Citi Commits to Kazakhstan’s Economic Growth as Trusted Partner 

ASTANA – The Astana Times spoke with David Livingstone, Citi’s Chief Executive Officer in Europe, Middle East and Africa, about the company’s strategy in the region and expansion plans on the sidelines of the meeting of the Foreign Investors’ Council in Astana on June 8. 

David Livingstone and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev meet in Astana on June 8. Photo credit: Akorda.

Could you share with us some of the major projects Citi is currently undertaking in Kazakhstan, and how they align with the company’s broader strategy in the region?

Next year, Citi will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Kazakhstan. This is a significant milestone, demonstrating our commitment to the growth and economic progress of this nation, aligned with Citi’s global mission statement. We will celebrate this milestone as the only international bank in Kazakhstan, and we are proud to be a key partner for multinational corporations, international investors, the public sector, and domestic corporations, providing best-in-class services to our clients. 

We have undertaken several significant projects to grow our business and support our clients in Kazakhstan. One example was in November 2022, when Citibank Kazakhstan became a participant in the Astana International Exchange Central Securities Depositories (AIX CSD). As a result, international institutional investors can hold their assets with the AIX CSD under the bank’s custody. This is an important step in the continued development of local financial infrastructure.

In 2022, for the fourth consecutive year, we were recognised as the Best International Bank in Kazakhstan by Asiamoney. The Kazakhstan Stock Exchange also identified Citi as a leader in the FCY market. We are pleased that Citi is recognised as a leading global bank in Kazakhstan. 

How has Citi contributed to the digitalization of Kazakhstan’s financial sector?

The development of Kazakhstan’s financial sector is dependent on its integration with global financial markets, continuous innovation and sustainability. Citi’s activities in the country fully align with these. Digitization is a significant global trend, and one of the key priorities of governments throughout the world. In Kazakhstan, Citi is cooperating with the government and key stakeholders on the implementation of the digital signature pilot project. In September last year, Citi signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan, together with the Association of Kazakhstan Council of Foreign Investors. This digital solution will streamline the work of local companies and their international partners, and we are delighted to be part of this initiative.

What role does Citi play in the Foreign Investors’ Council, and what benefits has this participation brought to the company and the local business community?

Our role in the Foreign Investors’ Council reflects our role as the only international bank in the country. We share our knowledge, expertise and best practices with the council, which provides recommendations to the President and the government on important topics. These topics include enhancing the investment climate, creating favorable conditions for the diversification of the economy, and further integration into the global economy. We also understand it is important for Citi to be a trusted partner for the Kazakh government and the local business community, and that our role also includes helping improve how the country attracts international investors. 

How does Citi ensure that its operations in Kazakhstan are aligned with the country’s economic and social priorities, and what steps does the company take to maintain its reputation as a responsible corporate citizen?

Our global mission is to enable growth and economic progress, so we help the country develop and grow its economy. We are living through a period of unprecedented change and Citi is positioned to help our clients, including governments, navigate the challenges and embrace the opportunities of our rapidly changing world.

Kazakhstan’s economy is evolving quickly and becoming increasingly international. Over the past few years, we led sovereign wealth fund Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund’s $500 million debut bond offering and were global coordinator on the $1 billion secondary public offering for Kaspi in London. 

We support the local communities through several charitable, volunteering and sponsorship projects. We have partnered with the Kazakhstan National Paralympic Committee since 2020, supporting Nurlan Dombaev and Alexander Gerlitz, champions in para-taekwondo and cross-country skiing, respectively. Since the end of 2022, we have financially supported Kun Bala Bakery of Opportunities, a center for teenagers with Down’s syndrome, which opened in Almaty in the spring. For 18 consecutive years, Citi Kazakhstan colleagues have also been participating in Citi’s Global Community Day by organizing volunteering events in cities throughout Kazakhstan. 

Can you discuss some of the challenges that Citi has faced in Kazakhstan, and how the company has overcome them?

Like many countries, Kazakhstan faces global challenges such as inflation, digitization, and climate transition.

We support our clients in helping them to adapt their businesses to overcome challenges or be in front of global megatrends and we are well placed to support Kazakhstan in these areas.

Looking ahead, what are Citi’s plans for expanding its presence in Kazakhstan and other markets in the EMEA region, and what factors will influence these decisions?

Citi recently established a Middle East and Africa (MEA) cluster, which brings together many countries with high-growth potential, including Kazakhstan, under the same management structure. This structure will help streamline our decision-making processes, ensuring our investments are targeted in areas where we see significant opportunities, such as Kazakhstan. 

Our strategy of serving institutional clients with an emphasis on those with cross-border needs enables us to target our solutions available for clients in Kazakhstan, bringing best practice to the country. As part of the continuing enhancement of our digital capabilities, we recently introduced our WorldLink solution, which allows local clients to automate multi-currency payments by integrating FX with payment processing. WorldLink allows clients in Kazakhstan to use Tenge to fund payments in a wide range of currencies. 

How does Citi balance its commercial objectives with its commitment to sustainable and responsible business practices in Kazakhstan and the broader EMEA region?

Sustainable finance is at the heart of our firm’s long-term interests. Clients throughout the world are continually assessing their strategies because the geopolitical, social, environmental, and technological developments of the next decade are likely to have an impact for generations to come. Helping our clients navigate these challenges and opportunities to sustain their businesses into the future is vital to our own business. 

This is especially true for energy transition. We must continue to support clients who make sure there is ample, affordable energy to meet the world’s needs, while also enabling the investment that is critical to transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Energy transition, energy security and economic growth are not mutually exclusive and must be tackled together. That is why Citi committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in alignment with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

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