Ameria In America: Picking the Armenian Apple is the Best Solution
Armenia’s premier advisory and financial services provider, Ameria Group, with more than 500 employees, $ 500 million dollars in assets and branches across the country, is growing vigorously within and beyond the borders of Armenia. Actively engaged in Armenia’s economic development, specifically in its financial and consulting market development with a wide range of financial and advisory services, Ameria has attracted foreign investments into the country and helped local businesses grow, as well.
Ameria Group of companies has brought recognition to Armenia as a winner of multiple global financial awards for its exceptional growth and expertise. In the South Caucasus region Ameria is the only company recognized as a Global Growth Champion at the DAVOS World Economic Forum. The group is known in the region with Ameria Legal and Management Advisory, Ameriabank and Ameria Asset Management Company.
As a pan-Armenian advisory group, Ameria has a mission to reach out to Diaspora Armenians worldwide and has had a presence in America through Ameria Group Inc. since 2011. Ameria was inaugurated during an event in Los Angeles in September 2011 and was attended by Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian and the Diaspora business community.
Venture capitalist Noubar Afeyan, the founder and CEO of multi-million-dollar company Flagship Ventures, is a founding Board Member of Ameria.
A successful Armenian-Armenian Businessman and MIT professor Afeyan, in his keynote speech, stressed the need for providing Diaspora Armenians with an institutional approach to doing business in Armenia and presented Ameria as that one-stop resource for Diaspora Armenians who want to make money and make a difference in Armenia.
“Those of us who live in Diaspora for many years dreamed of a day when there would be an independent Armenia. Today independent Armenia is emerging as an attractive place to do a business. Armenia has a dynamic economy. Many of you have been to Armenia and established businesses there through individual relationships. Twenty years into our existence as an independent nation, I think we have to start thinking about institutional relationships, not just individual relationships. Ameria Group is one such company in Armenia with intent to encourage the exchange of expertise and investments in order to advance Armenia into yet another level,” said Afeyan.
Prominent Investment Banker Ruben Vardanyan, recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the “25 Rising Stars” in the next generation of global leaders, is the Chairman of Ameria Board of Directors, made of professionals who bring together world class expertise and local know-how. Ameria Group CEO Andrew Mkrtchyan, standing in the roots of investment banking establishment in Armenia, has more than 18 years of experience in management and investment advisory. These are only a few of the names who have successfully made investments in Armenia and believe in Ameria’s mission to contribute to the exchange of expertise and investments between the Diaspora and Armenia in order to advance Armenia into yet another level.
Below is an interview with Ameria Partner and Director of Ameria Group’s Legal Practice David Sargsyan. He is leading a team of 13 lawyers and has more than 10 years of legal practice specialized in corporate, securities, banking and civil law.
Question: Which areas of business does Ameria cover? When was Ameria Group of companies established?
DAVID SARGSYAN: To put it in a nutshell, clients come to Ameria to get ‘boutique’ cost effective business solutions, be it for their legal, management or financial needs. Why? Under one umbrella, our clients have access to full-fledged advisory and financial services provided by a team of professionals with years of experience in the local market, in addition to their world class expertise.
Ameria Group houses all the companies under the umbrella of the Ameria brand. Ameria has been providing comprehensive group advisory services under the Ameria brand since 1996 through Ameria Advisory, Ameria Invest (specializing in capital markets) and Ameria Audit.
In 2007 we acquired Ameria Bank. In only five years it became one of the leading banks in Armenia and has been named as the best bank of Armenia for the past three years by the most prestigious global financial institutions. Currently the Group includes several companies and businesses under the Ameria brand that belong to the same shareholders.
Allow me to present each one separately. Our first company Ameria CJSC is an advisory firm providing comprehensive legal and tax support, advisory in business planning, management and marketing (since 1998). The company also provides tax structuring and investment advisory service. Ameria advisory is one of the few companies in Armenia that offers HR management and labor audit services. Ameria Asset Management is specialized in trust management. Ameriabank is a universal bank offering customized banking solutions, including investment banking facilities to corporate and individual clients. It is the first bank to offer special deposits through on-line banking for Diaspora Armenians. Ameria Equity with its private equity practice since 2009 has been providing knowledge and equity finance to “future champion” companies. Prodeco is a real estate and property development company, involved in the development of world class business centers in downtown Armenia.
Question: What are your major accomplishments? What is Ameria’s formula of success?
D.S.: I just would like to share that we started out as a small company with five employees and grew into a group of companies with more than 500 employees who share the same values and vision. Aside from the profit and great projects that also contribute to Armenia’s economic development, I would say our biggest accomplishment is the team of professionals we have managed to bring together in the market. We truly have created a dream team, where everyone is putting their best professional effort inspired with the goals and values shared by all. Having that kind of dedication and professionalism secures exceptional service for our clients and with that a dynamic growth. Ameria itself is a success story for an emerging market, proving it is possible to get high return on investments made and succeed.
So, the formula of our success is our team and our shareholders. They share the same values and standards. Our shareholders are western-minded patriotic Armenians who believe that the profit and success of the company is not only for them, but also for its employees. That is why we have an established bonus system at the end of the year for all employees. Interestingly enough, our shareholders are not involved in day-to day management and have trust in the executive management team. Common vision, values and professionalism are the key ingredients of our success.
