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Zhanar Akzhanova

Head of market operations and on-boarding department

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.