Ruben Vardanyan (businessman)

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Ruben Vardanyan
Ruben Vardanyan businessman.jpg
Born (1968-05-25) May 25, 1968 (age 51)
Known forTroika Dialog, Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, Ameriabank,
UWC Dilijan, Aurora Prize, Wings of Tatev

Ruben Karlenovich Vardanyan (Armenian: Ռուբեն Վարդանյան, Russian: Рубен Карленович Варданян; born May 25, 1968) is an Armenian businessman,[1] co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, initiator and founding partner of Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and its first president (2006–2011), founder of UWC Dilijan College in Armenia, founder and chairman of the board of directors of PHILIN (Philanthropy Infrastructure), founder and partner of Phoenix Advisors, former CEO and controlling shareholder of Troika Dialog, an investment bank (1992–2012).

Early life and education[edit]

Vardanyan was born on May 25, 1968, in Yerevan. In 1985 he graduated with a gold medal from school №20 in Yerevan. Between 1986 and 1988 he completed service in the Soviet Armed Forces.

From 1985 to 1992 Vardanyan studied economics at Moscow State University, graduating with honours. He interned at Cassa di Risparmio di Torino in Italy and attended courses on emerging markets organized by Merrill Lynch in New York (1992). Later during his career, he completed post-graduate training at INSEAD (Fontainebleau, France; 2000), and attended courses at Harvard Business School (2001, 2005, 2018), as well as special programs at Yale University and Stanford University Graduate School of Business (2012 and 2013).

Career in business[edit]

From 1991 to 1992 Vardanyan led the IPO division at Troika Dialog; working at the company from its founding day. From 1992 he headed Troika Dialog, holding the posts of executive director, and then president,[2] CEO and chairman of the board of directors of Troika Dialog Group,[3] up until the company’s sale to Sberbank on January 23, 2012.

After the sale, Vardanyan served as co-head of Sberbank CIB (until August 2013), and subsequently advisor to the president[3] and chairman of the board at Sberbank (until October 2015). From 2002 to 2004 Vardanyan served as general director at Rosgosstrakh, working concurrently as Troika’s CEO.

In 2013, together with the managing director and ex-partner of Troika Dialog Mikhail Broitman, Vardanyan co-founded the investment company Vardanyan, Broitman and Partners.[3] Along with partners, he owns and manages the Romanov Dvor and the Vozdvizhenka, premium class business centers in Moscow.

In addition to his business activities, Vardanyan is currently a board member at Kamaz, and Ameriabank (Armenia) and a member of the board of trustees of the Investment and Venture Fund of the Republic of Tatarstan. Previously, Vardanyan served on the boards of directors, boards of trustees and advisory boards of numerous Russian and international companies in a number of key economic sectors: industry (Sollers, AvtoVAZ, Sibur, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, etc.), high technology and innovation (Russian Venture Company, etc.), finance and insurance (the economic council of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Bank of Moscow, Marsh & McLennan Companies (USA), Rosgosstrakh, etc.), real estate and infrastructure (Sheremetyevo International Airport, AVICA).

From 2000 to 2012 Vardanyan was a member of the management board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. He is currently a member of the arbitrators’ committee of the RUIE joint corporate ethics commission. He was the first Chairman of the Young Presidents Organization(YPO) in Russia.

Early in his career, Vardanyan served on the boards of organizations comprising the infrastructure of Russia’s securities market and regulating its operations: the board of directors of the Nonprofit Partnership for Development of Russian Financial Market Russian Trading System (NP RTS) (1998-2001), the exchange council of the Moscow Exchange (1997–2002), the expert council of the Federal Commission of Securities Market (FCSM of Russia) (1996–2002), the board of directors of Depository Clearing Company CJSC (1995–1999), as well as the board of directors of the National Association of Securities Market Participants (NAUFOR) (1997–2006), including two years (1997–1998) as board chairman. He was one of the founders of “Club 2015” – a community of professional managers who created blueprints for the development of Russia until 2015.

