Month: April 2018

Why smart technology is the most important thing in the XXI century banking sector

The Kassa Nova bank is a unique case in the Kazakhstani market. A compact bank was included into the list of the most stable financial institutions and into 20 the most fast-growing companies of Kazakhstan due to the smart flexible approach to the banking sector, approach promoted by the bank’s majority shareholder, Bulat Utemuratov. Kassa Nova does not look like a standard Kazakhstani bank. At first, the founders had in mind a network of microcredit organisations, which appeared in Kazakhstan in 2008. But as early as in 2009, the company received a licence to carry out banking operations as the JSC Bank Kassa Nova, having inherited a wide network of branches and becoming the first bank in Kazakhstan based on microcredit principles. In December of the same 2009, the company issued its first loan as a bank. Kazakhstani businessman Bulat Utemuratov, who is also a shareholder of the JSC ForteBank, became the majority shareholder of the new effective concept bank. Kassa Nova has always positioned itself as a consumer bank focused on providing financial services to the population and small businesses. Such positioning assumes efficiency, simplicity, comfort, friendly service and orientation to the needs of Kazakhstani people in the financial services sector. Probably, this was the impetus to the development of the bank in the direction of digitality, innovation and adaptability, because these are precisely the qualities that turn banks into advanced ecosystems capable of competing with popular IT services and companies in the consumer market. In 2017, when the JSC Bank Kassa Nova increased its authorised capital by 12.2% – up to KZT 10,365,140,000 it became clear that the bank took the right course for the development. “The increase in Tier 1 capital is planned in the Bank’s development strategy. This will improve the financial performance, expand the client base, ensure the growth of assets, the bank’s stability will increase,” – the holder of the bank’s majority stake, Bulat Utemuratov, commented on the additional capitalisation then. The additional capitalisation of the bank proved the shareholder continued investing and was determined to develop it. According to the National Bank, Kassa Nova ranked 23rd in terms of assets among 33 Kazakhstani banks in the first quarter of 2017. The Bank was included into the top ten stable Kazakhstani financial institutions with a B/B rating on the international scale and KzBB on the national one according to the estimates of the S&P international agency, wrote, and Forbes Kazakhstan placed the company as the 9th in the “20 fastest growing companies in the Republic of Kazakhstan” rating. Innovation implies the search for flexible solutions, not only technological, but also in partnership with third organisations. In November 2015, Kassa Nova Bank launched a cooperation programme with the JSC Kazpost. Since then, the bank’s customers can replenish the bank accounts of individuals in cash at any outlet of Kazpost which has the largest network of outlets in Kazakhstan – 3,200 outlets. The commission for such an operation is only half a percentage point. The client does not need to know the bank details, you just need to name the unique code of the bank – 4856, and show your identity card to the clerk. A successful solution significantly simplified the life of bank customers who live in small towns and settlements where the bank’s branches are not represented. Kassa Nova bank outlets are generally losing their traditional function – servicing of clients. As Bill Gates once said: banking services will continue to be in demand, but the banks themselves – not. Customers now more often come to the branches just to take a cup of coffee, open an account for the first time, and in future will come to have a pleasant and useful time, but all other ordinary operations and some complex ones from 2013 can be performed online via internet-banking or the My Kassa mobile application in one’s smartphone. Kassa Nova outlets now look like small islands costing to the bank a little bit more than three million tenge and are, as a rule, located in large shopping malls. In December 2017 the Kassa Nova application rated second as for the usability among the Kazakhstani bank applications, according to the survey of a Russian company “USABILITYLAB”. Another bank – ForteBank, having Bulat Utemuratov as its shareholder, was on the forth place in the same rating. Kassa Nova is committed to becoming a smart company, not a purely financial institution. Fintech is actively developing all over the world and to survive, a small bank needs to be head and shoulders above its larger counterparts in terms of smart technology and flexibility. Shareholders in the person of Bulat Utemuratov support this strategy, emphasising that not only do they plan no mergers of Kassa Nova and ForteBank, but also believe in the success of the concept of the compact progressive bank Kassa Nova, which copes well with the tasks set by the management. In 2013, Kassa Nova Bank established its own processing center, launched the issuance of MasterCard cards, in 2016 – the issuance of VISA cards. Availability of its own processing secured a lot of advantages. In 2015, the bank renewed its Colvir banking system where modern banking technologies were implemented – from budgeting to risk management. In 2016 the bank launched online P2P transfers, an effective Nova+ deposit with an annual effective interest rate of 16% and above and several anti-crisis products from credit cards with a grace repayment period to TEMPO COMFORT and TEMPO CARD secured loans at favorable rates, for a long period and with credit lines. In 2017, for example, sales on credit cards increased five-fold, and the forecast for 2018 is even more positive. All this is not very impressive now, but three years ago almost no Kazakhstani bank could boast of such a flexible and smart product portfolio. Any new products in the bank are considered only through the prism of “online” – if the novelty cannot be digitised, in 99% of cases it will not eventually be implemented. In promotion, the bank tested the Direct Marketing system in partnership with the Kcell mobile operator – this approach allowed for sending more targeted proposals to potential customers using such parameters as gender, age, smartphone model, and telecommunication services costs. The bank managed to use the accumulated customer base of the operator for a much smaller amount than would go to creating a similar customer base internally. The feedback percentage during the pilot mailing was 67%, and the real conversion was 20%. This became a precedent. Another smart project in the framework of cooperation with Kcell is called “Business pulse” – free SMS for conduction of mobile surveys of customers. The method was used to fine-tune business processes in the bank’s branches and to increase the level of customer satisfaction. It turned out that this is not only handy for customers, but also beneficial for the company – the cost and the “length” of the business process to improve the service quality was reduced. It was not necessary to involve consulting, to conduct research, to arrange focus groups and to try finding out what customers think and feel, because you can just ask. The compactness of the bank allows it to quickly and efficiently adapt to the needs of the client and the changing realities of the modern financial sector in the global world.

