal recommendation, offer constructive solutions for this enterprise to handle the situation.

Being a certified auditor implies permanent work in this profession. There have been cases when the ACU revoked certificates of auditors who had withdrawn from profession for a certain period. Have the ACU applied such measures to you?
– No, it didn’t happen to me. I am always engaged in audit activities. At the enterprise I almost daily come into contact with financial and managerial accounting and I am directly involved. I am even engaged quite actively with a Single Centralized Integrated Platform (managerial accounting software) – a project that we are currently implementing in the company. Also I contribute to the development and realization of various innovative projects in this area.

And how do you feel about accounting outsourcing?
– In a positive way. Now many companies analyze their economic performance, knowing that in present conditions it is more advantageous to outsource accounting (to a reputable professional firm), both from the point of view of economy and responsibility. I believe that it should be used, and it is very right and justified.

These are the benefits. And do you see any disadvantages?
– There are disadvantages, of course. Because, to some extent, you no longer control the accountants handling your accounts. But, on the other hand, it’s good because you cannot influence the result, only evaluate it from the professional point of view. Of course, this creates some purely psychological discomfort, but for the company it is only benefitial.

Do you think presence of in-house Accounting Department contributes the enterprise’s success?
– I’ll say about Ukrposhta, where I work now. On the one hand, it seems to be good that there is staff to whom you vest various functions, but the responsibility is greater as well – both for the staff and for the manager. On the other hand, if accounting is outsourced, there are fewer problems: you sign a contract with the company, set deadlines for implementation and then enforce them and apply penalties, if necessary.
In Europe, large companies tend to outsource accounting and financial functions.

As a holder of several international diplomas in accounting, please share with us, what are advantages from international experience for Ukrainian accountants?
– We definitely lack international experience, we need to study and adopt it. Since I work in the post, I will give an example from this field of activity. Over the past 10 years, Italian post has undergone huge transformation: changed legislation, introduced reforms at government level, organizational changes, and implemented managerial accounting. And the first thing I did when I started to work for Ukrposhta was to visit the Italian post, studied the experience of postal services in Britain, France, Russia and Kazakhstan. And this experience has given me a new vision of work.
In fact, if it were not for foreign examples, we would not have achieved what we have now. I have studied strategies created for Russia by Boston Consulting Group, and for Italy - by Ernst & Young. As a result, having theoretical knowledge base combined with experience, on our own we have elaborated a clear strategy for Ukrposhta without spending extra money on international consultants. Therefore, it is necessary to study and share international experience. You need to learn and develop constantly.

Since we are on the topic of the post... A year ago you took a chance and headed a stagnating state enterprise. Why Ukrposhta? After all, you did not have any experience in this area.
– For 10 years I performed audit in the «Naftogaz of Ukraine» system, in regional gas companies, at Mykolayiv Alumina Plant, Sumy machine-building plant, confectionery factories, sugar refineries and nuclear power plants. During this time, I got great experience and realized that my attitude to activities of many enterprises got different. So when I was asked to head the Ukrposhta, I agreed, guided by the sense of duty and patriotism. I wanted to prove to myself, first of all, that I can understand this system too. For such a short period of time, just a year, our team did many things: we have developed a strategy for company, proposed changes to legislation, actively introduce modern information technology, etc. A big work has been done, and results are already visible.

The post has got many new services over the past year. Which of implemented services you consider as top priority and most profitable for the post now? And what are you planning for the future?
– For any enterprise those services are of priority which are in demand with the population. For the post as a national operator post services are of priority, but they work more effectively jointly with accompanying services. It is convenient to come to the post office and get a wide range of services, from financial to administrative: not just send a letter, package, parcel, but also open an account or a deposit, make any kind of payment, get a bank card or a loan; or make a request for an administrative service and later receive a necessary certificate or document at home.
In today’s world, for instance, in Italy, Germany and the UK, when you come to the post office, contact courier or postman, you receive both traditional and innovative services: finance, internet and live human interaction. Due to these three components posts in any country will always exist, because they are holding together the whole modern world. In other words, success is in the union of tradition and innovation.
It is important to develop these areas in all regions. Our task is to bring all modern facilities, such as the online-commerce, to remote district centers, where it is difficult for the transport to access. People should not feel limited in any way.