Philanthropy and social entrepreneurship[edit]

Educational projects[edit]

Several of Vardanyan’s projects relate to educational initiatives in Armenia, Russia and the CIS.[4] He is founding partner and deputy chairman of the international advisory board of Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO. From 2006 to 2011 he was the school’s president. Additionally, Vardanyan heads the supervisory board of the SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Market Studies and the expert council of the SKOLKOVO Wealth Transformation Center

Vardanyan is a founding patron and chairman of the board of trustees at UWC Dilijan College[5], an international school in Armenia for students aged 16–19. In 2013, together with spouse Veronika Zonabend, Vardanyan established the Scholae Mundi foundation for new educational initiatives, assisting on a non-profit basis the students of UWC Dilijan College and other academic institutions by providing scholarships and grants,[6] as well as launching a collaborative program with the educational center of Dumfries House Estate (Scotland), under the patronage of Prince Charles.[7]

Social entrepreneurship[edit]

Tatev Monastery in Armenia

Vardanyan is co-founder of Charitable Foundation "Initiatives for Development of Armenia" (IDeA), committed to supporting long-term projects for Armenia’s development.[8] IDeA Foundation has conceived a new concept for economic development in Armenia - Private Agency for Socio-Economic Development (PASED). In this development model, charitable initiatives are made sustainable through investment projects that bring revenue back into the initiatives. The blending of charity and commercial investment provides a sustainable funding model for social capital creation by combining the desire to provide social good with business activities that create long-term socio-economic prosperity.[9]

IDeA adheres to seven principles in its activities:

  1. Combination of scalability and multiplier effect
  2. Replicable and fully managed from concept and design to development and delivery (Execution) using best practices
  3. An open platform of engagement welcoming partners, international stakeholders, and government
  4. Assumes active involvement of the local community and organizations in its initiatives (complicity)
  5. Generating constant impact and positive transformations
  6. Long term self-sustainable using blend of profit/charity investment (financial independence)
  7. Reinforces other projects and impacts multiple sectors simultaneously

The following projects and programs are being carried out In accordance with these principles: Tatev Revival, Dilijan Development, Surb Gevorg and Old City (Tbilisi), Artsakh Development (including Holy Mother of God Church Restoration Project in the village of Mushkapat and renovation of the Upper Mosque in Shushi), Syrian-Armenian Relief and Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST).

The construction of the world's longest reversible cableway Wings of Tatev, leading to Tatev Monastery, by Vardanyan and a number of partners, is part of the Tatev Revival program. The program envisions the reconstruction of the Tatev Monastery Complex and development of local communities (job creation, fostering entrepreneurship in communities and raising local standards of living).[10]

In 2008 Vardanyan initiated the Tatev Revival Project, which besides himself, was supported by more than 161 donors from 18 countries.[11] In 2010 one structure of the monastic complex was fully restored - the Dzit Han oil mill. In 2016, the northern entrance to the monastic complex was restored, as well as a spring near the entrance. Currently, restoration work is underway on the St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) church.

Vardanyan is one of the initiators of the Armenia–2020 and Armenia–2031 projects aimed at generating scenarios for the development of the country and the Armenian nation as a whole. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Strategic Initiatives, established by the Armenian government. From 2007-2014 he served on the board of trustees of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia.

Humanitarian activities[edit]

In March 2015 the 100 LIVES initiative was launched in New York, a global project coinciding with the centenary of the Armenian Genocide.[12] The project laid the foundation for the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative - the vision of Vardanyan, American philanthropist and venture capitalist Noubar Afeyan, and president of Carnegie Corporation of New York Vartan Gregorian. Founded to honor the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to empower modern-day saviors who offer life and hope to those in urgent need of basic humanitarian aid and thus continue the cycle of giving internationally. Since that time, more than 200 individuals and organizations have joined the founders' mission.

