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Aizhan is an Associate at the Regulation and Compliance Department.
Aizhan has been working for AIX for ...
Is it easy for a woman to build a career? What attracts people to work in the stock market? We are happy to introduce Aizhan Orakbayeva, the heroine of the #AIXteam video column.
Aizhan is an Associate at the Regulation and Compliance Department.
Aizhan has been working for AIX for two years. She has four years of banking experience and nine years of maternity leave.
At AIX, Aizhan went through four stages of the interview process and solved a business case. We are excited to hear about her experience at the company.
I’m not afraid to start from scratch
I have graduated from the Almaty Banking College in “Banking” and Turan University in “Finance and Credit”. After that, I graduated from the Lomonosov Moscow State University with a “Masters in Business Administration”.
In 1994, I worked for the Kazakhstan State Treasury and then the Kazakhstan National Bank. Between 1997 and the middle of 2015, I spent time with the Central Securities Depository, rising from an entry-grade specialist to Management Board member. I still have immense respect for all of my colleagues and remember fondly the great team at the Central Depository.
Between 2016 and 2018, I tried my hand at owning and managing a small business. Even though it was in no way related to the financial market, the experience of managing my own company has been unforgettable and really useful in my further career.
In the middle of 2018, I was offered the chance to join the AIX as the Central Depository and Registrar CEO. It was such an ambitious and tempting offer that it didn’t take long to agree.
So much of what we did was from scratch. The scope of work was incredible, and I’ll probably never forget the first few months of working at the AIX until the day I die. Having said that, the AIX managed to put together an amazing team of ambitious professionals not afraid of difficulties and barriers, who not only supported me, but became role models. And we were a success!
I enjoy working on the stock market. We cross paths with so many different market elements, exchange, including custodians, brokers, other depositories, settlement banks, issuers and investors… Each of them is unique, and finding the right approach can be tricky. But don’t forget, you’ll also learn a lot from them.
I’m not afraid to start from scratch. If I see that I’ve gone as far as I can go with something and there’s nothing more to be done, I’ll start looking for new experiences.
So, when I began at the AIX, my normal horizons expanded. I work with people from different countries and compatriots in other companies. I’ve noticed that more and more overseas clients are joining the AIX, bringing their experience, demonstrating their unique vision and at the same time enriching my own experience. On top of that, we’re working under a different jurisdiction, English law, which means the language of the job is also English.
To be successful at the AIX, you need to be ready to work hard, not rest on your laurels and make sure you’re open to experiments. Probably, the most important thing is being part of a large team. If we’re going to be successful, we have to work together as one.
Not like all the rest
After graduating from university in Manchester, I decided to return to Kazakhstan to put into practice what I’d learnt and be of use to my country. I began working in the retail department of a local bank. It just so happened to be when the AIFC project was being launched, and my acquaintances working in the financial sector were talking a lot about it and discussing its potential, so I began to collect information on it. I became interested because it is regulated by English common law, which was one of the disciplines I had studied at university. After an interview, I began in the exchange project office – back then the AIX did not exist as a company. It was a real start-up, the 10-15 people working there were starting everything from scratch. We drafted the business processes, rules and principles the exchange still uses in its daily operations. It was a unique and very inspiring experience, especially for a young professional seeing the company he or she is working for grows together with you.
A major and time-consuming project we worked on was the introduction of the trading system – an electronic trading platform that by brokers and issuers could use to list securities and trade. At the start, we were looking for the most appropriate trading system, began testing it and then customised it. We quickly understood that the Nasdaq trading system really was the best option available, and now we have the opportunity to share our experience of launching it with representatives of other exchanges.
AIX doesn’t have the excess bureaucracy you find in a lot of state and even private companies in Kazakhstan. When we were developing AIX business processes, we tried to follow best global practices and implement a progressive approach, and this is the reason AIX is a flexible company open to new ideas and capable of reacting quickly to external challenges and tracking global trends.
I enjoy versatility and multitasking, and when I was at AIX I dealt with all areas of the capital markets and exchange sectors, and that helped me expand my knowledge of the finance sector no end. It also helped me grow as a professional. My focus is now on retail investors and the Tabys mobile application, which allows even novices new to the investment world to trade in exchange securities.
I’m sure that AIX has a great future. Statistics around the number of securities listed, the quantity of local and overseas brokers trading on our exchange, and the growing trade volume truly speak for themselves.
From my own experience, I can safely say that the most important skill to have, apart from professional competence, is being quick on the uptake. Nowadays, it’s not only experience that’s important, but also an ability to learn quickly. When we launch new projects, we have to find ways to overcome the obstacles and difficulties that are almost bound to come up. And an ability to find solutions quickly is invaluable. I think this is the main ingredient for success.
I studied in Kazakhstan and was lucky enough to get myself a trainee position in New York with a local telecommunications company, which was an extremely valuable experience that has helped me a great deal in my professional career. Before I joined the AIX, I was in charge of upgrading and supporting the egov.kz website, which I think we’ve all used at one time or another.
