Ahmad Meshari on Qatar’s growing economy | Qatar First Bank | Video

World Finance interviews Ahmad Meshari, Acting CEO of Qatar First Bank, about the nation's thriving economy

April 24, 2014

For such a small country, Qatar has been punching above its weight in recent years. This includes spreading its economic influence into global investment strategies. Ahmad Meshari, Acting CEO of Qatar First Bank, shares his insight on the Gulf state’s significant potential.

World Finance: What is the proportion of local versus foreign national customers at your bank?

Ahmad Meshari: We are based in Qatar, all despite the fact that Qatar is a small country but it has a huge potential of investments, so banks are taking advantage of that amount of money which has been allocated for the development of the country over the coming ten years. So the majority of our clients are Qatari, both individuals and companies. However, we have an investor base which is composed of GCC based individuals and institutions, so we have that kind of mix between GCC and local investors.

World Finance: Tell me a little more about some of the international companies setting up shop on Qatar.

Ahmad Meshari: So Qatar is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the GDP per capita is $98,000. The real GDP growth is forecast to reach 6.8 percent, so that gives an indication of how the economy is vibrant, and how the economy is very strong in Qatar. That made Qatar and positioned it as the right place to invest, and the establishment of Qatar Financial Centre in 2007 made Qatar an attractive place to have offices for international companies to come to the country, to have an onshore platform to do the investment from their side. There are a lot of names coming in the financial sector at least: JP Morgan, CitiBank, and the rest of the big players in the banking industry worldwide.

World Finance: Ahmad, many Gulf banks have been pursuing investment opportunities overseas, especially since the 2008 financial crisis, in some cases even replacing European banks as investors. Now have you seen that with your own clientele?

We embarked on some investments in the UK, because we saw they were very attractive and very profitable to the bank

Ahmad Meshari: I’ll talk from our own side, as a bank. So Qatar First Bank has a focused strategy, on the geographical distribution of its investment, and also the sector’s. We focus mainly on the GCC, the MENA region, and Turkey. However, we embarked on some investments in the UK, because we saw they were very attractive and very profitable to the bank, and the real estate sector because it’s a prime location, residential properties which makes sense to go an invest in because of the high demand of those kind of properties in London.

World Finance: Can you tell me which sectors you intend on expanding investment opportunities in the future?

Ahmad Meshari: We have, again, a focused strategy on the sectors that we invest in, so we focus mainly on energy, health, real estate of course, and industrial sectors. To the geographical distribution, again, GCC, MENA, and Turkey.

World Finance: Now when people think of Qatar, oil wealth obviously comes to mind. Can you tell me what role has the oil industry played in strengthening the local banking sector?

Ahmad Meshari: The Qatari government has put a high level commitment to create a competitive economy in the country, and to wisely utilise the wealth which is generated from the energy sector to build up a proper platform and structure for all industries to build on, and to develop on. Part of that, of course, is the financial sector. So banks are enjoying a full support from the government to ensure the stability of the banking sector.

World Finance: Other than oil, what other sectors is the government exploring locally?

Ahmad Meshari: Qatar has utilised the wealth which has been generated from the energy sector to diversify its economy. You can see Qatar has established Qatar Investment Authority, which built the fortune of the country for new generations and to take the focus away from the oil-driven economy. Through diversification, stepping into different sectors, you can see Qatar investing here in the UK by buying a lot of investments.

One example is the Harrods acquisition by Qatari government, and in the rest of Europe acquired automobile manufacturing, luxury items, so the government is having this focus to diversify its economy from being driven by a single source of wealth into the diversified model.

World Finance: Europe is slowly recovering from the 2008 recession. Do you have any advice for the local banking sector in terms of how to encourage people to spend and invest?

Ahmad Meshari: As a banker in general I should think beyond the profit generation out of the client. So they should go more on the educational side of their clients, because with this, clients will be more educated, and they will pick the right products, and they will even ask for the right products, and they will have the theme of saving. So this will reflect positively on the banking sector. And they need also to adopt new models of doing business in the sector.

World Finance: Ahmad, thank you.

Ahmad Meshari: Thank you.