Modernization of the post is not a cheap pleasure. Do you receive sufficient support from the state, or you will involve private investors, raise tariffs for the public to cover part of the costs?
– State is actively supporting us here. In accordance with the Universal Postal Union’s directive, the state necessarily regulates provision of postal services to ensure their quality. Every citizen clearly knows that regardless of where they live, they can get any postal service within a certain period of time.
Postal business for operators, who provide such universal postal services in all countries, is very distressed. By regulating tariff policy of post office, state protects citizens, giving them right and opportunity to receive affordable postal services.
In developed countries, regardless of whether the market is closed or open, each operator has the right to provide postal services. But the market is regulated quite strictly. The operator undergoes licensing or regulation, that is, it is entered into the registry and controlled.
In some countries, the state decides either to subsidize those providing universal service in the country in the full, or to create a universal service fund. If a private operator wants to be a participant of this market, it gets registered, pays money, and the universal service fund subsidizes the company, which provides the universal service in full.
What did other countries do? They opened the market gradually. Clear requirements have been put forward to operators: if you have reached a certain level, you have reasonable number of offices, manpower, equipment, and you can provide universal service throughout the country – sure. If you do not meet criteria - then this is out of the question.
What do we have in Ukraine? Many operators deliver mail only to financially feasible destinations – to big cities. In the end, we, as a national operator, are left with a segment of regional centers, where population is less than 50 thousand people, and remote rural areas.

Is there a way to resolve this problem on a legislative level?
– We have made a number of proposals for amendments to legislation. We are actively discussing it with all market participants. Competition should develop fairly, according to rules laid down by the Universal Postal Union and our laws. We should regulate it (the market - Ed.) in a way not to destroy using services by citizens. After all, if we’re to open the market, we will either have to close some branches, or raise prices, and these services will simply become not available to village. State should not allow that, and it will not.

In view of acute need for public institutions to compete with more flexible and resilient private companies in the market, is it possible to legislate Ukrposhta’s monopoly on additional services?
– We offer to define clearly the list of postal services, to consolidate list of universal services in legislation, to open the market for all players in provision of universal services, yet develop clear criteria to operators who can provide these services.
Let private operators, who meet criteria, provide services. For example, we need to develop e-commerce. If you have registered as operator, want and can provide this service - please do. But why just be limited to Kyiv? It is necessary to go further and introduce services in small regional centers, where people also need Internet delivery, Internet commerce. Of course, profitability will be lower than in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk, but you can expand branch network gradually, increasing number of couriers and provide this service in district centers.
I suggest operators to develop this area, but their tidbit is our exclusive segment of delivery mail letters weighing up to 50 g. Of course, it is good to sign a profitable contract with large companies on delivery of bills and invoices, letters and promotional materials, but it is much more difficult to develop the market of e-commerce. So I think we need to establish, as in the civilized world, strict rules for the market, to enable national operator to provide assigned postal services to a good quality.

An issue of low profitability of the national operator has been raised before, as far as I understand, now it is below 1%. What kind of return do you plan to get in the next 5 years?
– Our plans and prospects are to reach at least 5-percent profitability. We focus on increasing revenue, we want to increase wages for employees, modernize and automate mail through increasing turnovers. Online trading is gaining momentum, so I ask our experts to actively gain reputation and credibility among online stores, and I am confident that we have joint task with online stores - to develop this area. They set up websites and prepare offers, and we need to ensure efficiency and quality of delivery.

