ASTANA – Ozara Services addresses the needs of financial and non-financial services entities in business advisory, digital transformation and programme implementation domains. The company intends to leverage its expertise and first-hand experience in the U.K. and the United Arab Emirates to develop and enhance the financial service industry in the region, particularly as part of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC).
“We are proud to be the first company registered as a participant in the AIFC’s sandbox in 2018 and the first company to be authorised as an ancillary services provider. Establishing a presence in the centre stems from our belief in the AIFC as the financial hub for Central Asia. We look forward to sharing our experiences with other participants, local start-ups and entrepreneurs to develop and enhance the financial services industry in the region,” said Managing Director Will Aston in an exclusive interview with the Astana Times.
The firm’s second company, Ozara Finance, has fintech regulatory sandbox permission from the Astana Financial Services Authority (AFSA) for operating an Islamic finance cooperative platform.“Ozara Finance Limited was established at the AIFC because we believe that this is an attractive jurisdiction for Islamic fintech development. The AIFC provides a unique opportunity to access projects and initiatives and to develop and prove Islamic fintech, such as the Ozara digital platform,” he said.
“I have been involved with the AIFC for quite some time. Initially, I visited with the AIFC over two years ago. The aim was to build on experience from other financial centres, particularly the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in the United Arab Emirates. So, really from that point I’ve been looking to see what we could bring from ADGM and other financial centres that might be relevant for the AIFC. There are a number of things that are clearly very similar opportunities that AIFC gives to Kazakhstan that the ADGM regime gives to Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates,” he added.
Aston feels AIFC presents the capital and the country with significant additional advantages.
“In particular, the two pillars of Islamic finance and financial technology are the most exciting pillars for the centre and they are a key focus of my business in the centre,” he said.
One of the centre’s main advantages is the use of English common law.
“English common law is the same legal system that is used in the top four international financial centres globally. So, it means that international businesses coming to the centre are very familiar with that way of doing things,” he said.
“That is a very important thing that people will be able to do business in the same way they are used to do in other leading financial centres. Additionally, I think the independence of the court and the arbitration centre is very important for international business. It is very important to know that the court and arbitration are separate and independent from the Kazakh legal system and the judges that the AIFC has are clearly amongst the leading judges globally for English common law. So, that is very attractive,” he added.
He noted the centre’s regulator is also independent.
“There is a good basis for the regulatory decisions that they make. The legislation will adopt international standards and that means that the sort of business the centre will attract is very familiar with the way they will be regulated. It makes it easy for the centre to make sure they are able to attract the best businesses into the centre,” he added.
Aston noted AIFC gives non-Kazakh nationals the ability to have 100-percent ownership. He also finds the Kazakh tax regime very attractive.
Islamic fintech is focused on supporting an Islamic investment and financial cooperative model, which operates when a bank is owned by its customers and only offers Islamic compliant products.
“In particular, we are seeking to build and support growth in the agricultural sector within Kazakhstan, because we think there is enormous potential for the cooperative financial model within the agricultural sector in Kazakhstan,” he said.