How high level of trust shapes the paradigm of new Kazakhstan

The op-ed of Timur Turlov, CEO of Freedom Holding Corp.
Photo by Valery Ayapov

I’ve always pursued an atmosphere of trust around myself and I am doing so because of several reasons.

First, trust is the very foundation for my business. My clients trust me because they give our company their money, often quite a significant part of their savings. If I lose their trust, I lose my business. This lesson I’ve learned since the very start of my career as an entrepreneur.

Second, as a businessman and head of a big company, I do not doubt that there are loads of benefits when people you work with trust you. People, who work in an atmosphere of trust tend to be more productive; they can get the results they need faster and at less cost. If there is no trust at all, the speed of business development declines and costs go up.

Third, I hardly can imagine how I would live with no trust in my family. When I decided to move to another country my wife and my loved ones supported me even though such a pivotal change in life would have scared anyone.

In the fourth place, Kazakhstan became a place that I now call home. My family and I have committed our future to this country. Trust has always been an important value in Kazakhstan. It was a vital part of the way of living of Kazakh people necessary to survive in the great steppe. The deep commitment to hospitality, when any stranger is treated like a friend, probably is the most vivid sign of trust Kazakh people are well-known for.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed everything. It hurts me personally because both countries are so important to me. Russia is the country where I was born. Ukraine is the country where I have loads of friends and partners.

The war in Ukraine with thousands of casualties and disruption of the economy is awful. This conflict destroys trust between different countries, nations, and regular people. It will be incredibly hard to recover this trust.

Moreover, the war hit the whole security system the international community relied on for years. Old principles are no longer relevant while new ones do not exist yet.

In this situation, Kazakhstan and its government show incredible fidelity to principles, its adherence to key values and strategic goals of the country. Most of all, Kazakhstan was able to preserve good relations with all its international partners. And this is not disingenuity or flexibility; it’s called sobriety and consistency.

Trust can and should be the basis for any country that wants to move forward and pursue something better for its people. Trust can shape the atmosphere in society, stimulate the growth of the economy and raise living standards for millions of people.

I’ve lived in Kazakhstan for more than 10 years.  I’ve built my business here almost from scratch. As a businessman, I have a crystal clear understanding that Kazakhstan offers unique opportunities compared to many other countries in the world. These aren’t buzzwords, this is my personal experience. No doubt, there is no other place where we would have been able to build a multi-billion dollar company.

I believe that the only secret to this is quite a high level of «hidden trust.»

Yes. According to various research, the level of trust in Kazakhstan is low. In 2020 the World Values Survey showed that only 22% of Kazakhstanis tend to trust other people. This is a very low level of trust. It is lower than the average global level, not to mention the level for developed countries. However, if someone in Kazakhstan made it and got the trust of people, this trust might be easily converted into loyalty and support that can drive any business to incredible results.

Trust is the main value in our country. I think President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev knows this very well because he takes trust as a basis for his political course. According to some surveys, the vast majority of people in Kazakhstan trust their president. And now President Tokayev wants all state entities to earn the trust of the people. He underlines this point every time he gives a public speech. 

There are two different approaches to a government in the world. The first is a social contract when people give a government some rights and control in exchange for security and wellbeing. This approach makes it easier for a government to operate. However, as long as there is always a temptation for making fast decisions, the stability of such a system is questionable. The second approach is more sophisticated as it requires equality and mutual responsibility of society and a government.

President Tokayev has a clear vision of Kazakhstan as a free democracy that must be based on trust. In turn, this vision inspires me with confidence: this country has huge potential and it is going in the right direction. This is the main idea that drives me to intensify my family and business connections with Kazakhstan.

In some areas, Kazakhstan demonstrates just a unique degree of trust that brings instant results. For example, there is a high level of candor in relations between the government and local financial institutions in terms of access to the state databases.

As a result, this factor creates unique conditions for the development of FinTech: digital turnover of documents and online registrations make it possible, for example, to apply for social security payments remotely, or pay fines to the government. And of course, our unique digital mortgage is another achievement in this field. All these services are possible just because of the openness of the government of Kazakhstan and its trust in partners. As far as I know, there are no similar cases all over the world.

Trust might be proliferated quite fast thanks to total digitalization that has already covered all facets of our lives.

Digitalization makes things more transparent. The records show that humans are very good at adapting to new digital services even in case of low digital literacy. For instance, almost everyone in Kazakhstan uses bank applications daily. After the COVID-19 pandemic, when people started to work from home and order goods and products through online delivery services, this process became irreversible.

Thanks to this trust, Kazakhstan has taken the lead in FinTech and the area of GovTech. This is a fact, although it is hard to accept even for us. When we present our projects somewhere abroad, they always spark huge interest from an audience. For many on the Earth, even in developed Western countries, such an incredible level of digitalization is still a dream. The services we’ve developed are simple and effective. The openness of the government of Kazakhstan, along with its ability to trust businesses, is a key point here.

These successful projects are shaping the image of Kazakhstan in the global IT arena. As a result, the global awareness of the country is growing on the political stage as well. Currently, this is a task not only for the government, which is always limited in its actions but for the entire society. Over the past few years, many of our artists, actors and painters have become popular far beyond Kazakhstan. And their contribution to the positive image of the country is precious. The IT sphere should be next. If we do everything right, we will be able to set new trends in this area.

I’ve been living in Kazakhstan; I’ve built a business here and I hope to obtain the nationality of this country. And I sincerely want Kazakhstan to continue to develop. I am going to twist my fortune with Kazakhstan once and for all and of course, I will do my best to contribute to its prosperity.

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