Dr. Jelle Zijlstra was the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, President of the Central Bank of the Netherlands, and President of the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland, with long-standing engagement with the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands. In honour of this renowned economist, we recognize international leaders whose work champions economic national growth, generational-shifting innovation, global collaboration, or charitable commitments which dramatically improve the quality of life for society.

International financial centres concentrate participants in banking, asset management, insurance or financial markets with venues and supporting services for these activities to take place. Traditional financial centres such as Amsterdam, London, Paris, and New York have long histories. Today, there is a diverse range of financial centres worldwide. While New York and London often stand out as the leading global financial centres, other established financial centres provide significant competition and several newer financial centres are developing. Competition is hot. Is financial centre competition a zero-sum game or can everybody win? The recently formed Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan has proven that financial centres can achieve economic development that embraces broad wealth creation and productivity.

AIFC advantages

Yernur Rysmagambetov is a graduate of California Technology University and London University College. He is a chartered financial analyst (CFA Charterholder). From 2017 until 2019 Yernur was director of the AIFC Bureau for Continuing Professional Development (BCPD Ltd.). Since 2019 he was deputy CEO of the AIFC Authority. Yernur previously worked at analytical departments of JP Morgan Chase investment bank and Wilshire Associates, Inc investment company. In 2017, Yernur became one of the “100 New Faces” of Kazakhstan.

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev launched the brilliant idea to create the AIFC in 2015 as one of the answers to new global challenges. The launch of the centre is an important step in the sustainable and consistent economic development of Kazakhstan. Currently, AIFC plays a pivotal role in positioning itself as a global centre for business and finance, connecting the economies of the Central Asia, the Caucasus, EAEU, West China, Mongolia, Middle East and Europe. It is a unique hub on the map of the financial world that brings together the best practices and opportunities offered by similar institutions around the globe – from New York City and London to Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. AIFC is the first institution in the region to offer businesses a complete and comprehensive legal platform for attracting, implementing and protecting investments.

AIFC’s legal structure is based on the law of England and Wales and the standards applied by the world’s leading financial centres. AIFC’s independent governing bodies provide additional guarantees and support for businesses and their operations. The AIFC Court, which is separate and independent from Kazakhstan’s judiciary system, comprises the Court of First Instance offering a special fast-track procedure for small claims up to the value of $150,000, and the Court of Appeal.

AIFC’s new Astana International Exchange (AIX) was created based on the most innovative solutions and with support from the most experienced and influential international players. Its main strategic partners are the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the hi-tech stock exchange giant NASDAQ that provided the trading platform for the AIX, international financial corporation Goldman Sachs, and the Silk Road Fund, which opens access to projects in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

A friendly tax regime and operational incentives help reduce expenses and make the cost of doing business in the AIFC attractive to its clients and increase their competitiveness.

Developments in international markets

Recent studies indicate that emerging and developing countries in the Eurasian region need to focus on the freedom to trade internationally, market size and higher education to remain successful. AIFC has implemented these elements in its financial ecosystem very skillfully. AIFC understood very well that the essential condition for becoming a global financial centre is to enhance the accumulation of human capital and the promotion of products and services specialization. The globalization process shifts the scale of local and traditional financial transaction to a global level. Capital flows and modern technologies freely move across nations. This process changes the role of the financial system to make the system to be a collective mean of conveying, generating, processing and interpreting monetary information. As such, the AIFC ecosystem focuses on the specialization of the skilled labor force, production materials and others. AIFC is effectively the center of financial expertise in the Eurasian region.

AIFC also understood that market size is crucial to market development. Promoting market size aims at increasing the demand for capital. AIFC raised capital for financing infrastructure. These investments are generally considered to be a powerful mechanism to increase capital demand. AIFC also promoted and supported the development of the small-and-medium-enterprises (SMEs)sector. The Swiss Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands sees this encouragement of entrepreneurship and development of a vibrant start-up ecosystem as a main channel for financing innovation.

Establishing a successful global financial center like AIFC, is a complicated and multi-faceted decision-making process which requires careful planning. The process also takes into account specific characteristics of the economy and the society. AIFC’s CEO, Yernur Rysmagambetov implemented a successful multifaceted approach in which theoretical and practical aspects were combined to develop AIFC to become a major international player. These are the key considerations for the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands to issue this year’s Dr. Jelle Zijlstra Awards in the field of Global Financial Markets to the Astana International Financial Centre and to its CEO, Yernur Rysmagambetov, for his personal commitment.