My first job at the AIX was as a technical support consultant. I joined the team because I was really excited by the prospect of working with Nasdaq and its trading platform, and also because I admire the American management style and how they implement new technology and projects. The deal-maker, I suppose, was that the project was finance-related, which is the area I’d always wanted to get involved in.
I think that the most important decision AIX senior management has ever taken was to transition the exchange to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud system. Historically, exchanges and other financial institutions have always tended to be quite conservative with two or three linked data centres across different locations. This sort of approach made moving data centres in the event of an emergency to a new location a long and expensive process, often slowing down or sometimes even bringing operations to a complete halt, and creating huge financial and reputation issues. This is why exchanges across the world have been keen to transition to cloud systems and operate in so-called hybrid mode. I think that AIX is currently, if not the only one, then probably one of only a few exchanges across the world fully operating using cloud technology, and that includes the Nasdaq trading engine. That makes us pioneers in our field. You can read about us on the Nasdaq and AWS sites.
Now that we have cloud server capacity, we can collapse it and move it to another location, whether it be New York, Paris or Shanghai, within half an hour, without impacting exchange operations at all. Cloud technology also allows you to change provider easily as well as location. For example, Google, Microsoft and others all offer the same services as AWS.
As a start-up, we are still developing and growing, and forever looking for new capacity, which if we were to buy it, like we used to, we’d have to spend so much time looking for contractors, analysing commercial proposals, signing contracts and so on. In the time it takes to complete that process, the project might no longer be valid. Cloud technology allows us to complete the process in a matter of minutes: if we need to create a project – we bring the server up, if need to close it – we close the server down. Cloud technology also allows us to save money and streamline processes. And another thing, AWS cloud technology not only covers virtual services, but also promotes high security standards, which are a key requirement of any exchange.
I enjoy the friendly and relaxed atmosphere at the AIX, and that we all treat each other as equals. I don’t think you’d ever see the chairman of the board walking into your office to say hello and ask how things are going in a normal Kazakhstan company. In AIX, it’s par for the course.
Have you ever thought about a career shift? This might be your sign. Let us introduce you to Roman Jerdentapkanov, who is an Infrastructure Engineer in IT Operations Department.
Roman is responsible for maintaining the AIX exchange's information systems, such as the Nasdaq trading platform. He has a very unique story about how he paved his way into one of the most in-demand jobs in IT. If you want to get inspired, take a peek and enjoy the video.
Astana International Exchange is committed to the growth and development of AIX employees. Every member of AIX and former member of AIX has a unique story about their professional development at AIX and how they’ve grown. Today’s success story is – Saltanat Mashirova, Cyber Security Consultant. ...
Family feel environment
Astana International Exchange is committed to the growth and development of AIX employees. Every member of AIX and former member of AIX has a unique story about their professional development at AIX and how they’ve grown.
Today’s success story is – Saltanat Mashirova, Cyber Security Consultant.
“One of the best decisions in my life was to join Astana International Exchange in 2018. From day one, AIX had been so good to me: they were supportive, fair, flexible, and incredibly family feel environment. My former colleagues weren’t just my coworkers but became some of my best friends. My bosses Valerii Tsoi and Timothy Bennet were the most supportive bosses that I have ever had. During my work at AIX, I have engaged and managed large-scale IT Security Projects in the stock exchange. For the first time, I have implemented ISO 27001/27032, and ISO 27001/27032 certification was issued to AIX after thorough auditing and validation by The Standards Institute of Israel.
In addition to that, AIX gave me an opportunity to be the first implementer in Central Asia of large-scale IT Security Projects such as Cloud Access Security Broker and Market Announcement Platform. AIX helped me to engage in all domains of Information and Cyber Security such as asset security, Risk Management, Network Security, SDLC, BCP/DRP, Identity and Access Management, Cloud Security, Infrastructure Security, security assessment and testing.
During my work, I had received support from management to enhance my knowledge; consequently, I have achieved professional advanced certificates in Information Security such as CISSP, CISM, CISA.
Leaving AIX wasn’t an easy decision. I have learned so much and am grateful for the experience. I will always be a huge fan of Astana International Exchange and will be rooting for your continued success.”
Currently, Saltanat Mashirova is a Cyber Security Consultant at Honeywell (Industrial IT and Cybersecurity Engineer/Architect). She is focused on Control systems, Network engineering and Cyber Security in various fields of Oil, Gas, and Energy Industries. She is a speaker/ role model/panellist of different events about cybersecurity. In her spare time, she helps girls from rural areas who have limited access to educational resources to learn English, science and choose future majors to let girls follow their dream.
She is a member of Advisory Board at Siberx, Member of 1st Global Cybersecurity Observatory, Member of Women of Security, Global Ambassador at Women Tech, ISACA Astana Chapter, Mentor at IQanat, CISSP Mentor, Member of 2022 Judges at IFSEC Global – Security & fire safety news and many more.
Opening new horizons
Before I started with the AIFC, I already had “Big Four” experience working for Ernst & Young in Dublin, and then with a Baiterek subsidiary in Astana. In 2016, when they announced the creation of the AIFC, I began to get really excited about working there, in a new organisation with ambitious goals and one that would open new horizons, which is why I agreed to start as an intern.
