PAYING IT FORWARD

Oman 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Thanks to Credit Oman, local SMEs and large enterprises alike can take the leap to expand their reach without risking everything.

Khalil Al Harthy
BIOGRAPHY

Khalil Al Harthy is an experienced founding partner with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry. He is skilled in business planning, operations management, HR consulting, coaching, and entrepreneurship. From 1992 to 2003, he worked as a portfolio manager for the Central Bank of Oman and from 2003 to 2010 as Assistant General Manager for Al Ahlia Insurance Oman. In 2010, he founded the Performance Factory, a management consulting firm. He holds a bachelor's in finance from the University of New Orleans with a double-minor in MIS and management.

How do you expect Omani companies to fare in the global trade slowdown, and what role does Credit Oman play in the Sultanate's diversification strategy?
As an oil-producing country, Oman's need to diversify the economy is a fundamental focus for the country's future. This diversification strategy, however, comes with a series of challenges, especially at a time when demand is falling, with rising pressure on margins. For this reason, prioritization, agility, and innovation are key elements that every business needs to incorporate to survive and eventually grow. Some sectors will be more successful than others, but widespread competition will push players to become smarter and adopt technology and alternative selling solutions in their business model. Companies in various sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing, have been struggling to spread their products' networks beyond conventional markets due to a fear of not receiving their money in time or even at all sometimes. This is where Credit Oman comes into play, offering trade credit insurance to support Omani companies to sell locally to other businesses and export their goods and services without risking insolvency from the buying counterpart. The current market conditions in the country have pushed a good number of players to explore new markets, like Africa or Latin America. These markets often present a high degree of political risk, which is why we have products that cover this type of exposure as well. Rates and products are based off a thorough process of due diligence, which is why, aside from the products themselves, at times we simply recommend not to engage in business relationships with certain foreign players due to lack of information without a secured collateral.

Are you looking to expand your work with SMEs?
We are definitely looking at SMEs across all segments. In developed countries, the SME segment is quite large. SMEs in Oman remain underserviced by financial institutions due to their high-risk profiles. This will require more scrutiny. We are indeed creating a product with some banks and related supportive entities to help SMEs with domestic sales and exports credit guarantees as well. SMEs need money quickly in order to survive, and by providing credit guarantees based on upcoming trade transactions, SMEs can use Credit Oman guarantees to avail working capital facilities. At the moment, we do not have many export-driven small companies, but providing such a product will help SMEs expand faster and leverage technological trade platforms.

Which markets have the most potential for Omani companies to tap into, and what are the main risks in the short to medium term?
We use international standards in terms of credit rating for countries. We have country risk and buyer risk. We apply a risk-based assessment based on an international rating and then conclude the credit worthiness of that transaction. Oman's conventional destinations for exports given its location are GCC countries and the Indian subcontinent. We see a great deal of trade being conducted in Africa as a whole, specifically the east, mainly due to logistical cost effectiveness. Many parts of Europe and Latin America are witnessing some good growth as well. With the massive expansion of e-commerce globally, the world is now within everyone's reach. Credit Oman, like all export credit agencies around the world, plays a pivotal role in enabling trade locally and internationally with the support of the government. We are flexible and agile to tailor-made, fit-for-purpose credit covers for all our clients to trade with confidence.