How ForteBank was tempered

A brief history of recovery of the banking sector in Kazakhstan illustrated by an example of the merger of Alliance Bank, Temirbank and ForteBank. The JSC ForteBank is one of the leading banks in Kazakhstan with 19 branches and a wide network of 102 outlets throughout the country. In 2017, at The Banker distinguished award ceremony in London, Forte was recognised as the Bank of the Year in Kazakhstan, and in 2018 the Global Finance magazine also named ForteBank “The Best Bank of Kazakhstan” at its 25th annual award ceremony for the best banks in the world. The decisions of the expert commissions were influenced by the strengthening of the bank’s market positions, the growth of important financial indicators, the introduction of technological solutions and the development of new business lines. As of the beginning of 2018, ForteBank is among the country’s five largest banks in terms of assets and top-3 in terms of capitalisation and liquidity. In 2017, Moody’s upgraded the outlook on ForteBank’s ratings from “stable” to “positive”. The same was done by the S&P Global Ratings agency who have revised the bank’s rating on the national scale from “kzBB” to “kzBB +”. Forte clients can withdraw cash without commission fees in bank machines of other banks, get cashback on their payment cards for non-cash payments for goods or services, more than 10,000 entrepreneurs actively use ForteBank POS-terminals to service their clients, and the ForteBank mobile application was recognised   as the best mobile banking in Kazakhstan and the 9th best bank application within the CIS in 2017, according to the Markswebb analytical agency. Four years ago it was completely different. Another bank – Alliance Bank – belonged to the National Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna and was considered problematic. Not only Alliance Bank was a problem, but also Temirbank. The process of merging the three banks was secured by the investment bank Lazard and the law firm White & Case. The name ForteBank was chosen from all three not casually. This was preceded by a serious marketing research, the results of which showed that Alliance Bank and Temirbank had too high negative awareness among creditors and consumers of banking services in Kazakhstan due to restructurings that were already conducted in these banks. In an interview with, Bulat Utemuratov, a shareholder of the merged banks, said that he had invested about 400 million dollars – the cost of purchasing Temirbank and the funds of ForteBank. In an interview with five years ago, the businessman said he was ready to guarantee to the clients the creation of one of the best Kazakhstani banks with his business reputation: “… significant investments and efforts were made, so a unified bank should be able to be viable. I believe that after the completion of restructuring of Alliance Bank and of the merger with Temirbank, the merged bank will become one of the leaders of Kazakhstan’s banking system in terms of capital adequacy level and liquidity,” – Utemuratov commented. In October 2013 Bulat Utemuratov started negotiations with the Samruk-Kazyna Fund, and in May 2014 Utemuratov bought 79.88% of Temirbank’s ordinary shares and 16% of ordinary and preferred shares of Alliance Bank from the Fund. The Samruk-Kazyna Fund remained the majority shareholder of Alliance Bank with 51% share. In 2014, Temirbank and ForteBank had sufficient capital, while Alliance Bank had a strictly negative one. So the merger could happen only after the restructuring of Alliance Bank. This process was completed in December 2014 and later Samruk-Kazyna decided to sell to Bulat Utemuratov the remaining shares of Alliance Bank. Representatives of the Samruk-Kazyna Fund noted that this was a critical point, the passage through which allowed reaching the goal – withdrawal of the state structures from the capital of second-tier banks in line with the instruction of the Head of State, Nursultan Nazarbayev. This is a big step to improve the Kazakhstani banking system and to implement the anti-crisis programme to stabilise the financial sector, which provides for the release of the Samruk-Kazyna Fund from its non-relevant function of bank management. All this taken together contributed to the greater benefit for the end users of banking services – private and corporate persons, the improvement of service and the expansion of product portfolios through the introduction of new technologies and the need for competitiveness.

