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Alfa Bank thinks big for small customers

Alfa Bank has married its SME focus and its digital ambitions to much success in Kazakhstan, but will its business model be enough to ward off the competition?

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Andrey Timchenko has a clear vision for Alfa Bank in Kazakhstan. The firm’s chief executive wants Alfa’s digital banking functions to be embedded in the lives of people and businesses in pretty much every way possible.

It’s a lofty ambition for Kazakhstan, where 41% of the country’s 18.8 million people do not have access to banking services, according to research from UK firm Merchant Machine. Kazakhstan ranks 13th on the researcher’s list of most unbanked nations (Morocco bags first place with 71%).

It’s an ambition that could very well be achieved because Kazakhstan has a decent internet penetration of 76%, which is likely to increase given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the way people live and businesses operate.

Andrey Timchenko, Alfa Bank.jpg
Andrey Timchenko, Alfa Bank

Russia’s Alfa Banking Group, which is run by chief executive Vladimir Verkhoshinsky, owns Alfa. The Kazakh bank is well positioned to capture a big part of the digital business in Kazakhstan given its focus and structure. It has three business lines: corporates, small businesses, and a unit that straddles retail and small business clients.

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Rashmi Kumar has been Asiamoney editor since April 2021, having been a regular contributor covering Asia's markets before that. Based in Singapore, she is also the Asia editor of GlobalCapital, a sister publication.
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