Lev Khasis: Leaving Sber and the Latest News about the Former Bank CEO

Lev Khasis


  •   Early life and education
  •   Start of the business career
  •   Lev Khasis – at the origins of domestic retail
  •   Working in the banking sector
  •   What is Lev Khasis doing now?

Lev Khasis is an aircraft engineer by education who has achieved success in business. The entrepreneur has managed to make a name for himself in commerce, was involved in the rescue of an aircraft factory, and ran a retail business in his home country and in the US. For the last ten years he has held the position of first deputy chairman of Sberbank, so his sudden stepping down from the post has caused much surprise in business circles. What was the reason for this decision and what is Lev Khasis doing now?

Early life and education

Born on 5 June 1966 in Kuibyshev (Samara) into a family of employees of a local aircraft construction plant. From a young age, Lev Khasis saw himself as a spacecraft designer and did not even think of another profession. His parents encouraged his son’s desire to enter the S.P. Korolev Aviation Institute. In school, the exact sciences came easily to Khasis, so he successfully passed the entrance exams to the Institute, where he wanted to study at the Aircraft Department.

However, excellent grades did not help the applicant to get into the desired department. The admissions committee offered Khasis the profession of an aircraft engineer, and he accepted in hopes of later retraining and getting into the spacecraft design bureau. Khasis later described the time he spent at the KuAI as the most interesting period of his life. In the late 1980s, students were already being taught to design aeroplanes on computers and practised in-depth teaching of applied sciences.

The last years of his studies at the institute were during perestroika, the space industry was less and less spoken of, and most young technical university students tried their hand at business. After graduating in 1989, Lev Khasis was head of the international relations department for a few months and then, together with a friend, set up his first company, the Vekt advertising agency.

Later, the entrepreneur received a degree in economics and law, and continued to study science. In 1998, he became a PhD in engineering and in 2006 he defended his doctoral thesis in economics.

Start of the business career

The Vekt advertising agency did not exist for long. In 1991, Lev Khasis was already among the founders and managers of the Samara Trading House, which had managed to establish a partnership with AvtoVAZ. This was only possible because of the business skills Khasis had. He was in charge of advertising at the company. Business was successful until 1993, when the businessman joined Avtovazbank and took over the management of the Samara branch.

The most significant project of this period in Lev Khasis’ career was rescuing the Kuibyshev Aviation Plant – where his parents had once worked – from bankruptcy. By 1994, the company had already been renamed to Aviacor and was in a miserable state. Amid a lack of orders, the company had huge debts to partners and the workers, but Khasis decided to prevent the factory from going bankrupt at all costs.

In 1994 Khasis took over as financial director of the factory, and a year later he took over as head of the enterprise. Within four years, Lev Khasis managed to sign several major aircraft assembly contracts and set up aircraft repair workshops. As a result, during this period, Aviacor assembled and sold as many aircraft as all other aircraft factories put together. In 1995, a controlling stake in the company was bought by the Sibirsky Aluminiy Group, and the businessman decided to fundamentally change the sphere of activity and left for Moscow.

Lev Khasis — at the origins of domestic retail

In the capital, Lev Khasis took up the business that seemed most promising to him: developing retail. In 1999, he joined the Perekrestok Trading House, where a year later he took over as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the trading house. The entrepreneur made a bet on a range that was close to premium class, as well as on modern forms of service. Over the next few years, the chain scaled up and took a leading position in the industry.

Lev Khasis was called the driving force behind the company. He oversaw the most important deals for the purchase of regional chains, ran GUM and restructured the work of TSUM, and in 2006 he became executive director of the X5 Retail Group, formed as a result of the merger of the Pyaterochka and Perekrestok retail chains. When he took over as CEO, the company’s share price was 18 USD, but by the time he left, X5 had risen to 45 USD.

2011 saw another twist in Lev Khasis’ career. The news surprised business circles – the manager decided to leave the project. As industry publications wrote at the time, there was no reason for Khasis to resign, and the reasons cited were overwork and X5’s declining growth rate. The retailer entered a new phase of development, when the desire for scale was replaced by the desire to improve the quality of services.

“I have been involved in building this business for 12 years. Now it’s time to think about what to do next – whether to do something myself or to partner with someone else,” the top manager noted in an interview.

Lev Khasis did not stay out of work for long – in the same year, 2011, he was invited to become senior vice president of the American company Walmart Stores. According to the top manager, he accepted the offer because of his interest in international retail and his desire to try his hand at a business with a turnover of millions of dollars. The executive lived and worked in the US for two years before returning to continue his career at Sberbank.

Working in the banking sector

Lev Khasis joined Sberbank as First Deputy Chairman of the Management Board in 2013. The top manager’s area of responsibility was the retail business. He was three times more energetic than usual in developing services, introducing new technologies, reforming the bank’s lending policy and expanding the network of branches abroad. He was also in charge of promoting and advertising Sberbank’s services.

In 2017, the bank decided to transform itself into a fintech company with its own ecosystem. Lev Khasis took responsibility for the development of e-commerce. Sber signed a cooperation agreement with IT market leaders, Yandex and Mail.ru. As the top manager himself later admitted, the chosen strategy proved to be wrong, and the bank failed to achieve the desired results in e-commerce.

Sberbank planned a major restructuring at the end of 2021. The bank announced its intention to merge all services from the non-banking category into a separate holding company. As it turned out later, it was during this period that Lev Khasis spoke of his intention to leave the company in order to devote more time to his own projects. The Board granted the top manager’s request and Herman Gref thanked the deputy for his great contribution to the company’s development.

The staff changes have not been publicised for a long time, so the former head’s decision not to prolong his contract and to end his work on Sberbank’s board has remained unknown to the wide audience.

“My decision was accepted and agreed with Gref many months ago and was based on a balance of my professional and personal priorities,” Khasis commented in an interview about his leaving Sberbank.

What is Lev Khasis doing now?

Lev Khasis is a US citizen and currently lives in Miami, where he owns several condominiums. While still working at X5, he was actively developing a property rental business there. Today he lives with his family on the coast in an upscale neighbourhood.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.