Sergey Portnov: Emerging from a crisis stronger and faster
Speaking at PM:GO: In Touch with the Future, Parimatch CEO Sergey Portnov opened the floor to questions on topics ranging from why Parimatch and Conor McGregor are a great match, how to survive in a crisis, to predictions for the betting industry and sport in the wake of COVID-19. In typical fashion, Sergey spoke candidly to give the audience insights into some of the most pressing industry issues as well as his plans for Parimatch… The esports boom Parimatch is one of the few betting companies to have already shifted its focus to esports – and we are now looking to consolidate our position in the sector. Parimatch has a dedicated team with influential leaders responsible for our development strategy for esports. We will continue to seek out sponsorship deals in the esports sector and innovate our esports offering. The reality is that esports is here to stay and this is not just a temporary attempt to participate and jump on the hype bandwagon. Esports is in our DNA, it is our top priority. With sports fixtures cancelled across the world, many sports fans have turned to esports, and the popularity of esports will continue perhaps even with the return of sports matches. Looking to the near future, it might be that traditional sports matches are held without crowds of people. For the betting industry, it actually doesn’t matter. We just need the match to take place and to be broadcast. Looking further ahead, there will likely be plans drawn up to avoid having to stop all sport like this again, and there will be conditions agreed for how the sport industry can continue to operate if faced with another situation like the one we’re in now. At Parimatch, we are also considering creating our own sports, to increase the opportunities for betting and entertainment for our players. For example, we could broadcast penalties, involving just a player and a goalkeeper. During normal times, you don’t have these kinds of ideas – which is why a crisis can be an opportunity to innovate. Emerging from a crisis stronger and faster With sports fixtures cancelled around the world, betting companies are seeing the majority of their players fall away. The challenge is how to engage wider audiences with simulated sports – and this is a challenge shared by all bookmakers who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Some operators will withstand this crisis better than others, because they have adapted their business model, by pivoting to online casinos or adding alternative sports – such as FIFA and table tennis. Although Parimatch has been affected, we are poised to be one of the structural winners to emerge from the crisis, as we are adapting and finding new solutions so that we remain one step ahead. In every sector, this is great time to optimize your business, identify weak spots in the company and fulfil goals that have been put off. For me personally, I feel comfortable during a crisis, maybe because I love fighting and it has given me the fighting spirit that you need to prosper during difficult conditions. My advice to those who struggle is to always stay calm to avoid being guided by emotions and making rash decisions under pressure. A person who can distinguish between truth and artificial pressure will be right in their decisions. Parimatch & The Notorious: A meeting of minds Our contract with UFC was a prerequisite for Conor as our brand ambassador – and Conor is picky, he doesn’t just collaborate with any brand for money. It was our connection to UFC that initially attracted him. But why did Parimatch choose Conor? Firstly, because there a few examples of celebrities who have really changed their industry. Conor is one of those few people – he has made the UFC popular globally, bringing MMA into the mainstream. In fact, Conor is the face of MMA, and has attracted millions of fans to UFC not just because of his fighting skills, but for what he does outside the ring. He can gather a crowd of people at a click of a finger – you could say he is a great magician! That kind of power and energy is what we wanted for our brand. In the ring: Beating the competition At Parimatch, we of course keep an eye on our competitors, but we mostly compete with ourselves – not on a personal level, but on a company wide scale. We are focused on meeting our own goals, and not trying to copy competitor products, no matter how great they are. We know our weaknesses as a business and we know how to fight them. For Parimatch, the main priority is solidifying our position as a technology company. Already 99.9% of our business operates online and 70% of it is mobile based. However, we want to become a leading technology business, and not just within the betting sector. We want to be a role model for related industries. We know this may take a few years, but we are confident that we will do it – and will become one of the very few betting companies to have made a major technology breakthrough.