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QATAR - Finance

Abdulla Mubarak Al Khalifa

CEO, QNB Group

Bio

Abdulla Mubarak Al Khalifa joined QNB Group in 1996 and is currently its CEO. He has held several senior strategic positions across the group, with his most recent being executive general manager – chief business officer, with responsibility for corporate, retail, assets and wealth management, treasury, and international banking. Al Khalifa holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Eastern Washington University in the US.

"Our network spans across 28 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe."
QNB Group’s success can be attributed to its strategic focus on being a leading international wholesale bank, with innovation and sustainability at its core.

QNB Group’s net profit rose 7% to USD1.07 billion in 1Q2023. What strategies enabled QNB Group achieve such successes?
One of the key drivers behind our performance in 1Q2023 was our commitment to our vision to be one of the leading Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia banks. Our strategy is comprised of three elements. The first is a focus on our core of being an international wholesale bank, whilst leveraging innovation as a strategic enabler and embedding sustainability into our business and operating model. Focusing on our core means further uplifting our wholesale banking capabilities across our network. Besides our strong balance sheet, we are adopting a more focused asset-light, high RoE, commission, and fee income-driven approach. We are focusing on strategic initiatives that complement our solution-led wholesale model, such as trade finance, cash management, structured finance, and other advisory services. The second element of our strategy is to leverage innovation as a strategic enabler. Our innovation approach aims to achieve meaningful bottom-line impact and new revenue-generating opportunities. We believe that being innovative requires us to be more agile, dynamic, and flexible, which in turn allows us to capture new business opportunities and cost efficiency measures. By capitalizing on developments in areas such as open banking, RPA, AI, as well as digitalization and automation, our innovation strategy will benefit the bank and all our stakeholders.

QNB Group is the largest financial institution in the MENA region. How does QNB Group ensure to always maintain an advantage over other players in the market?

To successfully compete against other market players on a local, regional, and international level, we continue to build upon our winning value proposition that is underpinned by the strength of our strong ratings, relationships, brand value, as well as our international network. Our strong and stable ratings from the leading rating agencies recognize us as the highest-rated bank in Qatar and one of the most highly rated banking institutions in the MENA region. Our ratings are a testament of the quality of our assets, the diversity of our portfolio, the stability of our revenue, and our management’s capability. As the largest banking institution in the MENA, we have built strong relationships with the government and private sector companies across the region, including our subsidiaries in Türkiye and Egypt. Thanks to our disciplined strategy execution, we continue to grow our brand image and value. Today, QNB’s brand is ranked 45th of the top 50 global banking brands. Our network spans across 28 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. We are one of the only banks with a global bank rating that can operate as a full-service financial institution across a range of hard-to-access frontier and emerging markets.

QNB and Mastercard recently signed a commercial credit cards agreement. What goals does this strategic alliance aim to achieve?

As part of QNB’s strategy, we aim to generate long-term profitable growth. We actively pursue strategic partnerships and alliances on an ongoing basis. QNB aims to position itself as a one-stop shop for payment solutions in Qatar, providing retailers, corporates, and consumers with operationally efficient solutions. Our strategic alliance and partnership with Mastercard is a testament to this approach. QNB’s agreement with Mastercard is set to bring about further advancements and greater benefits on the cards and payments front. This partnership has three goals. First, it aims to fulfil the national agenda of the Qatar National Vision 2030 to drive economic diversification, digitalization, and a cashless society by supporting the success of SMEs and corporates. Second, the partnership aims to leverage upon the strengths of both organizations to bring about the latest, safest, and most convenient payment forms to our corporate and SME customers. Finally, the agreement aims to support the move from traditional payment methods to more effective and rewarding methods, in with rich data is made available to further drive efficiencies. This partnership builds on the success of QNB’s existing and past agreements to further develop Qatar’s payments infrastructure.

In February 2023, QNB launched sustainable finance and product framework. How will this initiative extend the scope of sustainable financing and benefit the environment and society?

We recognize that as a bank, the most impactful way to address the topic of sustainability is through our financing activities. To cater for our customer’s increasing desire to support ESG values, we have integrated sustainable products and services as part of our overall value proposition and offering. Today, we are recognized as a leader and pioneer in ESG financing both in Qatar and the wider region. In 2023, we developed and launched our market leading QNB Group Sustainable Finance and Product Framework (SFPF). Externally assessed and validated through a second party opinion, it confirms the continued alignment with international sustainable financing principles. SFPF is the latest iteration of our award-winning approach to ESG in financing, which elaborates on our classification approach and methodology for labelling any products, services, or transactions as sustainable or transition finance. SFPF promotes the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy across all jurisdictions where we operate. The new framework will enable us to identify, capture, and promote ESG-themed opportunities aimed at delivering positive impact to society and the environment. Our inaugural green bond, green repurchase agreements, green mortgages, and electric vehicle loan products are just some examples of how we aim to promote and develop the domestic and regional sustainable financing ecosystem.

To what extent are the bank’s policies aligned with the government’s Vision 2030 aspirations across all pillars?

Our purpose of promoting prosperity and sustainable growth complements Qatar’s national vision. On the social and economic front, QNB supports the national mobilization efforts to transform Qatar into a knowledge-based economy. We intend to act as an incubator for private sector engagement and SMEs as well as to continue to be the preferred banking partner of choice. Through our integrated product suite, we contribute to foster entrepreneurship and the development of strategic sectors as well as state-of-the-art infrastructure. As part of our strategy, QNB aims to be an employer of choice. People development is part of our employee value proposition, where attracting, developing, and retaining superior talent remains a key priority for us. We value diversity as we employ more than 80 different nationalities across our operations, driving a culture of mutual trust, innovation, meritocracy, and respect. In addition, our drive for nationalization has created a local workforce of more than 59%. We are also proud that 47% of our workforce is female, which further promotes diversity and inclusion. Finally, we see the topic of sustainability not as an option but as a strategic imperative. We promote sustainable financing to support our customers, embed ESG in our operations, and contribute to the QNV 2030 through our corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Experts predict Qatar to sustain over 3% GDP growth in the next few years. What is your outlook for the future growth of Qatar’s banking sector?

After a successful period of expansion associated with major infrastructure investments and the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, growth prospects remain strong. In the next few years, private sector growth will be supported by continuing structural reforms, including ownership liberalization, the promotion of foreign direct investments, labor reforms, the permanent residency program, and several initiatives to support SMEs. Moreover, increasing hydrocarbon production will help drive economic growth over the next decade. Six new LNG liquefaction trains are planned to increase Qatar’s LNG production by 64% to 126 million tons per annum under the flagship North Field Expansion project. This should maintain Qatar’s leading position within this strategic segment for global energy security and the energy transition. Our outlook for the domestic banking sector continues to be resilient and healthy, liquid, well capitalized and of high asset quality.

 

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