Islamic banking in Qatar and the GCC region continues to grow well, a trend expected to continue into the medium and long term as the industry builds product and service propositions, offering credible alternatives to conventional banking. Well positioned to lead this growth trend is Barwa Bank, the newest and fastest-growing Sharia-compliant bank in Qatar.
Leaders in Islamic banking, Barwa Bank has grown significantly in both size and stature since it was established in 2008. It now has six branches in Qatar, and has integrated three acquisitions – The First Investor, First Finance and First Leasing – in its first four years of operation. Steve Troop, CEO of Barwa Bank, commented that, “Qatar offers an extremely dynamic business environment with a great deal of potential and opportunity for a bank like ours to flourish.”
Utilising the right balance
One of the major factors behind Barwa Bank’s continued growth is its differentiation and commitment to service, as a point of competition. As a recent entrant into a very congested market-place where there is no appetite for yet another bank, Barwa Bank chose to challenge the widespread misconception that Islamic banking involves an implicit trade-off between the financial services provision based upon Sharia, and sophistication and service excellence. Barwa Bank aims to deliver on both.
The opportunity in Qatar is to play a key role in its transformational period, as the nation embarks on massive infrastructure and development projects
“We aspire to have a leading role in Sharia-compliant banking through innovative products and services that meet customer needs. We may not be the largest bank, but we want to be the best and the most recommended. The banking sector continues to transform itself and we fully intend to be a part of that process of change”, said Troop.
The opportunity in Qatar is to play a key role in its transformational period, as the nation embarks on massive infrastructure and development projects laid out in the National Vision 2030. These include the development of rail and road transport, and the construction of stadiums and related facilities following Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 football World Cup.”
The Qatari market is currently focused on increasing investment in infrastructural projects. As a result, we see leading global construction companies entering Qatar with a full range of financing requirements,” continued Troop.
Exploring new initiatives
The vision’s commitment to the development of key sectors such as transportation, healthcare, ICT and finance is fuelling the development of the business environment in the country. Combined with the robust regulatory and legal environment – as well as competitive tax rates – global leaders have been drawn from diversified sectors to set up operations in Qatar.
“As a local bank, we are at the centre of this evolving economy through our relations with major corporates and the developing SME sector as Qatar places increasing emphasis on the future and reduced dependence upon the hydrocarbon sector.”
Recently announcing its financial results, Barwa Bank recorded strong growth in both balance sheets and profitability, with profits of QAR 303.6m for the six months ended June 30, 2013 up from QAR 162.9m in the same period of last year, an 85 percent improvement, year-on-year.
New business initiatives have played a part in this growth as the bank builds on its established presence in corporate and retail banking, and continues to diversify. The successful debut of the bank’s private banking proposition in 2012 has been coupled with major investment in its treasury and capital markets capacity and capability. Over the past two years, Barwa Bank has won lead management roles for a number of high-profile Sukuk transactions; with one in particular was in State of Qatar.
The bank’s elevated profile has gained significant recognition both domestically and regionally, a development reflected in both customer acquisition volumes and a number of prestigious industry awards recognising its innovative products, outstanding service and widespread growth.
It also remains dedicated to the development of its most important asset, human capital, and has achieved 20 percent ‘Qatarisation’ at a group level. With prominent Qatari banking professionals in a number of key leadership roles, the bank is driving and executing the group’s growth strategy.
“The strong financial performance for the first half of the year is very encouraging and a validation of both our strategy and our selective approach to the markets in which we choose to compete. We look forward to further growth, our continuing contribution to the development of the Qatari economy and Sharia-compliant financial services, as well as creating value for our customers and shareholders,” concluded Troop.