How Verny Capital Holding opens luxury hotels in Kazakhstan and in the world

Ritz-Carlton is an international network of luxury hotels. Globally the network is managed by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, subsidiary of the largest hotel holding Marriott International. Marriott International is more than 6,500 properties across 127 countries and regions of the world. Marriott brands are the most successful and high quality ones in the world. For example, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company became the only service company awarded with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award twice – in 1992 and 1999. Ritz-Carlton hotels in Astana, Moscow and Vienna fall within the portfolio of the Verny Capital Holding working in the sector of direct investments and managing, inter alia, funds of Kazakhstani businessman Bulat Utemuratov. Московский Ritz Carlton The Moscow Ritz-Carlton is located in the historical centre of Moscow in the Tverskaya Street, in the vicinity of the Red Square and the Moscow Kremlin – two major sightseeing places of Russia’s capital. This location was always used for hotels: in the XIX century – “Paris”, in which Nekrasov liked to stop, and in the Soviet years – the 22-storey “Intourist”, classical for the socialist republics. The hotel gained its present-day appearance in 2005-2007, when they built a new 11-storey building designed by well-known architect Andrey Dmitriyevich Meerson with a more classical facade in the eclectic style. Well-known Kazakhstani businessman Bulat Utemuratov purchased the project in 2011. Even then, Russian experts called the deal profitable, given the location of the hotel, the functionality of the business and its prestige in the world community. Next year, 2012, another Ritz-Carlton hotel was added to the portfolio of the holding company – this time in the Austrian capital, Vienna. Bulat Utemuratov opened a 202-room hotel in Schubertring – a famous historical area, close to the Vienna State Opera and the Museum of Fine Arts. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is housed in two 19th century palaces, which are protected as monuments to the cultural heritage of Austria. Ritz Carlton в Вене Unlike the other two hotels from the Verny Capital’s portfolio, Ritz-Carlton Astana is located not in the historical part of the city, but in the high-tech complex Talan Towers – the holding’s signature project in the sphere of commercial real estate. The whole complex of the Talan Towers is 120 thousand square meters. One tower has “A” class offices, another – the hotel and apartments, and there is a shopping gallery in between.   To build the Talan Towers, an international team of the best consultants, designers, architects and contractors was invited with the aim of creating a new magnet place. Ritz-Carlton Astana cost its owner Bulat Utemuratov 430 million dollars, writes the Atameken Business Channel. The interiors of the five-star luxury hotel Ritz-Carlton with a ballroom, meeting rooms, a spa and a swimming pool, were developed by the hotel interior design company Richmond. The company’s director, Terry McGillicuddy, said in an interview to “All rooms and suites of the hotel are distinguished with luxury and glitter, as well as with exceptional service and comfort, as expected from a world-class project.” And the Atameken Business Channel told that the team was inspired primarily by the nature of Kazakhstan: “We tried to bring Kazakhstan’s spirit into the interior of the hotel, using abstract compositions to show the rich nature of this country. When the lobby was being designed, the mountains and rivers of the country became the inspiration for us, so the lines were used there. In doing so, we used the materials of the highest quality. I am so proud of this project.” Ritz Carlton Astana Ritz-Carlton Astana opened on the threshold of EXPO-2017 in June 2017, so that it was possible to accommodate high-ranking guests in a five-star hotel of a popular international network. The head of state, Nursultan Nazarbayev, cut the ribbon together with Bulat Utemuratov. Kazakhstani politicians, businessmen, celebrities and socialites gathered at the opening – the opening of a hotel of such a level took place in the capital for the first time. Milla Jovovich and Fyodor Bondarchuk were the hosts of the evening, and the guests were entertained by the legendary British band Jamiroquai and incomparable Patricia Kaas. The hotel was built in compliance with the best international practices of “green” construction: not only were ecological building materials used here, but, for example, all construction waste was recycled. “We deliberately spent a lot of time designing “smart” systems. For example, the sockets in the hotel’s lounge bar are mounted in the backs of sofas and even under the bar counter – for the comfort of customers. We discussed with the designers at length how to implement this technically,” – explained the Director General of the Verny Capital Holding, Yerlan Ospanov, in an interview to In April 2018 the Talan Towers multifunctional complex became the first holder of the gold level LEED certificate in the field of “green construction” in Kazakhstan. Номер в Ritz Carlton Astana The hotel has the total of 157 rooms: 108 Deluxe rooms, 17 Club Rooms, 11 Junior Suites, 10 Executive suites, eight Carlton Suites, and three Ritz-Carlton Suites. The cost of the rooms varies from KZT60,000 for Deluxe to KZT4 million for the Ritz-Carlton suite, depending on the time of booking, season and additional services. Hotel guests can use the spa and wellness center, the fitness center, but almost all the reviews on most of all praise the beautiful view of the city from the panoramic windows of the rooms and unchallenged service. The entire Ritz-Carlton network, regardless of whether this is in Astana, Moscow or Vienna, understands service as something much more than a cozy and beautifully furnished room and a soft bed. Guests who live in luxury rooms, for example, have a personal butler service available. Butler is a professional who becomes the main contact for a guest, available 24 hours. Butler ensures the fulfillment of all the wishes of the guest, becoming his link with all the services of the hotel. The hotel follows the philosophy of “We are ladies and gentlemen at the service of ladies and gentlemen”, because employees here are considered as the soul and the main advantage. Only loyal and company-loving employees, in whose education the company invests a lot of resources, are able to provide the proper level of service to the guests of the premium hotel. This policy was set by the Marriott International company and is unfailingly maintained by all franchisees, so visiting any Ritz-Carlton in the world guests receive a consistently high level of service to which they are accustomed. The first-class service is provided by an international team of professionals. “In our hotel, a multinational team consists of hospitality industry experts from very different countries: Peru, France, Turkey, Germany. All of them worked towards the opening of several hotels of our network. I have experience in opening nine hotels of The Ritz-Carlton network,” – says Dennis Kurt Jung from Germany, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Astana. Ritz-Carlton welcome guests as family members – make unexpected but always pleasant gifts, look for reasons to pay attention, exceed expectations, and not just provide the basic services listed on the site when booking.

