Veronika Kuchinskiy

  • Degree Programme: MBA
  • Global Nationality: British

Raised in Russia, Germany and the UK, Veronika Kuchinskiy found her international background a major asset when it came to forging a career in banking. After taking on several roles over more than a decade, the London Business School MBA has helped Veronika to refocus her plans as a Venture Capitalist and a leader – all while juggling another important role as a mother of two young children.

Growing up among different cultures helped me in my career. I spent most of my childhood in Germany but was born in Russia, to Russian and Ukrainian parents. I have always been quite independent, even as a child, so I wasn’t afraid of leaving Germany alone at the age of 15 to study in England. I found a school in the UK with many German students and convinced my parents to let me attend. It was a big sacrifice for them to get me there, but it was such a huge opportunity for me. I found the international baccalaureate much more challenging than the German school system. There was also the challenge of adapting to a different language, and of course, living abroad. It was a stepping stone towards adult life. So, when I finally went into banking many years later, I was fully prepared to work in an international environment.

When applying to university, business stood out to me. I was looking for a career that would financially reward me. I didn’t want to have to worry about money, like my family had before our move to Germany. I decided to study a BSc in Management with an elective focus on Accounting and Finance at Warwick Business School. When everyone started applying for banking jobs during my second year, I too was really excited at the idea of working in the industry. Unfortunately, this was just after the 2008 financial crash – not the best time to be looking for a role in banking. Despite sending 30 applications for a summer internship in the UK, I didn’t get a single offer. I returned to Germany and was successful in securing an internship at Postbank Finanzberatung. This gave me the time to apply early for a graduate scheme the following year, which enabled me to secure a place at the Royal Bank of Scotland in London (rebranded to NatWest Markets in 2017).

Being an immigrant meant that I understood cultural differences. It’s important to remember that people have different needs and perspectives, especially when relying on others to work collaboratively. Things are very fluid in banking, and over the course of nearly 11 years with NatWest, there were a lot of opportunities to explore different roles. I started on the private side of the markets division covering the CEEMEA region (Central Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa), but quickly moved to the public side and the trading floor, working in Fixed Income Sales and then FX Sales in 2012. Becoming a salesperson was a very steep learning curve, and a lot of responsibility for a 20-year-old, but I enjoyed the challenge and dynamic environment. After having focused on West European Markets for several years, I eventually moved back towards emerging markets in addition to Western European markets after my promotion to Vice President and taking my first maternity leave. Growth was always at the forefront of my mind, which led me to study for my CFA and CIPM qualifications.

Having children changed my perception of working in a competitive environment. I wanted to be more creative and innovative, which is difficult in the banking sector where the focus is often placed on generating profits and saving money by making cuts. I knew it was time for a change, so I started investing my capital into startup businesses and began an internship at a venture capital fund focusing on HealthTech and MedTech, where I still work part-time today. An MBA had always been at the back of my mind, but the timing had never been quite right. Maybe this was the right time?

I knew that doing an MBA was going to give me the time to explore what else was out there and give me some room to reflect. I wanted to improve my leadership skills, as I hadn’t had any direct management experience to date and wanted to be more confident to take on those manager roles. I always knew I wanted to stay in London: my children go to school here, my husband works here, and the industries I’m most interested in, like FinTech, have a strong presence in the city. Aware of its reputation and the international student body, London Business School became the obvious choice for me. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic – without childcare, heavily pregnant with my second child, and working from home – I was lucky to have the support of my partner during the application process. The School was also fantastic; they were with me all the way and even provided advice on which exam to take between the GRE and GMAT. Having postponed my application for several rounds, I was also amazed to receive a Forté Foundation scholarship aimed at high-achieving women applicants for the MBA.

The modules I chose aligned closely with my future goals, namely those focusing on technology and entrepreneurship. Dana Kanze’s Organisational Behaviour classes on leading teams stood out for me – the whole class found them very engaging. I also really enjoyed Financing the Entrepreneurial Business and Pathways to Start-up Success, both with Gary Dushnitsky, which involves thinking about how to start and finance a business, and how to think about getting venture capital investment. The Digital Investing elective had at least one guest speaker every week from so many fantastic companies, including the CFO of the cloud computing company Snowflake.

I’ve had access to so many fantastic practical opportunities at LBS. The Entrepreneurship Summer School is great if you’re serious about starting a business because it's not just theoretical – you see how you would apply your learnings and you get direct feedback from your classmates. People are honest which means you can pivot your ideas – perhaps someone will say “I see what you’re trying to do, but because of XYZ, this might not be the right solution”. I remember presenting an idea for a platform and receiving great feedback on it. I was also encouraged by the judging panel to pursue it in the future. Another great opportunity was the six-week exchange I did at NYU Stern School of Business, which broadened my horizons as I’d never lived in the US.

The wealth of extracurricular activities available at LBS allows students to hone their skills based on their interests and career goals. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Tech and Media Club, I have organised events with companies like MasterCard and Kolleno before taking up a more senior role leading the FinTech team within the club. It was great leadership practice, as well as an opportunity to make new connections with other students across programmes and beyond the School. I’m also the co-president of the Central Eastern and Europe Club, which has helped me to connect to my Ukrainian roots. Being passionate about developing a different skill set has definitely helped me juggle all of these activities.

Now that I have a daughter, I’ve become even more passionate about women's rights and empowerment, making sure that women have an equal standing in the world, and looking at how we treat mothers in the workplace. This is something that I’ve been able to hone as part of my advocacy team leadership role in the Women in Business Club. But beyond that, my whole LBS experience has been fantastic. I've learned so many skills and feel even more comfortable in international environments. Getting involved with voluntary clubs also showed me the importance of making sure that the people around you are aligned with your vision and your goals. The connections I’ve made and the wider alumni network I’ll soon be a part of will also be crucial to my career when I eventually start my own business. Everyone here is open to communication, so humble, and – even as alumni – they keep coming back to LBS.