As part of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, an annual awards ceremony was created, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.[13] The award was named in honor of Aurora Mardiganian, who played an important role in creating awareness of the Armenian Genocide amongst the public, reliving her horrors through her book "Ravished Armenia" which inspired the eponymous film. The Aurora Prize is awarded annually in Yerevan to recognize modern day heroes and the exceptional impact their actions have made on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes in the face of adversity.

The co-chairman of the selection committee is the filmmaker and philanthropist George Clooney. The first co-chair of the selection committee was the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, from March 2015 until his death in July 2016. The commission consists of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative co-founder Vartan Gregorian, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Leymah Gbowee, Shirin Ebadi and Óscar Arias, Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Lord Ara Darzi, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, former United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani, Honorary President of the International Crisis Group and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Human Rights Activist and Founding Director, Enough Project, John Prendergast and Artistic and General Director, Mariinsky Theatre and Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Valery Gergiev.

On April 24, 2016, on the day of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the first laureate of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was announced by Clooney in Yerevan. The award was given to Marguerite Barankitse from Burundi. She received a grant of $100,000 and was given the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organisations which fund a number of projects to combat child poverty and advancing aid and rehabilitation for child refugees and orphans in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Brazil and D.R. Congo.[14] The 2017 Aurora Prize was awarded to Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York who has saved thousands of lives as the sole doctor permanently based in Sudan's war-ravaged Nuba Mountains.[15] Catena decided to donate the accompanying $1,000,000 award to the organizations that support missionary hospitals in the most remote and poor regions of Africa. The third Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar; he donated the award to three international organizations that provide medical aid and assistance to refugees in Myanmar.[16]

Since 2016, in partnership with the chosen organizations, the Aurora Prize has been working to deliver health, education and community development all over the world:

  • The Aurora Prize is helping to heal 505 children who have suffered physical and psychological trauma, is funding 154,000 separate patient visits, and is helping to deliver long-term healthcare access to well over a million people.
  • It is also funding the Aurora Volunteer Fellows program, supporting volunteer medical experts in Kenya, Zambia, Haiti, Peru, South Sudan and Sudan.
  • The Aurora Prize is helping to deliver a formal education to 748 university students, 1114 primary, secondary and vocational training students.
  • The Aurora Prize has helped to create homes, vital infrastructure, job opportunities, and childcare facilities for 558 people.[17]

The various programs run by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative include the Aurora Dialogues[18] - a series of discussions about some of today's most pressing humanitarian challenges. The conference brings together the world's leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists, business leaders, and civil society.

Each year during the Aurora Dialogues the results of the Aurora Humanitarian Index are presented. The Aurora Humanitarian Index is an international survey that examines the public's response to the world's acute humanitarian challenges and the ways they've been confronted.[19]

Philanthropy infrastructure[edit]

Vardanyan spends a significant amount of his time on projects related to the development of charity infrastructure in Russia. In 2015 he launched the PHILIN (Philanthropy Infrastructure) project that provides supporting infrastructure to Russian NGOs and charitable foundations, helping to reduce their costs.[20] PHILIN is aimed at the professionalization of the charity industry in Russia by increasing the level of transparency and the effectiveness of charity funds to restore benefactors' confidence in the sector.[21]

In 2015 Vardanyan created Phoenix Advisors, which deals with wealth curation, and helps businessmen develop an asset strategy and determine their successors.[20] Ruben Vardanyan heads the expert council of the SKOLKOVO Wealth Transformation Centre (SWTC), which he initiated in 2013. The SWTC promotes the development of entrepreneurship in Russia through the creation of legal and educational infrastructure.[21]

High technology and innovation[edit]