How did Bulat Utemuratov set up a financial institution attractive for foreign investors?

In mid-2000s the economy of Kazakhstan showed an incredible growth. Hence, the banking system was also growing. It looked exciting and promising not only within the country but also for foreign investors. It’s not so easy, Kazakhstan – a large oil country located between China and Russia. All banks were growing fast at that time and at some point they came up to an ambitious mission – to become a systematically important financial institution for the entire economy. And what does one need to do for that? Increase capitalisation. The task of capital expansion, among others, also confronted ATFBank, a dynamic emerging financial institution set up by businessmen Bulat Utemuratov. Over 10 years after its opening, ATFBank, according to the Fitch Ratings data for 2007, in the height of the credit boom, thanks among other things to the clever management, was one of the four largest commercial banks of Kazakhstan. The ATFBank assets in 2006 comprised EUR 6.3 billion, capital – EUR 345.7 billion, net profit – EUR 26 million. But even with such results, it was not possible to move forward like headline players – Kazkommertzbank or Bank TuramAlem, therefore the ATFBank management decided to take on a strategic investor. To build up the capital and to create a really powerful financial asset, the top management of the bank started thinking of a strategic investor – a foreign commercial bank which was unlikely to be interested in the minority share. As early as by the end of 2006 the managers arrived at an idea that the optimal option would be to sell 100% of the bank. In this case the potential pool of investors was becoming larger as at that time foreign banks were hunting for assets in the territory of Eastern Europe and the CIS. Understanding the necessity of global changes, ATFBank started selection of a potential investor. Two potential investors – UniCredit and BNP Paribas – came through to the final after long discussions and scrupulous research. And thus, on 21 June 2007 a subsidiary of the Italian holding UniCredit and private shareholders of ATFBank have signed an agreement on acquisition of the majority package of the ATFBank shares; and in October Bank Austria Creditanstalt (the Vienna representative office of UniCredit) announced the purchase of 91.8% of the bank assets. The amount of the transaction consummated in the second half of 2007 comprised USD 2.2. billion. The transaction was beneficial for all participants. So, UniCredit has got the bank with 155 branches in Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the insurance and leasing companies and the pension fund. According to analytics, purchase of ATFBank by UniCredit (with assets of over EUR 800 billion) is an illustrative example of the increased focus on Kazakhstan on the part of significant world investors. This interest is also stipulated by the fact that one of the major ATFBank shareholders, Bulat Utemuratov, has already got the reputation of a reliable and promising partner: back in 1994 he helped Bank Creditanstalt in opening the first Kazakhstani credit line. It’s also worth noting that during all twelve years of developing the bank up to the moment of its sale to the UniCredit group all profits generated by ATFBank was reinvested in its own capital and in strengthening of its financial market positions. Who would have known that a global financial crisis would strike just less than a year after the consummation of this transaction. However, in the words of Romeo Collina, ex-Chair of the ATFBank Board, the UniCredit Group has no regret for the acquisition of ATFBank. “We have bought ATFBank in 2007 when everyone was looking to the East. Actually, when everyone was heading to China, we did not go to China, we went to the country which had an economic potential. The only thing is that we were unlucky with a crisis beginning just 3 months after we have acquired the bank”.

How does Bulat Utemuratov’s Fund help special children?

