The Business Year

Khalid Yousef Abdulla Al-Subeai

QATAR - Finance

Grow On

Acting Group CEO, Barwa Bank

Bio

Khalid Yousef Abdulla Al-Subeai graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Finance and has gone on to hold several key positions within the finance sector in Qatar. He was Senior Financial Advisor at Qatar Petroleum (QP) for more than six years. As part of the Project Finance team, he was directly involved in the execution of over $15 billion in landmark debt capital market transactions for QP, its subsidiaries, and the State of Qatar. Subsequent to this, he moved on to hold the position of Morgan Stanley Qatar Manager, where he was responsible for Qatar Client Coverage. He joined The First Investor (TFI) as Deputy CEO in January 2013, and was then appointed acting CEO of Barwa Bank Group in March 9, 2014. He brings with him over nine years of investment banking experience with knowledge of the local and international markets.

"The majority of our customers are corporate, which has been our main catalyst for growth over the last five years."

Having opened its doors in 2009, Barwa Bank has already made a real impact by realizing substantial growth rates every year. What are the main forces behind this rapid growth?

It was our decision to choose service as a point of competition. We really have the desire to make the bank revolve around the customers. We focus on understanding and catering to our clients’ needs, ensuring the best-in-class service possible, and offering tailor-made services that satisfy those needs. We understand that the mass-market network for banking is already well provided for, but we feel that there is a space for a focused bank that looks at service for a selective customer base, and clearly our clients agree. In 2013, we maintained our title of fastest growing bank in Qatar in terms of profitability and also in terms of asset growth. Another advantage we have is the way we operate. We have a light hierarchy, which enables us to move quickly when it comes to decision-making and execution. That flexibility makes our business model unique in many ways.

What is the profile of Barwa Bank’s customers and clients?

The majority of our customers are corporate, which has been our main catalyst for growth over the last five years. We’ve also been extremely busy on the retail banking side, expanding our branch network and experiencing continuous growth in the number of relationships, accounts, and business activity as a result. Although we are a relatively new and small bank, we’ve established ourselves in the market in a short period of time, and we’re proud to have the reputation of punching above our weight. When it comes to private banking, our focus is on high-income earners.

In Barwa Bank’s assessment of 2013 it was mentioned that the bank had significantly matured due to the fact that it now has a balanced income profile. What are the specific elements that indicate this evolution?

A balanced income profile is one of the targets that we had set for ourselves. We wanted a balanced portfolio so that we weren’t particularly exposed or reliant on any particular sector, such as, for example, real estate. This is a result of our strategy to diversify and grow various business units. We’ve also developed our debt market capabilities and have established a leading status in sukuk transactions. I also believe that the various cross-selling concept on its own and between the various divisions within the bank and the investment-banking subsidiary, The First Investor, will naturally allow us to have a balanced portfolio. This became a reality in 2013, spurred on by tremendous growth in assets and our bottom-line profitability.

“The majority of our customers are corporate, which has been our main catalyst for growth over the last five years.”

The sukuk market in Qatar is likely to continue to grow due to big infrastructure projects in the run up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. How does this development feature in the growth strategy of the bank?

The sukuk market is an important area of growth for us. Since our inception, we’ve worked extensively on building a qualified team that can compete in this sector. We have held several joint lead management positions for a number of sukuks, namely the State of Qatar sukuk, followed by the Republic of Turkey sukuk in 2012, which is a testament to our competence and expertise domestically and internationally. The capital markets business is very much a credentials business, and being involved in such high-profile transactions has the virtue of attracting new business. We’re confident that we’ll continue to play an increased role in future sukuk issuance. When it comes to sukuk, we are particularly proud to have set and launched the first sukuk trading platform in Qatar.

Barwa Bank is involved in a wide range of projects through its investment bank subsidiary The First Investor. In which specific sectors here in Qatar do you see potential for investments?

In terms of The First Investor, in which we own a 100% stake, we have an advantage in the market with our ability to provide a one-stop solution to our customer base. Not only are we able to cater to their requests on the banking side, but we can also cater to their investment needs through The First Investor, be it asset management, real estate advisory, or general investment banking advisory. We can provide tailor-made exposure to equities, real estate, and private equity in Qatar and the region. In Qatar, we’re proud of being the only investment bank to have invested in the education sector. We’re funding the development of schools in Qatar, working in partnership with companies like Qatar Insurance Company and GEMS. We remain keen on the education sector, as well as the healthcare sector, and we expect to be more in these fields going forward.

To what degree is your staff Qatarized, and what is your strategy to ensuring that you attract and retain skilled employees?

We’re proud to have been able to assemble a skilled managerial team that brings energy, enthusiasm, and ambition to the office every day. We have bright Qatari talent working to contribute to the growth and development of their country and the financial sector, and we’re committed to giving them continuous support to help them develop their skills and reach their future goals across our various departments. We also have ongoing internships with universities to introduce new students to various specialty areas in banking and help attract talents who can continue to develop their careers with Barwa Bank Group. We are a firm believer in having a combination of Qatari talent and also non-Qatari talent working hand-in-hand to fulfill our bank and our country’s vision.

The Qatar Exchange went from being a frontier market to being considered as an emerging market in 2014. What does this mean for Qatar’s financial sector and the economy as a whole?

We’re very excited and happy for the acknowledgement of the many achievements of the financial sector in Qatar. It’s the result of years of hard work and the clear strategy laid out by our financial sector regulators and executed by all financial institutions in the country, backed by a strong economic environment at the state level. This acknowledgement will definitely serve to increase the already huge appetite of investors and businesses to enter the Qatari market and will further cement Qatar’s position as a regional financial center. We at Barwa Bank are extremely excited about this, and expect to see an increase in business activity as a result.

The financial sector has become one of the main driving forces of the Qatari economy besides the energy sector. What is your outlook for this sector, and what role will there be for Islamic banking?

The outlook is very positive for the financial sector. The general business and investment authorities are very supportive regulators, and they’ve worked hard to ensure that Qatar’s financial sector has a clear and focused strategy. We believe that has contributed to Qatar becoming a financial hub in the region. We’re very pleased to be operating in an environment with consistently positive growth figures and forecasts, and we expect to see a continuation in growth and prosperity. When it comes to Islamic banking, we see that it has gained in popularity, starting with retail, where individuals prefer to have their activities conducted in a sharia-compliant manner. That has gradually worked its way up to the corporate and even government levels. We expect to see a continuation of that trend, and at the same time we need to ensure that we continue to develop a customer experience that is not only in line with conventional banking, but also goes beyond it. We would like to work toward ensuring that sharia-compliant banking is superior to conventional banking.

© The Business Year – July 2014

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