At this year’s star-studded SBC Awards, Parimatch’s CEO Sergey Portnov was named Leader of the Year – an accolade which he was thrilled to receive.
So as we approach the end of this challenging year, what better way to round off 2020 than by reflecting on the achievements of one of the industry’s top leaders. We spoke to Portnov to discuss what the SBC Leader of the Year Award meant to both himself and Parimatch, and what 2021 holds for the company.
SBC: Firstly, congratulations on winning the Leader of the Year award! What does this award mean to you?
Sergey Portnov: I’m thrilled to be recognised by SBC as Leader of the Year. 2020 has been incredibly challenging, but I firmly believe that in times of adversity, you have to lead from the front and keep focused on moving forwards, not getting side-tracked with distractions which might throw you off course.
When the odds are stacked against you, being brave and adaptable is the mark of a true leader. I’ve always set out to lead by example and embody the core values which make Parimatch the powerhouse it is, so I’m very proud that this has been recognised with such a great award.
SBC: You’ve celebrated five years as CEO of Parimatch this year. What have been the highlights for both yourself and Parimatch during this period?
Sergey Portnov: Over the past five years, we’ve signed some amazing deals and worked with sporting heroes at the top of their game. With icons like boxing legend Mike Tyson and MMA superstar Conor McGregor.
I’m really proud of the following we’ve earned and the opportunities we’ve created. I think seeing Mike Tyson crush the ‘bottle cap challenge’ in one take has to be a highlight, right?
This year has also been one to remember for a lot of positive reasons. We’ve recently partnered with Juventus, La Liga, Leicester City and Everton football clubs as a new sponsor, which is boosting our brand around the world.
A real highlight for me was speaking at our PM:GO 6.0 event this year. I sat down with Conor McGregor to find out more about the man outside the UFC Octagon – the entrepreneur and the family man. Conor gave insights into his personal life which he rarely shares with the public.
Our PM:GO events are ordinarily a chance for employees to come together in person and celebrate achievements. This year we conducted the event entirely online for the first time. This wouldn’t have happened without the outstanding efforts of our employees who made the event a huge success.
SBC: 2020 has undoubtedly come with a series of challenges for all betting and gaming companies. How have you managed to overcome these challenges? And has your leadership style changed as a result of this?
Sergey Portnov: The coronavirus crisis has meant that we have had to significantly reevaluate our plans. Obstacles were put before us which we had no control over, so we were forced to react quickly. We soon discovered that uncertainty can be a catalyst for great new ideas and innovation.
When all sporting events were cancelled, Parimatch faced an ultimatum. The focus of our offering had to pivot – it was definitely an ‘adapt or die’ moment for us. We rose to the challenge by shifting towards esports and virtual tournaments as areas of increasing popularity.
With so much of our business now purely reliant on these new areas of online betting, we have invested a huge amount of time and dedicated significant budget to bolstering our in-house technological capabilities, allowing us to auto-generate bet promotions perfectly tailored to each individual, keeping our customers engaged and as excited as they would be watching a live sporting event.
We’ve also made some strategic partnerships with Fnatic and Virtus. Pro, two of the most influential international eSports brands, and we’re now mainstreaming video competitions such as Dota 2 to wider audiences than ever before.
I knew from the outset of the crisis that we had to keep the lines of communication open and schedule regular check-ins across the company, to make sure that everyone was kept informed of the key developments within the business whilst moving forwards as one team. By keeping the company united and engaged, I knew that we could take on any challenge.
SBC: As a leader of one of the most prominent betting operators, what would be your biggest piece of advice for those looking to follow in your footsteps?
Sergey Portnov: At our recent PM:GO 6.0 event, I spoke to our brand ambassador Conor McGregor about this. The next generation of leaders will need a positive mental attitude to dismantle the barriers presented before them and look for the opportunity in adversity.
It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down; the important thing is that you always get back up. Positive self-talk and being honest with yourself, like acknowledging your weaknesses and making plans to improve on them, will ultimately make you stronger and improve your leadership style.
Equally, leaders can’t be ruled by ego – you have to stay humble, commit to constantly learning and respect the team who work with you to achieve your biggest goals.
SBC: And finally, what are you most looking forward to in 2021?
Sergey Portnov: I’m committed to continuing and accelerating Parimatch’s growth trajectory in the New Year, expanding into new jurisdictions and giving more people around the world the chance to experience all that we have to offer.
We have harnessed and developed tech to transform Parimatch into a leading digital-first brand – but we’re only just getting started. We’re supercharging our tech, empowering our people and conquering new ground.
I’m looking forward to seeing our plans come together in 2021, but there’s one thing you can bet on – we’ll never settle for second-best.