Autism is a term that unites groups of development disorders of the central nervous system (CNS). First of all, these disorders are manifested in disruption of social interaction and communication disturbances, as well as in rigidity, peculiarity and narrow-mindedness of interests and activities. Such children cannot be “cured”, but it is possible to help them and their parents. One just needs to know how to help. And Kazakhstani businessman Bulat Utemuratov decided to tackle this difficult issue – it is for three years now that the foundation he set up has been developing multifunctional resource centres for special children. In 2015, such centers were opened in Almaty and Astana, and a year later the Foundation established the same centers in Kyzylorda and Ust-Kamenogorsk. The Centre for Support of Children with Autism “Assyl Miras” under Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation is a multi-profile service where special children receive timely specialist assistance. There are three services in each of such centers: psychological-pedagogical rehabilitation, diagnostics and support services for parents. Every 5.5 months (this is the term for which the rehabilitation period is designed) more than 180 children get comprehensive assistance in each centre. All Assyl Miras centres work under a single programme, based on two international techniques for correcting autism spectrum disorders. The first one is classical, when social-communicative and cognitive spheres, everyday language skills are thrashed over with a child. This takes four specialists working: a psychologist, a special-needs expert, a speech therapist and a social teacher. Technique No 2 – ABA-therapy, – is professional assistance rendered to a child in mastering 544 skills which, according to experts, a person with autism should have. To do this, each student is assigned an individual teacher. Whether we want this or not, autism has become part of everyday life. You can try to ignore it (“Take glycinchik, everything will be all right!”), you can fight with it trying to “cure”, and you can learn to live with it. This is an important problem that needs to be addressed, and everyone should be involved in solving it. With the support of Bulat Utemuratov, at least 40 specialists had targeted training at the Assyl Miras centres over these years, including psychologist doctors, special-needs experts, speech therapists and social teachers working with autistic children. Training of this cadre was carried out by professionals from Kazakhstan, the USA and Europe. Moreover, in 2017 Assyl Miras held, for the second time, a conference “Autism. The world of opportunities”. Teachers, parents, medical workers – a wide range of interested people gets a chance to learn more about autism, about new techniques of correction of the CNS disorders, an opportunity to find like-minded people, to learn and share useful experience. The Assyl Miras centres are called resource centres because they are designed primarily for transferring best practices in scientific research. They are provided with pedagogical personnel and advanced equipment; integration and concentration of material, technical, pedagogical, information, intellectual and other resources of education is carried out on their basis. That is, they are created in order to improve the quality of rendering professional assistance to children with ASD. As a stone thrown in water causes circles, so the work of Assyl Miras will lead to everyone learning how to properly help the special children. And, at last, the most important thing: all services for children and parents who approached the Resource Centre are free of charge.

How Bulat Utemuratov promotes the culture of charity and cooperation in Kazakhstan

The year of 2017 laid down the start for effective charity collaborations between the private business and humanitarian organisations in Kazakhstan, and this assistance rendered to Kazakhstanis is being continued through 2018 too. Cooperation of Burger King, Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation and ForteBank with the Red Crescent Society is one of these projects. 19 September 2017 saw a special position “Whopper Combo 61” appearing on the menu of Burger King fast food restaurants. By the way, the company is affiliated with the Verny Capital group managing direct investment funds. The key shareholder of these funds is Bulat Utemuratov. Having opted for this combo, any guest of 36 restaurants representing the network in Kazakhstan, who felt like it, could donate 61 tenge to those in need for food. The action received wide coverage in the media, with viners, presenters and public figures popular in Kazakhstan serving behind the restaurant counters. But it was not enough for the initiators to think over an effective scheme of raising money within the “Whopper Combo 61 – Eat not alone!” and to get the message across to the restaurant guests, they wanted to assure themselves of the transparency in the transfer of money to beneficiaries – as the purpose of the project always was real support of the needed. Seeking an expertise and effective logistics, the company’s representatives reached out to the Kazakhstani representative office of one of the world’s most reputable humanitarian organisations – the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. “From 19 September through to 31 December 2017 we have sold 22,950 portions of “Whopper Combo 61” and have managed to raise 1,399,950 KZT,” – Anuar Utemuratov, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Burger King Kazakhstan, said. As a result, the Red Crescent Society distributed 40 food certificates, 35,000 tenge each, among lonely elderly people, single mothers and multi-child families. The project lasted till February 2018. In March 2018 the final results were announced, and the second batch of social certificates was distributed. In November of that year of 2017 another charity project was launched. Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation signed a memorandum with the Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan on rendering aid to Kazakhstanis who suffered from natural disasters. The Foundation will transfer money for the victims to ForteBank payment cards which will be distributed by the Red Crescent employees in the event of a natural disaster in the territory of Kazakhstan. Such an innovative way to dispense aid is used for the first time not only in Kazakhstan but in the world. The total amount allocated by Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation for this project is 67,200,000 KZT. The sums on each card vary from 20 to 30 thousand tenge which can be spent for what is most urgently needed within the first hours after natural disasters – food, warm clothes and hygiene products. Such mechanics of the project make aid dispensing not only transparent but also systematic, as the aid is prepared well in advance, when a disaster has not yet happened. The founder, Bulat Utemuratov, said: “I cannot stand on the sidelines when people are left with no shelter and food because of a natural disaster. Joint efforts of Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation, ForteBank and Red Crescent Society will be used to provide first humanitarian aid to victims. I hope this multilateral initiative to help people suffering disaster will be backed by the business community and public organisations”. Yelena Kim, Director General, Red Crescent Kazakhstan, notes the efficiency of such a system in the context of quick response to emergencies – ForteBank’s banking technologies help saving precious time and dispensing aid more evenly among the victims. Beside the joint project with Bulat Utemuratov’s Foundation, ForteBank introduced to its online banking a function of transferring money to the Red Crescent Society account. All one needs to do is to enter the website or the mobile application, select PA “Red Crescent Society in the Republic of Kazakhstan” as a supplier in the payments section, enter the required details and specify the amount of contribution. Collaboration between ForteBank and the Red Crescent Society is an illustrative example of how cooperation between business and NGOs makes mutual assistance more technological and accessible for a wide range of people.

