How Ukraine’s fourth largest bank relies on Google Workspace during unprecedented times
Director of Information Technology, Ukrgasbank
Ukrgasbank in Ukraine is a unique bank: we focus on financing environmentally sustainable projects, and every second megawatt of renewable energy installed in Ukraine is financed by us. We are the fourth largest bank in Ukraine by assets, and we service around 900,000 individuals and 3 million corporate and retail clients. We have 250 offices across 152 locations throughout the country.
When the pandemic hit, we wanted to keep our employees safe while maintaining efficient and reliable communication and collaboration. Then Russia invaded Ukraine, displacing millions and forcing us all to live and work very differently. As we continue to operate in this challenging environment, remote collaboration has become even more important, and as the director of information technology, I’m pleased to say I’ve found what I’m looking for in Google Workspace.
Keeping collaboration possible while reducing costs
We have about 1,700 employees who work out of our main office in Kyiv and with the emergence of remote/hybrid work, we had to solve how to keep them collaborating seamlessly. As a result of having so many distributed employees, we discovered that part of our company’s data — at least 30 TB of user data — was stored on users’ computers without the protection of a centralized backup. We calculated that about 90% of this data could potentially be moved to the cloud.
And so we launched two pilot projects with different cloud providers in the summer of 2020 to address this challenge. We divided all of our users into five profiles depending on the relevant tools for their roles, volume of email and network storage, and requirements for information security and data protection.
After a comprehensive study of both pilots, we chose Google Workspace not only because it provides end-to-end encryption, a centralized database, and frictionless communication, but also for economic reasons. By migrating to the cloud-based work and collaboration platform, we reduced our total storage costs by at least 14%. Adding in the virtually unlimited size of the Google mailbox and cloud file storage, the savings amounted to 25% to 30%.
Seamlessly switching on new ways of working
By the end of December 2020, we signed a joint migration project with partner Softprom, a value-added IT distributor in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe, to help us with the deployment. We purchased 4,000 licenses, with a mix of types, ranging from basic to enterprise.
Given the scale of the migration, we decided to move gradually to avoid overloading our help desk support team, which consisted of eight specialists at the time. I also predicted that the biggest challenge we would run into was people's reluctance to change tools. That must be factored into the beginning of a project such as this, so we trained “change agents” to facilitate adoption. They became comfortable with Google Workspace’s offerings and then helped colleagues by providing tips as well as advice when they migrated.
The rollout began with members of the supervisory board, branch directors, department heads, and their deputies, because they have the highest needs regarding communication and collaboration. Softprom developed a series of mandatory educational webinars on setting up and using Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and Meet. We transferred more than 40 Ukrgasbank divisions over the course of about a year.
Now that we’ve switched to Google Workspace, we can’t imagine going back to our old way of doing things.The cloud gives us flexibility and scalability. To add new users to our legacy system, we had to buy servers and licenses, costing both time and money. With Google Workspace, onboarding new users takes a few clicks, so we’re able to get people up and running quickly and scale our operations in a way we couldn’t before.
Maintaining security against all odds
Security is a concern for any bank, and we are no different — we want to protect our customers’ private information and their money. Before switching to Google Workspace, we installed anti-virus and anti-spam software on all our employees’ devices to prevent data breaches. We no longer need those services now that we’re using Google Workspace. However, to further fight spoofing attacks and spam, we have set up authentication to outgoing messages with a digital signature via DKIM, Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, Conformance (DMARC) records, and Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Now, the most questionable emails are processed automatically and don’t even reach the end user.
Due to current instability and uncertainty in Ukraine, it’s harder than ever to verify the identities of our customers. We currently use Google Meet for remote video verification to continue serving our customers in the way they’re accustomed to.
Next, we plan to maximize our use of Google Workspace by using Forms for surveys and Sites for creating internal websites. Most important, we plan to continue collaborating and communicating effectively with each other while being remote. And of course, we remain committed to making sustainable energy accessible and affordable to everyone in Ukraine. By creating a flourishing green energy marketplace, we seek to contribute to a better quality of life, a better environment, and a better future for all.