We began with a small, but productive team. They were difficult times, but we had the most fun. We had to do everything, from drafting speeches and presentations to holding talks with partners and contractors. There was no such thing as “subordination”. We were extremely busy every day, finding solutions on the spot, so to speak, which is why we found a common understanding with everyone, including directors and managing directors. We were like a family that discussed everything openly.
All processes are now in place, but back then, at the start, we felt like we were on a powder keg, ready for anything. We were under a lot of pressure, but we all tried our best to support each other. One of the biggest plusses of those times is that I made a lot of new friends with whom, you could say, we were really put through the mill. Some of us even got married and continue to work at the AIFC.
The Kazakhstan stock market, no matter how sad it might sound, is still really underdeveloped and financial literacy across the country is very low. If we’re being honest, when I started out in the industry, I still found terms like “exchange trading” and “investment in securities” somewhat far off and even incomprehensible.
Having said that, the stock market never stands still; new trends appear and we need to keep our finger on the pulse, as it were. New projects are constantly appearing, and we continue to look for ways to resolve them together. Difficulties like these spur us on to learn and develop our skills. I enjoy taking part in book building, IPO and cross-listing exercises, and I enjoy working with figures and analytics.
The situation in the country is changing; people are beginning to get more and more interested in alternative means of preserving and increasing their savings; have begun to learn about how the exchange works and what opportunities it can offer. Thanks to exchange listings, everyone in Kazakhstan can invest in “blue chip” businesses; we all have access to a share of the national wealth and resources. These opportunities, thanks to the efforts of AIX, are increasing every day. Our goal is to become the financial hub in Central Asia, and that’s where we’re heading.
I like that AIX management is very open with its people. Ideas are always welcome and nobody worries that their idea will be discussed or criticised. Everyone has the right to speak, which brings everyone together. We are united by our team spirit, common goals and values.
We have a very friendly team and everyone is accepted. The main thing is to be open, communicative and not to be afraid of asking “stupid” questions, because practice has shown that actually there are no “stupid” questions and that you learn best doing what you do when you’re actually doing it.
And the most important thing is not to be afraid of trying something new. With that in mind, you can be sure that your efforts will find support and your colleagues will help you get to grips with whatever it is you try.
From consulting to Big Data: How to find your calling in finances
Getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself isn’t always easy. We tend to feel uneasy when we reach crossroads. But sometimes, an inspirational story, like the one below, can really help you find yourself.Maternity is a time for personal growth
I graduated from Nazarbayev University in 2016 in economics. In my fourth year I received an offer from McKinsey and spent two years with the firm, after which I left on maternity. At McKinsey I was involved in a number of cross-industry projects, but soon recognised that I needed to focus on one area as knowing a little about everything was really not my thing. I had also began to find corporate finance and developing financial models very interesting, which is why I decided to take a master’s in them.
I found out that the first MSF programme was graduating from the Nazarbayev University Business School, and that many of them had studied with me on my bachelor’s. I was pleased to hear that they had all enjoyed the programme, in particular course discipline, the valuable expertise of the professors, and how practical and applicable to their everyday life they found it.
In my seventh month of pregnancy I passed the GMAT and was selected for the course. I began studying when my daughter was three years old, and I wasn’t the only mum. My course mate had a 9-month child. There was even a married couple on the MBA programme who had a 3-4 month old baby. And they all easily coped with their studies.
Master’s together with my daughter
My Master’s helped me acquire the serious knowledge I was looking for. I thought they’d go on easy on me because I had a baby (laughs). But it was really hard. All those times when I spent more than six hours a day at lectures, my husband and mum walked around the yard with my daughter, and I only got to see her during the breaks. That’s why she graduated with me! I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a financier in the future.
In tandem with the Nazarbayev University programme, I sat for my Chartered Financial Analyst Level 1 exam (one of the most prestigious international certificates for financial analysts – author’s note). CFA is pure theory, while the MSF involves using a number of codes in different languages – Python, SAS and SQL. It was great that the school administration began to think about going digital in our year.
We had two residencies: one in the National Bank in Almaty and the second at the Cass Business School in London. When we were at the National Bank, we were taught by Azat Uskenbayev, who now heads the balance of payments department. We had just completed a course on macroeconomics, which included a balance of payments element, and he showed us what that meant, using real cases. They were really impressive lectures.
There aren’t that many places in Kazakhstan for financiers that offer really interesting assignments. I wanted to immerse myself in the finance world and learn how securities were structured, which is why I applied to the Astana International Exchange and joined them this February. The AIX’s mission is to make capital “more active” in Kazakhstan through a number of social projects focusing on developing financial literacy and increasing the number of retail investors and issuers.
My favourite AIX project was launching the Tabys mobile application for retail investors. Given the current situation, we really need to be investing in the future, guaranteeing ourselves a more significant long-term return on our savings than we would normally get with a bank deposit.
You can read the full article on Forbes.kz here.