Who is now on staff in the posts? If upgrading continues building momentum, will employees be able to quickly adapt to innovations?
– Our team is very hard-working, with positive attitude and modern «retooling». I see that we have done a lot in a short period of time. In November 2012 we bought a server, appliances, computers, and in January – began to implement SAP «Treasury». And in March application started working in the whole system. It is unlikely that any company today could in such a short period of time - only 2 months - implement such a project. We plan to start in May with electronic auction, tender, procurement, and in summer begin automating accounting and taxation, by the end of year our balance sheet will be fully done in the module SAP «Accounting». Today, we are actively working in system of branch distance learning. After all, it is not the one who knows, but who quickly finds right information. We have already trained a great number of employees - about 3.5 thousand financiers, IT people.

In the year of your work many interesting social projects appeared at the post office. You also devote a lot of time to corporate social responsibility. What is the purpose of these efforts?
– I believe that our society (including respected journalists) pays too much attention to negative and forgets positive things. One can live, build, successfully create only with huge positivity in the heart. Society should bring up positive people, but for that it should be like that itself. Therefore, our team took decision to do as many social projects in which you can talk as much about good acts, steps, deeds. We organize them for both children and adults. And it seems to me, we do it successfully.
In winter, we launched a national project «Santa Claus Residence» and received a lot of letters from kids and adults, who made their best wishes to implement together with project partners. Now we initiated an all-Ukrainian project «Write a letter to the veteran», which aims at educating young people to respect the older generation. The most outstanding writing will be published in the book called «Victory Mail», in 2015 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory. These projects are not aimed at increasing the circulation of letters; we want everyone to know how many wonderful children we have, how many patriots and heroes there are in the country...
Such projects help us to be more attentive and responsive. After all, we have forgotten how nice it is to write and receive letters. Lately I have been receiving many letters and postcards and I am saving them. It’s much nicer than getting a corny text message or call. I caught myself thinking that, when remembering our parents, we immediately rush to call them, completely forgetting about the fact that you can write an actual letter, which can be re-read more than once or twice, one can at the handwriting...

Now your daughter is studying abroad. It is very difficult to decide to send your child to another country. What prompted you to take such decision and do you not regret it now?
– Like every mother, I am very sensitive about this. Especially because she is my only daughter. But she made this decision and she implemented it: chose a college, prepared documents, passed tests and received confirmation. I did not oppose, supported my daughter.
Now, when I talk to her, I feel that in many areas we speak as equals. She often says, «Mommy, why do you not have such a service in the post, because it’s so convenient, and if you introduce it quickly, you will get the results of such and such!» It is nice and helpful to talk with someone who has a European perspective. Therefore, if you have this possibility, it’s good to send children to study abroad in a variety of international programs.

What is your daughter’s plan so far – to return home or to build a career abroad?
– Now she says she wants to study, return and work here. She believes that in Ukraine, as in many countries, the area of statistics (she is a future statistician) is much underdeveloped, I would even say that it gradually, over the years, has been nearly destroyed. My daughter also wants to deal with reorganization of enterprises and evaluation, risk assessment of contributions to enterprises development – everything related to reorganization and investments. So for herself she has decided that she would return to Ukraine - which will only make me very happy

Oksana Mykolaivna, in 2010 and 2012 you were on the list of Ukraine’s most influential women. You talk a lot about career, self-development, and self-realization – do you find time to rest? Where do you find inspiration, source of vitality and positive emotions?
– Five years ago I decided to exercise regularly. Since then, my every morning starts with a treadmill, yoga and swimming. I always leave the gym in a good shape, with a smile and positive emotions. I believe that any self-respecting person should do sports.
I try to find time to communicate with family and friends, discuss some positive moments with them. Well, of course, to do good things and to be able to give. The more you give, the better are health, mood, and emotional satisfaction.
I’m madly in love with the world around, people, any, even rainy, weather. And do it sincerely. I love my child, job that I am doing - it gives every woman opportunity to be beautiful, elegant, feminine and enthusiastic. I believe that love in the heart and a positive attitude is what inspires us live life to the fullest.

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