QATAR - Finance
Acting CEO, Doha Bank
Gudni Stiholt Adalsteinsson is the Acting CEO of Doha Bank and Chief Treasury and Investment Officer. He joined the bank in 2019 with 25 years of senior banking experience working in the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia for number of organizations including Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, AIB, and Legal & General Group. Adalsteinsson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and an MBA from the University of Cambridge, UK. He been a non-executive board member of banks in UK and Scandinavia and has contributed to the field of liquidity management and investments as a published author and speaker.
How is Doha Bank working to promote ESG investments, and what has been the response from your client base?
Doha Bank was the first Qatari bank to publish a corporate, social, and responsibility report starting in 2009. The bank was also the first Qatari bank to publish a sustainability report, which has been updated annually since 2011. Our sustainability reporting is aligned to the GRI Universal Standards Framework GRI and the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) ESG reporting methodology. In terms of investment options, Doha Bank was the first listing from QSE to be included in the FTSE4Good Emerging Market Index. The bank is also the founder of QSE’s first listed exchange traded fund, the QE INDEX ETF (QETF). In addition, the bank’s private banking unit, in coordination with the Bank of Singapore, has been offering ESG equity fund solutions to our ultra-high and high net worth individuals. Now, in our latest move toward supporting ESG oriented investors, we are creating a Sustainable Bond Framework that will allow us to identify our qualifying green and social assets. Once this framework is in place and the assets validated by an external provider, the bank, depending on market opportunities, will execute its first sustainable bond.
To what extent is Qatar’s banking sector embracing digital transformation?
Digitalization and financial inclusion go hand in hand. We are working closely with the Qatar Development Bank (QDB) to promote these fintechs, financing them together and even working with some as payment gateways. The product offerings of banks will change moving forward toward higher margin products that will require a point of contact with the clients. In such a scenario, Doha Bank, with its extensive branch network in Qatar, holds an advantage. I can foresee our branches shifting from solely service and transaction-based units where people come to cash cheques and so on toward more inclusive sales and experience centers. I therefore see our branch network as a great strategic advantage.
What are your plans now that relations in the GCC have been reestablished?
We are currently operational in 20 countries. Wherever Qatar has an economic influence, we have a presence, either as a functional office or a place to take care of trade and treasury. We have full-scale operations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, India, and Kuwait. While we initially had two branches that were affected by the blockade, we have since overcome those hurdles, and see plenty of opportunities for further economic linkage. Now, as the economy recovers from the lasting effects of a global pandemic, we have identified several steps to further scale our operations.
Doha Bank has outperformed the average of the Qatari banking sector in some key performance indicators. What were the main contributing factors to your performance?
Sustainability is the name of the game. The approach has been to be moderate and mitigate risk, all while taking opportunities as they come up. Gradually, we scaled up without any acquisitions, organic in substance and slow, but steady. The only real challenges we faced was during the blockade, where we took up the recognition of market risk and provided for it. There was turbulence, and then COVID-19. We will be competitive, and the size of our operations has always been consistent in our delivery lines. In the future, with a transformation taking place in terms of business remodeling, we will make sure keep pace and move in the same direction.
Which sectors and projects will be able to sustain Qatar’s momentum post-World Cup?
2022 will be a first-of-its-kind celebration for all of the Arab world, with Qatar as its host. A great deal of development and modernization is taking place for the event. There are enough reasons to believe we will continue to see demand for sports with airports, seaports, and road linkages shaping up. Qatar has and will continue to invest in infrastructure and the transformation into sustainable development country underpinned by the 2050 Net Zero commitment will accelerate spending into sustainable energy project and other diversified ventures.
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