Daddy, I fell in love with tennis! Why did Bulat invest 65 million dollars in the development of Kazakhstani tennis?

Over the past ten years, since prominent businessman and public figure Bulat Utemuratov has become the President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, modern tennis centres have been built in every oblast centre of Kazakhstan. The Federation holds tournaments of national and international level, where our young athletes show good results. Kazakhstani tennis gets publicity abroad too. How was all this achieved? Steady work and dedication, high professionalism, patriotism, honesty and openness, as well as an emphasis on the maximum effectiveness are the main principles of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, which helped Bulat Utemuratov’s team to achieve tangible results in the development of both children’s and “adult” sports. But first things first. More than six thousand children are currently engaged in court tennis in Kazakhstan. It is necessary to create conditions for their professional growth and development, and ten years ago there were only sixty tennis courts in the country. Today’s figure is one hundred and eighty four. Every large oblast centre now has own professional coaches, but the Federation spares no cadre and sends experienced senior coaches to the oblast tennis centres. KTF is a team of true tennis fans who support not only young men and women who will represent the interests of the Republic on the world stage in a few years, but also professional athletes. So, most recently, Kazakhstani tennis players defeated Switzerland and for the fifth time in history went to the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup World Group. Court tennis is a large-scale and, as a consequence, costly sport. Infrastructure is needed, strong coaching staff is needed and, among other things, athletes should be able to regularly participate in tournaments not only in Kazakhstan, but also on the world arena. The main goal of the Kazakhstan’s Federation, as of a public association of the republican scale, is precisely in this – popularising tennis and bringing the country to a qualitatively new level. This is what the Vice-President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, Dias Doskarayev, thinks.   “Education of champions, financing of competitions, training of Olympians is a priori the task of the Ministry of Culture and Sports and of the National Olympic Committee. But the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation has a special, large-scale approach. Here, its President Bulat Utemuratov took on himself a lot, from the construction of tennis centres to the education of champions and the development of top-class sports. Just the state support is not enough for a real breakthrough of tennis in Kazakhstan. The personal efforts of the President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation are helping to bring the country to a qualitatively new level in the world tennis hierarchy,” – says Doskarayev. “In 2017, we were able to increase the number of events and general financial investments in tennis by one and a half time, including at the expense of personal funds of the KTF President”. For today, it is 65 million dollars which Bulat Utemuratov has invested in the development of Kazakhstani tennis in the last ten years. The development of children’s sports is one of the most important and priority tasks for the whole of Kazakhstan. And today we can already see the fruits of the tremendous efforts invested here by Bulat Utemuratov. The Team Kazakhstan project deserves special attention: it gives the chance for Kazakhstanis to gain a foothold among the best players. June 1, 2017 was exactly nine years since the launch of this specialised programme in Kazakhstan. Its participants are gifted children from various parts of our country. Team Kazakhstan is a unique sports school created to form the own tennis reserve of players in the national teams of the Davis Cup and the Federation Cup. The academy selects the strongest juniors from all regions of Kazakhstan under the age of 16 and falls under the KTF’s full financial support, that includes trainings with the best coaches of Kazakhstan and invited foreign experts, meals and accommodation at the Tennis Team Hotel, specially built for the academy, trips to national and international competitions. It also gives the opportunity to improve their skills on the basis of the world’s leading academies: in the Tennis Academy of Rafael Nadal in Spain, of Eric Van Harpen in Germany, in the International Tennis Academy of Chris Evert and Nick Bollettieri in America and in others. Students of the Academy won in total over 80 international tournaments, including various Grand Prixes. In 2017, the Kazakhstan national team playing in the category “under 12 years” became the champion of Central Asia. Kazakhstani tennis player Gozal Aynitdinova is the champion of Asia in the category “under 14 years”. Representatives of Kazakhstan’s tennis youth regularly take prizes in Europe. Kazakhstani Dostanbek Tashbulatov won a series of tournaments in Germany and France and also reached the final of the Orange Bowl International Championship in the USA. Last year, for the first time, ITF and ATF jointly organised the Asian team championship among children under 12 years old, where tennis players from 14 Asian countries took part. Children get opportunities for growth and development, and the country – a reason to be proud. “I have two children engaged in tennis: Rodion started at 6, and Kira – at 7, as soon as the tennis centre opened in Kokshetau”, – shares Sergey Traigel from Kokshetau in his interview to “I started training too. Dias Doskarayev opened our eyes to the advantages of this sport. Speaking at the opening of the centre, he told us not only about tennis but also about development of individual and intellectual qualities of a child through this game. My daughter immediately said: “Daddy, I fell in love with tennis!” Now they started participating in the Republican tournaments of the Masters series. And Rodion made it to the list of the best players of the country in his age category and played in the “BALAM PODROS” tournament for the 10th anniversary of the Federation. We were happy and are proud of his achievements. It is nice that children are given such an opportunity to show their worth, he felt like a true professional”. At present, the Kazakhstani federation provides full financial support of about 50 leading young tennis players from all over Kazakhstan: takes on expenses, finances processes starting from sports gear (balls, nets, courts), court rentals, invitation of coaches, teachers, English language courses, catering, trips abroad for tournaments. Kazakhstan hosts about 40 international tournaments of ITF series a year: ITF Futures, ITF Juniors, ATF and ATP Challenger. The largest tournament in Kazakhstan is the President’s Cup. This tournament falls under the ITF series. Kazakhstan has also repeatedly hosted David Cup World Group and Fed Cup international tournaments.

