Kazakhstan's best international bank 2019: Citi
Kazakhstan’s banking system should be understood in the context of its history.
Several Russian banks, even those who did not operate in the country before the fall of the Soviet Union, have enough of a cultural heritage in Kazakhstan that they are seen as local institutions. Sberbank, the country’s second largest, is the flagship example – despite only entering the market in 2006, it is widely treated as a local player.
That means Kazakh bankers and executives asked about foreign competition in the banking sector often leave out Russian banks entirely, instead arguing that few foreign banks have managed to get a good foothold in the country. Citi, they admit, is the exception.
The bank first entered the market in 1993, following US oil firm Chevron. Citi’s strategy is still not drastically different from its original rationale: banking multinational corporations keen to invest in the country. That’s an important role for a market that relies on foreign capital in crucial industries, including oil production.
Citi makes up about 25% of foreign exchange trading on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange, has worked on all of the country’s offshore sovereign bonds and won an eye-catching mandate on Kaspi’s pending London Stock Exchange IPO, although that has since been postponed.
It has launched an all-in-one digital treasury solution, CitiConnect, in the country, as well as rolling out InstantFX, a platform to help companies manage currency risk.
Citi, run by local chief executive Andrey Kurilin, has navigated the country expertly. Domestic bankers widely applaud the bank’s understanding of the country; Kurilin too wins kudos from non-banking executives. Citi has few rivals for this award, and it shows no signs of giving up its pole position any time soon.