Apr. 19, 2016

Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari


Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari

CEO, Qatar National Bank


Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari joined Qatar National Bank (QNB) in 1988. Prior to his appointment as QNB Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) in July 2013, he was the Executive General Manager and Group Business Officer. He was responsible for all business lines of QNB and he played a key role in QNB becoming the leading financial institution in the Middle East and North Africa. Al-Kuwari is also Chairman of MasterCard Middle East and North Africa Advisory Board, Chairman of QNB Capital, Chairman of QNB Indonesia, and Chairman of QNB Privee Suisse in Switzerland. He is Vice Chairman of QNB Al Ahli in Egypt, Vice Chairman of CBI in the UAE, and Vice Chairman in Qatar Exchange. Al Kuwari has a master’s of science in management information systems from the Seattle Pacific University in 1987, and a bachelor’s in math and computer science from Eastern Washington University in 1984. He also attended a number of Executive programs at Wharton School of Business, London Business School, Cambridge University, and Duke University.

QNB Group now has many representative offices in the world's key emerging and established markets. How will those offices help bring in more international companies to do business in Qatar?

Currently, QNB has established representative offices in several large and high growth emerging markets, such as China, India, and Vietnam. Trade and investment flows between these countries and Qatar as well as our footprint have been growing over the past years; there are several Chinese and Indian companies operating in Qatar. Similarly, several Qatar-based multinational corporations have been growing businesses with these countries. These offices act as a conduit facilitating these flows to increase business potential for both Qatari and Middle Eastern companies planning to expand and grow their international business contribution and vice versa.

How important is international diversification to QNB's overall growth strategy?

International expansion is one of the cornerstones of QNB's strategy to achieve its vision of becoming a leading Middle Eastern, African, and Southeast Asian bank by 2020, and a global bank by 2030. In line with this vision, QNB will continue to expand its international network and footprint through strategic and opportunistic inorganic growth. Target markets are selected frontier and emerging markets that demonstrate favorable macro-economic growth, coupled with a growing and healthy banking sector as well as a range of available targets. When looking at growth opportunities globally, we have identified a set of markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia as our focus areas for further expansion. Selected countries in those regions are fueled by ongoing improvement in business conditions, favorable demographics, and increasing globalization. Furthermore, there are significant trade and investment flows within and across these regions that QNB, as a financial intermediary, could facilitate. Growth in these regions is key to achieving QNB's goals. We believe that a wider geographical presence gained through such expansion will reduce the QNB Group's exposure to certain economic risks in the event of any economic downturn and, in turn, provide stability to its financial position

How did recent acquisitions help QNB's international expansion strategy?

QNB's strategy is to focus on high growth markets where QNB has a competitive advantage. Therefore, we have made acquisitions and strategic alliances in key growth markets such as Egypt, which we consider as our second home market, and our recent alliance with Ecobank, a leading pan-African bank with presence in over 36 countries across West, Central, and East Africa. This is reflected by the increasing strong performance of QNB's international operations with loan contribution rising from 19% in 2013 to 24% in 2015, deposit contribution from 37% to 39% and net profit from 28% to 31% over the same period. In December 2015, QNB Group entered into a definitive agreement with the National Bank of Greece for the acquisition of its entire stake comprising 99.81% in Finansbank A.Ş (Finansbank) in Turkey. QNB Group expects to finalize the transaction during the first half of 2016. Finansbank is the fifth largest privately owned universal bank by total assets, customer deposits, and loans in the Turkish market. Turkey, with its significant market size, population, growth track record, strong economic and banking sector prospects, and strategic location as a gateway between Europe, Asia, and Africa, represents such a market and is, therefore, of strategic importance for QNB Group. Furthermore, QNB intends to capture a share of increasing trade and investment flows between the international footprint of Turkey and QNB. Turkey's trade with the Middle East and North Africa region has risen nearly tenfold from $5.6 billion in 2000 to $52.2 billion in 2014.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

Although the global operating environment for banking and finance has been challenging, our strategic regional focus is enabling us to capture exciting opportunities. Despite the global headwinds in 2015 that have impacted African and Southeast Asian markets, there are pockets of opportunities as they continue to require investment and trade flows to support economic development.