QATAR - Finance
Chairman & Managing Director, Ahlibank
Sheikh Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Bin Jassim Al-Thani is the Chairman and Managing Director of Ahlibank. He has been serving on the Board of Ahlibank since 2005, and was appointed the Chairman of the Board in 2011. He holds a bachelor’s of finance from Suffolk University in Boston.
Retail banking continues to be an area of focus, because under the new capital regulations it is where there is an advantage over capital deployment. However, to be honest, growth remains on the commercial banking side of our business. We are close to the business community and have been scoring high in terms of winning opportunities. Regarding the sectors in Qatar’s economy that have the most potential for commercial growth, we have been selectively supporting the real estate sector and then moved on to infrastructure; however, we always maintain close ties with commercial trade, capital expenditure, and related businesses.
We have invested in the trade finance department in terms of advising and training customers how to operate across borders using their letters of credit rules and other tools. We play a major part with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and are active in terms of advising the business community of Qatar about the valuable role played by the ICC. The primary motive is to voice our opinion and advise on the new rules, which Qatar should and will play in cross-border trade. The ICC is a great and important element of this.
It takes time for these products to take off. It is gradually growing; we wish that it grew further and faster but there is competition from everywhere. We actually made previous investments in the local payment gateway, which is called Q-Pay, developed by the Qatar Central Bank (QCB). We made the past investment, and QCB just upgraded it so we have a good pipeline in providing services to businesses to help them with their customer offerings. These businesses need to upgrade their websites in order to get this additional payment capability, but they have now taken over and we have put in local and international names and they are happy with it. It is a tangible, growing business, in which we are leaders.
During the Cyber Security Convention, we released two films, on internet security and phishing, on the website and through WhatsApp for our customers. It is awareness not just internally but also externally, and we continue to advise and send messages to customers to make them aware of it. We are the first, if not the only, bank that asked for certification, which is good to have in cyber security. All the banks are audited by QCB. There are bound to be gaps that need to be closed and we are working on ISO certifications. We do not stop as the risk is too high.
Many shareholders like to buy and hold rather than trade with it; hence, our liquidity in shares is limited in terms of where other banks are. It does add liquidity to the market in the event our shares are traded more, and as we grow and our shareholder base expands, it will have a positive effect.
I look at 2017 with caution. If we continue looking at quality and efficiencies in operations to select opportunities then we will be fine in 2017. We might not, as a banking industry, record the levels of the good days, but it is all about sustainability rather than big swings and that is what we are aiming for.
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