Andriy Volkov Presents Investohills as an Example of Volunteering Projects Implemented by the Business Community

Andriy Volkov’s Investohills Group has been specializing in the recovery and restructuring of distressed debt (non-performing loans, NPL) for 13 years. Court proceedings to adjudicate distressed debt cases were suspended for some time during the first months of the russian invasion of Ukraine, and the business stopped.

However, Investohills personnel did not run away; instead, they set up a chat to assist one another during the war. Almost everyone joined the chat – from top managers to technicians. Someone had to get out of Chernihiv or Mariupol; someone needed to get to the border, evacuate relatives, or buy medicines. Gradually, the chat members started helping relatives of their colleagues, friends, neighbors, and friends of friends.

They did not forget about their colleagues because many Investohills employees were mobilized for military service – not only with the Territorial Defense Force but also on the front line in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. So, the company’s priorities were expanded to supplying the necessary equipment, providing regular help, and supporting relatives of the military personnel.

“After a few weeks, once the situation had become less chaotic, we realized that we needed to adjust our volunteering activities to be able to help more efficiently,” Volkov recalls.

Thus, Investohills Group concentrated on evacuating people fleeing the areas of active fighting, providing accommodation for the military personnel and IDPs, purchasing reconnaissance drones for the army, and helping to organize the large-scale body armor production. Investohills contributed over USD 1.2 million to help the army and refugees over the four months of the war.

From the Simple to the Complex

Before the war, Investohills Group was one of many companies adhering to principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The company allocated a part of its profits for CSR and charity. Today, the Group contributes severalfold as much to those who need help. Volunteering became the modus operandi not only for the top management but for most employees.

“First of all, we set the bar for the financial assistance we can accumulate for volunteering and send it wherever it is required,” Investohills’ founder says.

During the first week of the war, the Group transferred UAH 10 million to accounts of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. It was the retained earnings from one of its projects. Company owners considered it appropriate to spend this money to help the army. Later, the Group handed over its two corporate minibusses to the territorial defense force and police to evacuate people from Kyiv Oblast.

Investohills set up its channels to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine via its employees, friends, and relatives because many of them are fighting. The company provided high-quality helmets and body armor to the army. With time, we decided to provide targeted assistance. We began to work closely with several military units and specific volunteers.

“The equipment you supplied allowed us to carry out our mission to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity and inviolability from the foe of the russian federation and protect our personnel,” this statement is often made by commanders of military units in their letters of gratitude to Investohills. According to Volkov, it imparts strength and confidence in the future.

However, the number of volunteers supplying helmets and body armor increased tremendously during the war; for this reason, the Group decided to move on to the more technically complex and costly volunteering work. It gave the impetus to projects of the body armor plant relocation, the establishment of a hotel for the military in Kyiv, and an IDP center in Zaporizhia.

“It is a fairly typical story where individual volunteers procure the necessary mass goods, while larger volunteering projects chose something to specialize in,” the businessman explains.

In a large project, a corporation has a strength that is not necessarily available to small enthusiasts –strong management. Andriy Volkov believes that managing a business is hardly different from managing a volunteering project.

For instance, individual volunteers would not be able to implement the Investohills’ project of creating a hotel to accommodate Ukraine’s defenders.

“We converted a hotel into the very comfortable barracks with cozy rooms, showers, a laundry room, and a canteen,” Volkov tells the story of handing over Investohills’ 300-room corporate hotel to the territorial defense force and the army.

The Group also helps civilians fleeing the war cross the border, deliver scarce medicines, and evacuate people from combat areas. As company owners emphasize, this is an ad hoc evacuation effort rather than a systemic one. The volunteers used the company’s organizational and financial potential managed to evacuate people from Mariupol and Bucha, as well as several multi-child families from Kharkiv.

“If they can’t get to the evacuation meeting points on their own, we seek people we can pay to evacuate them. In one case, we found people willing to go to the occupied region, but they did not have fuel. Then, through friends, we found a fire station willing to share fuel and carry out the evacuation. We always cover such expenses,” Andriy Volkov explains.

The Group recently transformed this field of volunteering by converting its Zaporizhia office into an IDP assistance center. Investohills Group invested UAH 2 million to create a comfortable center capable of accommodating more than 100 people. Here, IDPs can get enough sleep, take a shower, change clothes, get some food and simply take a breath to decide what to do next.

“Sometimes, not having such an opportunity prevents people from evacuating from active fighting areas,” Investohills’ founder indicates.

Working on Two Fronts

The businessman is certain that if founders and top managers did not take part in volunteering, the Group’s employees would become volunteers themselves.

“Many projects, like the IDP center in Zaporizhia, have been initiated by them, and we support it in every possible way,” Volkov emphasizes, “We make some organizational or even legal suggestions, sometimes offer our financial or moral help. It is in demand.”

However, there is a volunteering project where Investohills’ leaders had to apply their management skills to the greatest extent. It was the project of relocating a company making body armor that was blocked because of the occupation of Kyiv Oblast.

Investohills has made every effort to help the manufacturers relocate to Ukraine’s west. The company found suitable space, moved equipment, and paid for the metal purchased to produce body armor. As a result, the company spent UAH 10 million, enabling the manufacturer to start producing 10,000 high-quality armored vests per month at an adequate price.

Investohills’ top managers also thought about relocating the Group’s office but refrained from doing so.

“The Covid pandemic taught us to work from anywhere in the world. Our employees learned to treat Zoom meetings as something normal,” Volkov explains, “We only moved our servers and IT equipment to Switzerland and Poland. However, we did it before the war, and that decision turned out to be strategically correct.

The company keeps working in its core line of business, although not at full capacity. After all, the trials in which the company is involved take place not only in Ukraine. But volunteer initiatives occupy the rest of the time. Most employees stayed in their places, so we keep working as a close-knit and highly enthusiastic team, which is genuinely important right now.

From: Glavnoe in Ukraine