Breeding ground for business leaders. How does Bulat Utemuratov’s scholarship help young talents?

“Corporate social responsibility” and “social investments” – these terms are heard among Kazakhstani businesses more and more often. Sometimes these definitions are equated to traditional charity, but there are also companies which, within the frameworks of the corporate social responsibility, make long-term investments in projects with a big potential of repaying to the society. Higher education is one of such fields. As of 2016, businessman Bulat Utemuratov has invested over 40 billion US dollars in the development of one of the oldest economic higher education institutions – University named after Turar Ryskulov which is now called “Narxoz University” (several years ago this “common name” was made official). For the last 10 years the profit got from the University activities have not been taken out but has been re-invested in the development of the technical, sports and pedagogical base. These investments helped to fully transform the education process, to invite foreign educational experts, in particular the former head of the top management, Krzysztof Rybinski (currently Narxoz has a new rector and the story of him is worth a separate article). As a result, Utemuratov managed to return the University to one of the leading positions in the country’s higher education market. “Lack of professional cadre, no access to the advanced technologies, flourishing corruption – that was how we found this University in 2005 when decided to invest funds in it. Tremendous changes have been made for 10 years. During a crisis, the country pressingly needs its own high-quality specialists in various fields of the economy”, – says a graduate of Narxoz, philanthropist Bulat Utemuratov. Having reported on the outcomes of the work done in 2016, the investment group managed by Utemuratov continued to invest in the society through scholarship programmes for talented students of the Narxoz University. Starting from September 2016, the best school leavers can aspire to five Bulat Utemuratov’s personalised scholarships, some more 100 grants are given to talented prospective students by the Verny Capital group of companies in partnership with JSC ForteBank. Bulat Utemuratov scholarships are needed to help educate gifted entrepreneurs who can positively influence the economic development of Kazakhstan. “I have enrolled in Narxoz in 2016”, – tells second year student Temirlan who came to Almaty from Pavlodar a year and a half ago. “Despite the mathematical profile of my school, I was interested in economics and having enrolled for a technical profession felt at a loss. I got everything right but did not enjoy the process. Decided to change my subject specialism and the choice turned to marketing. I studied psychology for a long while, and marketing cannot be done without it. I have never regretted the change of my subject specialism; apparently my unconscious has rightly put me on the track of a marketing professional”. Answering the question what exactly he has got from the personalised scholarship, Temirlan says: opportunities. The scholarship initiative will let equate chances for success among the students from different regions and social strata of the society. Lack of finance should not be an obstacle on the way to the quality business education, Bulat Utemuratov believes, therefore each of the five annually granted scholarships fully covers not only the four years of tuition for the intramural form of study, but also the campus accommodation expenses and monthly payments of allowance in the amount of 60,000 tenge. The scholar just needs to focus on the studies and keep his/her GPA at least 3.5. There are many pluses: enhanced stipend, paid on-the-job training abroad, practice with partner companies” – shares Temirlan. “But there is also the reverse side: more responsibility falls on our own shoulders, we are always under close attention. But sure enough this stimulates, helps to keep the pace. Last summer we went to Coventry to take classes in the summer school. One cannot do without English nowadays.” In addition to the standard curriculum of the Narxoz University, a scholar is to be provided with a workplace and a personal mentor out of the range of entrepreneurs collaborating with the MOST business incubator located at the same place, in the territory of the Narxoz University. The scholarship also covers all expenses for the compulsory annual participation in a summer school abroad. “For me personally, Bulat Utemuratov’s scholarship gave a chance to choose my future”, – Madina Shompanova, third year student of the Narxoz University, comments. “I now do not depend materially on my parents, live in the residence hall, that helps a lot as I am not from Almaty. In other words, I gained independence. Throughout the whole academic year I had the University Rector, Krzysztof Rybinski, as my mentor. He supported publication of my first article and gave important advice for my studies and choice of profession. The English language courses and the summer trip to England considerably improved my English: I have moved from the intermediate level to the advanced one.” Madina is the 3rd year student, is fluent in 4 languages, leads “MediaLab” student organisation which is engaged in photography and video filming, arrangement of events related to the media as well as in courses and lectures on film production and direction. “I believe that Bulat Utemuratov’s scholarship gives an opportunity to self-actualise. The process of education at Narxoz, participation in various events, student organisations, courses will ultimately make us the valuable cadre who in the future will manage to set up their own businesses and achieve economic prosperity for the country”.