In 2016 Vardanyan and his partners launched the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) aimed at building an ecosystem that drives technological innovation and scientific advancement in Armenia and beyond.[22] The foundation's advisory council includes researchers from various scientific and technological disciplines, and a community of academics from around the world: MIT Senior Lecturer (2000-2016), current Corporation board member Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D. (USA), W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Naira Hovakimyan, Ph.D. (USA), founder and Director of the board of ABBYY David Yang, Ph.D. (USA/Russia), Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Lord Ara Darzi, former CEO and chairman of Alcatel, former CEO of Total S.A. Serge Tchuruk (France), President of Hamburg University of Technology Garabed Antranikyan (Germany), Rector of Moscow Aviation Institute Mikhail Pogosyan (Russia), Scientific Director of Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research Yuri Oganessian (Russia), Managing Partner of McKinsey and Company Andre Andonyan (Japan), Head of Armenian Government Executive Office, Armen Gevorgyan (Armenia), CEO and founder of PicsArt Hovhannes Avoyan (USA/Armenia), Deputy Head of State Committee for Science Vardan Sahakian, PhD in Physics (Armenia).[23]

Preservation of objects of cultural and religious heritage[edit]

One of the aims of Vardanyan’s IDeA Foundation is the preservation of the cultural and spiritual heritage of Armenians, not just those residing in Armenia but also those living elsewhere in the world. In 2015 restoration was completed of the Cathedral of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, the Cathedral of Saint George (Surb Gevorg). Restoration work was carried out over a three-year period, exclusively funded by benefactors – Vardanyan, Albert Avdolyan, Sergey Sarkisov and others. A cultural and educational center will be established at the church[24]

Held on September 17, 2013, was the official opening and consecration of the Temple complex of the Russian and Novo-Nakhichevan Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Vardanyan is one of the 16 founders of the Temple complex.


Vardanyan is head of the editorial board of BRICS Business Magazine. From 2003–2013 he was a member of the board of trustees of Russia in Global Affairs magazine.

With support from Vardanyan, Troika Dialog, SKOLKOVO business school and several charitable foundations, some of the best foreign works on the stock market, classics of world business literature,[25] new literary works, books about history, economics, sociology, social sciences and many others were translated into Russian and published in Russia; in Armenia, works devoted to the country’s history and culture, Armenian language and the genocide in Western Armenia were published.

Other activities[edit]

Government agencies[edit]

Corporate boards[edit]

Non-profit organizations[edit]


Among the distinctions granted to Vardanyan are Business Person of the Year Award (AmCham Russia, 1999), “Best business manager on Russia’s capital market” (1999, 2000), awarded by Kariera magazine, Ernst & Young[32] Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Russia, 2004), “Investment banker of the year” (2004, “Stock market elite” competition) by NAUFOR,[33] Russian GQ’s “Man of the Year” as Best Entrepreneur (2010), “Alley of Fame” from the Russian Banking Forum for 20 years of service to Russia’s financial industry (2013) and many others. In 2001, Fortune named Vardanyan to its list “25 Rising Stars of the New Generation”. The same year, Vardanyan entered the list of the “100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow” at the World Economic Forum. In 2013 he was awarded the AAC’s highest award – the Order of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.[34]

In 2018, the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov awarded Vardanyan the Order of Friendship in recognition of fruitful cooperation with the Republic of Tatarstan, contribution to the development of entrepreneurship, and public service. In the same year, Vardanyan received AIB Presidential Award for contribution to the development of education and the Common Ground Awards which was presented to the co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative to honor their outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community building, and peace-building.

Personal life[edit]

Vardanyan is married to Veronika Feliksovna Zonabend. The couple has four children.

Zonabend graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1990 and began her career at the Research Institute of Avionics. After that she worked for several years in the banking sector, becoming the Deputy Head of the Foreign Exchange Department of Tveruniversal Bank in 1993. In 1994-1995 she studied banking and finance at the London School of Economics and Political Science. During in the 2000s, she was an entrepreneur and undertook projects within such sectors as hospitality, film distribution and production. Zonabend is the founder and chair of the board of governors of UWC Dilijan College in Armenia. She sits on the boards of trustees at UWC International (UK) and the American University of Armenia and chairs the board of directors at the Teach For Armenia Educational Foundation.[35] Together with her husband, Zonabend is engaged with their family foundation, undertaking philanthropic and social-entrepreneurial projects in Armenia and Russia.

