What was behind your decision to launch Freedom Finance in Kazakhstan?
We saw an opportunity to match our expertise with the growing interest in Kazakhstan in domestic and foreign financial markets, and the desire of many of our clients to manage their wealth in part through market investments. Since we began doing business in Kazakhstan five years ago we have been the foremost player in this business sector. Most other players have in fact reduced their participation in financial investments in the brokerage industry, which positioned us to take advantage of opportunities here. We also saw the economic risks of the current situation and falling prices, as well as the sanctions in Russia. The primary reason why the brokerage industry collapsed in early 2010 in Kazakhstan was due to the reforming of institutional investors here. Most brokers in the sector were focused on servicing institutional investors, private customers, pension funds, and banks, which were involved in the reselling of all their assets. Kazakhstan has not yet developed a retail brokerage industry, and when most of the players realized that institutional business was declining, the Russian brokers in particular left Kazakhstan, along with most of the international players, which in turn led local players to cut their expenses as much as possible to minimize losses. They effectively lost the ability to earn anything on the market. At the time, the total turnover of the stock exchange was small; it was just a few million dollars a month. Freedom Finance is not just a successful company in Kazakhstan or Russia, but thinks on a regional scale within Central Asia, where Kazakhstan—as well as Russia—are staging areas for active expansion into its key economies, succeeding in more than mineral resources. We see how many well-to-do people in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and other regions are increasingly thinking about how to save and increase their savings, but are limited in the choice of investment instruments. The growth of income, as well as the increase in financial awareness, along with the globalization of markets and the media industry, creates the demand for such instruments, and Freedom Finance is ready to provide freedom of choice of investment instruments in every promising market in Central Asia.
How have you been able to attract clients to investment opportunities in global markets?
One of the most efficient and profitable parts of our business is providing access to international markets, such as the US markets and stock exchange. Interest in international investments has been high, as people are interested in diversifying their investments and allocating their risks between US securities markets and local opportunities. In fact, 2017 was the first year that we started to see renewed interest in the domestic market. Because of devaluation risks, most people prefer to keep their money in dollars, though the rates are extremely low. People seeking a higher yield in dollars can have access to the US stock market, which has a great growth outlook. We have organized the participation of our customers to give them access to some of the best offerings over the past five years, including Twitter, Facebook, and Hilton. All these offerings are high-growth industries, and we have found eager buyers here. Our research and trading efforts have been rewarded with strong interest and support among our rapidly growing client base in Kazakhstan.
What are your plans with regards to listing Freedom Finance on the NYSE or another market?
Pursuing a listing on the NYSE or NASDAQ is a natural step for us to take at the appropriate time in the near future. Currently, we are completing the consolidation of our international group of operating companies under the umbrella of Freedom Holding, Inc., which is traded in the US on the OTC Pink Market. It is a great time to approach a listing in the US market given our track record and current prospects. We expect to meet all of the listing requirements.