Mar. 24, 2015


Abdulla Saleh Al Raisi

Qatar

Abdulla Saleh Al Raisi

CEO, Commercial Bank of Qatar

BIO

Abdulla Saleh Al Raisi is the CEO of the Commercial Bank of Qatar. Throughout his career, he has held numerous senior positions in Qatar, commencing in 1983 with the Arab Gulf States Folklore Center as Head of Finance and Administration. After stints at Doha Bank and Qatar Fertilizer Company, he joined the Commercial Bank of Qatar as Branch Manager in 1998, from which he began his rise to CEO. He has a degree in Political Science and Social Science from Portland State University in Oregon, US. He is also the Chairman of Commercial Bank Investment Services.

In the early days of the bank, CBQ focused itself on the needs of shop owners in the souk. How has that traditional relationship developed into a modern cooperation with its SME clients?

Things were simple and easy back then, but Qatar has developed so rapidly and the economy and banking industry have become much more complicated. However, CBQ still retains a large number of these relationships to date, and has helped many of them grow and expand their business. The most obvious assistance for the small trader in the modern world is the ability to accept payments electronically. Whilst we will never forget our roots and the customers who helped create the bank, we are encouraging them to move from their traditional habits to more electronic banking channels. Another key element is our close relationship with the owners and their families. We have been able to support and guide them as they grow and provide them with access to the full range of services from CBQ to help their growth. Typically, these include trade facilities for issuing guarantees and letters of credit, plus treasury for foreign exchange requirements and, of course, working capital and term facilities to meet their day-to-day needs. We also hold workshops for our SME customers to keep them up to date on the bank's products and services and to provide them with useful practical advice and information on managing and developing their businesses.

How does CBQ reduce the risks involved when dealing with SMEs?

When dealing with SMEs, knowing your customer is vital and in many cases reputation, clean credit history, and good account conduct play an important part in the decision-making process as there is little else to go on. We are fortunate that in Qatar there is a credit bureau that provides transparency on the credit behavior of not only the borrowing entity but also the guarantors. This is a useful tool for the banks when assessing the risks of a proposal, and it is also having the effect of encouraging all parties to meet their obligations in a timely manner as they do not want to have a negative credit bureau report. In addition, within the SME area at CBQ, which we call Enterprise Banking, we have our own dedicated credit area, with a team of professionals who have a good understanding of the specific risks associated with SMEs in Qatar. Having our relationship managers working alongside our credit team helps to increase our knowledge of the market and understand the risks associated with the proposals we are considering. We also continually encourage our customers to improve the quality of the financial and other information they provide to us. This is not an easy task as the related cost is often a significant factor for SMEs. We try to help through our own workshops, but there is also now a lot more assistance for smaller companies via organizations such as Enterprise Qatar and Qatar Development Bank (QDB), with which we have a very good relationship. QDB provides a guarantee of 85% for project facilities, which enables us to mitigate the associated risks, particularly for small or start-up operations.

Qatar Exchange received an institutional upgrade from Frontier Market to Emerging Market in 2014. What will this mean for the financial sector of Qatar and for the Qatari economy as a whole?

The Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) upgrade is expected to result in huge inflows of foreign funds into the Qatari companies that have qualified to be included in the Emerging Market Index. Approximately, 50% of these qualifying companies are in financial services (including CBQ), and so the upgrade means a clear boost for Qatar's financial sector. More widely, the MSCI upgrade is international recognition of Qatar's maturing economy and equity market.