What were the main highlights for the bank during the pandemic?
R. SEETHARAMAN It has been a most challenging time due to COVID-19; however, the recent IMF forecast is 4.4% contraction for 2020, which is possible because of the prudent risk management in the country, in which governance has worked extremely well. We are pleased with the overall impact and outcome of it, which is why the economic contraction for 2020 was minimal at 4.4%. When it comes to next year's growth, we expect 2.5% growth, which is commendable given the regional and global circumstances. On top of this, Doha Bank's strategy has been to focus on the customer experience. We have been at the forefront of innovation, and apart from complying with all the regulations from the government, we also wanted to pursue top-class services. We provide a high level of customer satisfaction at all times. We opened all our digital channels including e-commerce and electronic banking, which was a huge shift in terms of transaction-based processes. In 2020, we launched new products, including the Visa Premium Card for elite customers, liquidity support for SME customers, partnerships for wealth management with Bank of Singapore, and Teams Up with Habib Bank Limited to offer instant cash payout remittances to Pakistan.
BASSEL GAMAL In a crisis of such magnitude, it was essential to put the safety of people—our employees and customers—as the absolute number-one priority. Within the framework of our business continuity plans and leveraging the advanced capabilities and features of our digital channels, we ensured that all the financial needs of our customers were met remotely. In the future, we will keep on working as per the strategic direction of the bank toward enhancing our digital offerings to further improve our customers' banking experience and increase our efficiencies across the bank. We posted the lowest cost-to-income ratio in the Qatari banking sector at 21.1% as of June 2020, an achievement that would not be possible without the investments in technology and digitalization progress over the past few years. At the same time, we remain committed to enhancing our products as well as the quality of service for all customer segments in order to ensure a best-in-class experience each time a customer interacts with us. As a Qatari bank, we will continue to play an important role and participate in various economic activities, while extending support to businesses impacted by the current market conditions.
Which sectors will be interesting to participate in from a banking perspective in the coming years?
RS Qatar National Vision 2030 is a solid framework that will drive diversification and development not only in the long term, but also in the most immediate future. Qatar's investment in science, technology, and innovation will also enable the state to take effective measures to contain the pandemic, and that comes through Vision 2030. Furthermore, the international community has benefited from these advancements as well, as Qatar has used this constant and progressive work to support the World Health Organization and other institutions. Qatar has also been playing a leading role in climate risk mitigation. Finally, the Qatari industrial sector attracted QAR260 million worth of investments in 2019, with 900 factories now operating in the country. The PPP model will enhance this process. Doha Bank wants to help develop the industrial sector through the support of PPP projects.
How can the banking sector support the development of SMEs in the medium term?
BG QIB's business strategy is closely tied with Qatar's National Vision 2030 and the government's commitment to investing in the country's infrastructure, the diversification of the economy, and the development of a strong private sector. SMEs are key to Qatar's economic diversification. QIB has a dedicated package, Aamaly (My Business) expressly designed to provide tailored products and services to SMEs. Over the years, we have also built many partnerships to support SMEs and entrepreneurs in Qatar. In fact, our first proactive response to the crisis was to immediately postpone financial instalments for the vulnerable SME sector.