Whopper in Kazakhstan. Is cooperation with international networks easy for business?

Franchising became popular among Kazakhstani businesses in the beginning of the 1990-s. Since then we have seen many times how the visibility of dozens of international networks and brands flew up and vanished. The progression of events impels to think whether it is easy to bring foreign business to Kazakhstan and, what is even more important, to make it successful in the domestic market. Let’s look into this using the example of the international network of the Burger King fast food restaurants. Established in 1954, the international network of Burger King fast food restaurants is on the second place as for the number of restaurants in most regions of the world. The scope of Burger King can be understood if to imagine that over 19,000 restaurants in 100 countries of the world have about 11 million visitors daily. In 2012 Kazakhstan became the 83rd country where the Burger King Corporation fast food network opened its restaurants. Having decided to bring this international network to Kazakhstan, businessman Bulat Utemuratov entered a contract with Burger King to open a franchise in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the period of 12 years. In the course of work the company opened 32 restaurants in 9 cities of the Republic and employed 651 people – currently this is the largest international network in Kazakhstan which not only gave Kazakhstanis an access to the fast and high-quality service, but also created many jobs and opportunities for the career growth. The company employs quite a few staff who succeeded to progress from line personnel to middle and even senior level managers. The Burger King global representative has a range of requirements to everyone who opens restaurants of this network. At the first stage they have to prove the financial reliability of a franchisee as the launch investments cost on the average from 316,000 USD up to 2,660,000 USD. Besides, the franchise contract usually also allows for the 4.5% royalty. Likewise, Burger King has a number of requirements which must be met not only by the franchisee but also by each of his product suppliers. On the one hand, this makes the life of visitors more comfortable – wherever in the world you come to Burger King, you can rely upon the consistent quality of food and servicing. On the other hand, this makes the life of local franchisee more difficult because not every country has suppliers who have the safety certificate approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). The process of approval of a new supplier takes two years and requires capital investments to production technologies which are not something all producers in Kazakhstan are ready for, that is why Iceberg salad and potato wedges come to us by air from Holland from two different suppliers once in 48 hours. Other ingredients are also imported mainly from the European countries despite local suppliers offering much lower prices. The quality guarantee is valued by the global player more than short-term profit for local franchisees. It happened exactly so in Kazakhstan, but the Kazakhstani network, against the odds, meets the international standards: they cook meat only over an open fire, and use products only from certified suppliers in strict accordance with the regulations. Thanks to that they managed to become effective as early as in 2015: daily Burger King restaurants in Kazakhstan were visited by about 15,000 people, so in 2015 the restaurant welcomed 6 million guests. Whopper became the most popular meal in Kazakhstan –1,860,000 whoppers were sold in 2015. In addition to the authorisation of suppliers, the terms of the Burger King franchise require close attention to the service, so the company’s management will have to undertake training abroad several times before opening a restaurant or a restaurant chain. Usually this is Miami in Florida, but there may be other locations. And after the main training, you need to regularly conduct trainings for managers in the country of the franchise outspread, to make sure that all the key principles of the Burger King service are observed.
© Bulat Utemuratov
All rights reserved.