(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
Kovalenko remarked Premierbank, where he worked in Dnipropetrovsk, was much the same size as The Montgomery First National Banks. Calculating the difference between Euros and dollars, he estimated that even in terms of investments the banks were similar.
Sharapova, who deals with bank-to-bank transactions with Premierbank, even found her counterpart at the Sikeston location.
"But this bank is 100 years old. That is unbelievable," said Sharapova. "It is exciting to know a bank has such a long history."
She went on to explain Premierbank has a seven year history as an independent bank, going back to the early 1990s when the Ukraine began moving from communism to a market-style economy.
For Kovalenko, he had already observed the difference in the American bank staff and those at home. He described the Americans as "more warmer and friendly to customers.
"In the Ukraine they are waiting so," he said with his arms crossed and a frown then laughed and added: "But times are changing. (Banking) is a highly competitive market."
It was how to compete in the growing competitive market that brought the two bankers to the United States for a month through the Community Connections Program. The pair will spend four days as the guests of Montgomery First National Banks, visiting sites in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau and Sikeston.
Working in the international corporate banking division and issuing letters of credit for his bank in the Ukraine, Kovalenko said he wanted to learn more about marketing, including selling products to customers. Also he was interested in loans, collateral and criteria banks in America used as well as banking fees and commissions.
Sharapova expressed an interest in marketing along with banking structure and operations. "But everything is interesting," she remarked. "Our cultures are a little more different."
Local banking officials tried to introduce them to the similarities and highlight some of the uniquely American aspects of the banking business. Their visit in Sikeston provided an opportunity for the Ukrainians to speak with bank employees and tour the local facilities. Then their hosts took them to a Scott County farm operation which the bank has assisted.
Jeff Sutton, Sikeston marketing manager for the bank and one of the afternoon tour's hosts, described the trip as interesting for the local residents as well as the visitors. The group stopped at Kesler Farms near Vanduser where they toured the broiler house operation and the egg production facility. Sutton said the visitors took pictures of much of what they saw, including the farm equipment.
"It was very different from what they were used to," said Sutton, noting that Dnipropetrovsk was a city with a population about the size of St. Louis. "They were quite fascinated with the way how we go out to the customer's business, know his operation, understand what he is doing. They don't leave the bank over there."
Leaving the bank for the United States introduced them to more than just banking operations.
"It is good when people come in friendship, not only to gain a more professional knowledge but to communicate with people in the U.S. as much as possible," said Kovalenko. "It is important we know more from each other as cultures and countries."