Ameria Group is exponentially growing and expanding. Presently you have an office in Los Angeles, California, United States. What made you chose the United States as a destination for expansion?
We decided to enter CA, US, first, because we have a well-established Armenian-American community and many successful businesspeople in California. We see potential for growth in the US and our aim is to become a bridge between America and Armenia, by providing professional support to California market players, focusing on our fellow Armenians, but of course, without excluding non-Armenian potential investors either.
Question: What will Ameria Group Inc. in Los Angeles, USA offer to 450,000 American Armenians?
D.S.: Our mission is to help Diaspora Armenians with an institutional approach toward doing business, to help them make money and make a difference in motherland Armenia. As I mentioned earlier, Ameria is in America to serve as a bridge between the Diaspora and motherland by providing professional legal and management advisory services on promising business and investment opportunities in Armenia.
We hear stories by Diaspora Armenians who have tried to do business in Armenia, using their personal contacts and relations and some have unfortunately failed. Therefore Ameria is in America to help those who have interest in the promising business and investment opportunities with full-fledged advisory services. We help our clients get things done right from the very beginning, be it in the legal, management, HR or other aspects of the business. We want to make sure people get comprehensive legal support needed for successfully doing business overseas and being protected by the law all the way through. We bring world-class expertise and local know-how on how to make a business success in Armenia. By the way about 50 percent of Armenia’s biggest taxpayers use Ameria’s services. In future we might expand our investment-banking services that we are well-known for in Armenia as Ameriabank, but for now we are in America to provide advisory services.
Question: There are distinct opinions on the business environment of Armenia. What do you have to say to those that have no trust in the system and don’t believe in fair opportunities of succeeding in Armenia? How does Ameria intend to win the trust of potential investors?
D.S.: We have many clients from overseas, including the US. Unfortunately, their perception of Armenia is not that accurate when we talk to them because most of it comes from indirect sources, television and other people’s stories. That’s why it is really important to guide them and help them make informed choices based on facts and figures that we have gained as a result of years of experience, knowledge of the local Armenian market and accurate risk analysis of doing business in the region in the given field that our potential client might be interested in. Moreover, we show how these risks can be minimized when doing business in Armenia. Our goal is not merely attracting new investments in Armenia, but rather having investments that are done based on educated decisions that make the process much more effective both for the investors and their partners who might come from different cultures with a different mentality. Armenia has its own business culture. Diaspora has a culture of its own. Ameria is that bridge between the two to show what is on the other end and with proper risk management what the best options are for doing business in Armenia and succeeding.
Question: Are Armenia’s law and business environment favorable to foreign investors, and how so?
D.S.: I believe the Republic of Armenia is at a point now that all the preconditions are there for proper business establishment, structuring and management, especially if everything is done according to the law from the very beginning with the help of professional advisors. Getting a professional advice will take the risks to minimum to ensure the investor’s business success.
There is much to be done to overcome the legal challenge and differences. Our clients from the States are used to a totally independent judicial system, based on precedents and established Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) institutions. Unfortunately in Armenia we still need more developed ADRs. It does not mean we have zero ADR mechanisms. It’s just the Alternative Dispute Resolution institutions need to be improved and more defined. The challenge here is to educate the investors how their interests can be protected best in Armenia within the framework of existing legislation. Despite the challenges, in my opinion Armenia’s judicial system is neither problematic nor inadequate. I would say it’s quite the other way around. We have a system that is rather responsive toward the problems the investors face. Our Legal team at Ameria stands ready to help the investors use the current laws in the best interests of their businesses, as the laws on foreign investments are rather favorable.
Question: What are your expectations of Ameria Group Inc. LA office? D.S.: We already have some clients from the USA who have turned to Ameria for their business needs. We certainly hope to increase the number of such investors soon. We also look for growth and expansion. We are in the US to serve as a bridge and we truly hope there will be bi-lateral cooperation. We will help those who want to invest in Armenia, as well as those who would like to invest in America making good use of our expertise and network both in Armenia and the United States. Indeed, our experience in the American market will be an asset we hope to use for entering other markets, as well.
The signature for Ameria Group Inc. in America has been the apricot (the Armenian apple) surrounded with apples, to symbolize that Ameria Group is in America among many world-class advisory institutions to serve the almost one million-strong Armenian-Americans as a bridge between Diaspora and motherland, by providing full-fledged advisory services on promising business and investment opportunities in Armenia.
Among many awards and 200 projects implemented in the past decade by Ameria, below are the ones that have contributed to Armenia’s economic Development:
- Development of the longest ropeway in the world for Tatev Monastery
- Business plan for the largest mining company in the region-Zangezour Copper-Molybdenum
- Investment projects of more than 500 million dollars
- Equity fundraising for more than 200 million dollars
- The Best TRADE FINANCE Bank 2012: Global Finance Award
- THE BEST BANK IN ARMENIA 2011: Euromoney 2011 Awards for Excellence
- THE BEST BANK IN ARMENIA 2010: The Banker, esteemed financial magazine published by the Financial Times Group
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