Vardanyan's older sister Marine Ales is a composer, songwriter and theatre critic. She is a member of the Aurora Prize Creative Council and co-founder of Grant Life Armenian Charitable Foundation.[36]


  1. ^ Ведомости (2018-04-23). "«Я не самый удачливый инвестор»". Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  2. ^ Catherine Belton (September 16, 2008), Survival of fittest for mid-tier oligarchs Financial Times.
  3. ^ a b c Jack Farchy (January 4, 2015), Ruben Vardanian, former Troika Dialog CEO: a grumbling optimist Financial Times.
  4. ^ "The U.S. has roaches also, only fewer than we do" // Vedomosti, 29.04.2014, 76 (3580)". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Rashid, Brian. "United World College Dilijan: A Lens Into The Future Of Education". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  6. ^ "I have a dream: to make philanthropy in Russia professional, powerful and systematic" // SPEAR'S Russia, №4 (37), April 2014". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "Radius of Trust" // Forbes Life, №2, July 2013". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "The prosperity model requires will, ambition and risk" // Mediamax, 24.06.2013". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "PASED Model - IDeA". Official website of Charitable Foundation "Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA). Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  10. ^ "Wings of Tatev: Armenia debuts "world's longest aerial tramway" - Arts and Culture |". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  11. ^ "Ruben Vardanian: "A model for prosperity requires will, ambition, and risks"". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  12. ^ "The Armenian Genocide: A new way to commemorate" // The Economist, 10.03.2015". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Armenian Leaders Establish Rights Award to Commemorate Centenary of Genocide" // The New York Times, 10.03.2015". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Association, Press (2016-04-24). "My family came to the US as refugees, says George Clooney". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  15. ^ "This American Doctor Tirelessly Treats Hundreds Of Patients In Sudan Every Single Day". HuffPost UK. 2017-08-19. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  16. ^ "Myanmar lawyer wins $1.1 million Aurora humanitarian prize". Fox News. 2018-06-10. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  17. ^ "Aurora Prize Impact". AURORA PRIZE. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  18. ^ Mirak-Weissbach, Muriel (2017-12-14). "Armenians Hold Aurora Dialogues in Berlin - The Armenian Mirror-Spectator". The Armenian Mirror-Spectator. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  19. ^ Initiative, Aurora Humanitarian. "New Study Reveals State Of Humanitarian Morass Worldwide". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  20. ^ a b "Почему Рубен Варданян умеет видеть будущее (и что он там разглядел)". GQ. 2017.
  21. ^ a b Rashid, Brian. "Ruben Vardanyan Changes The World One Country At A Time". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  22. ^ "Ruben Vardanyan: "FAST must become the platform for a technological breakthrough"". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  23. ^ "FAST Foundation announces Advisory Board and CEO". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  24. ^ "Surb Gevorg Church Reopens after Three Year Renovation" // Georgia Today, 05.11.2015". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. ^ "The indicator of societal stability is the number of projects with horizon of 20-30 years" //, 19.09.2013". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. ^ Board of Directors Sollers.
  27. ^ Board of Directors Ameriabank.
  28. ^ Sibur board of directors gets 3 independent members Interfax, April 29, 2011.
  29. ^ Kamaz chief Kogogin to replace Aleshin on Avtovaz board Interfax, November 9, 2009.
  30. ^ Board of Trustees Charles Aznavour Foundation.
  31. ^ Board of Trustees Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund.
  32. ^ "Long-term game" // EY – Russia, "Businessman of the Year"/Ruben Vardanyan/". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. ^ "Winners of the national competition "Stock market elite" //". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  34. ^ "Благотворителям вручены высшие награды ААЦ". Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  35. ^ "Teach For Armenia Ambassadors shape future". Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  36. ^ "Introducing the Aurora Creative Contest Jury". AURORA PRIZE. Retrieved 2018-02-08.

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