Citi continues to support AIFC’s work, invest in Kazakhstan, says Citi executive

NUR-SULTAN – Citi has been supporting the Astana International Financial Centre’s (AIFC) work and plans to continue cooperating, said Julie Monaco, head of Citi Global Public Sector and the only female on the AIFC Managing Council, in an interview with The Astana Times.

Julie Monaco.

Doing business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions, the company provides financial services to governments and assists them to finance themselves, digitise, mitigate risks and become more efficient. 

“We do risk mitigation, help governments protect themselves against volatility and foreign exchange interest rates and commodity prices and protect their fiscal budgets though various risk mitigation tools. We also help governments that are privatising, which is a big agenda here in Kazakhstan,” she said.

The company is one of the largest foreign investors and the only multinational bank with an operating licence in Kazakhstan.  In 26 years of working in the country it has helped the government and corporate clients raise over $30 billion of capital in the international markets.

“In Kazakhstan we are a major provider of settlement and clearing services. We also supported our local clients overseas, underwriting bonds and extending transactional services,” she said.

The company invests its efforts in developing capital markets as alternative to traditional bank financing.

“That obviously is what AIFC is all about – how to create a framework. We are very excited about what AIFC is doing; we think it is the right thing, because for economic growth and development to happen it is really important that economies have something beyond traditional bank lending as a way to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign capital and provide an engine for growth for local companies. It allows entrepreneurs, fintech companies and new emerging technological companies to find new sources of funding so that they can create innovation and help with the government’s agenda,” she noted.

“To do that, you have to have a robust capital market, liquidity and financing. AIFC has made huge strides in the last year in getting infrastructure in place to support that,” she added. “Kazakhstan has a significant source of unique minerals and creating [exchange-traded funds] ETFs that are tied to those minerals would be a very unique investment class. The other is FinTech. Kazakhstan potentially is well positioned to provide FinTech solutions not just for Kazakhstan, but for the all the countries in the area.”

Because of the investment conditions created by AIFC and the geography of the country, “it’s a good investment environment and it’s only getting better,” she noted. “I think that Kazakhstan has an economic story that is compelling for foreign investments, or it wouldn’t have already attracted so much FDI,” she said. “Kazakhstan can be a gateway for the economic opportunity that surrounds it.”

Monaco has been a member of the AIFC Advisory Council since the beginning of this year. She has 34 years of experience in the financial services industry and has been recognised internationally. She was on the 2018 American Banker’s list of 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance for the ninth year among many other titles and awards in the industry.

“The institutions that I worked for and especially Citi have been very supportive and committed to equality, making sure that it is an inclusive culture and that people recognise unconscious biases and try to overcome them,” she said. “My success is not mine… it is the culture and company that surround me that have enabled me to be successful.”

Monaco emphasised that “diversity of thought and of management approach makes a better team.”

“Often when I am the only woman in a meeting room, I don’t really notice that… I could be with bankers or other professionals. I think it’s important to have diversity and it’s not just for the sake of having women; it is more about what we’ve discovered about diversity. When we have diversity, we have different approaches and ways of thinking… It makes a team stronger,” she said.

Monaco serves on the Corporate and Investment Bank’s Diversity Committee and is an active member of the Citi Women’s Network.

“Women often focus on what their gaps are… So, what I say to women is stop selling yourself short; take a chance, push yourself out of your comfort zone. You can do more than what you think you can do,” she said.