IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

Qatar 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Making remittances more efficient and working with multinationals preparing for the World Cup and a bevy of SMEs, the Commercial Bank is widening access to financing at every level.

Joseph Abraham
BIOGRAPHY
Joseph Abraham is a seasoned banking professional with experience in both developed and emerging markets. Before joining Commercial Bank, he was CEO of Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Banking Group Indonesia based in Jakarta, a position he served since 2008. Abraham has an MBA from Stanford Business School and has worked in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ghana, the UK, and India in regional banking roles with a successful track record covering general management, corporate banking, strategy, product management, and acquisitions and integrations.

What value does the Commercial Bank of Qatar place on education?

Education is one of the key strategic areas under the Qatar National Vision 2030. With more than 42 years of history in the country, we support the development of Qatar in many ways, including education. We have sponsored 153 students for university education, and another 83 students have gone through our graduate program. At the same time, we have an internship program for young students who want to acquire an early understanding of banking and could be interested in careers in the field. We also provide funding to the education sector where we finance operations, such as construction of new campuses or the expansion of educational facilities. In addition, we provide personal loans for students. For example, we have an agreement with HEC Paris' campus in Qatar to offer interest-free loans to promote education in business areas.

You have been recognized as the best remittance service in the Middle East. How important are remittances in a country like Qatar?

The majority of people in Qatar are expats. There are 300,000 Qataris and over 2 million expats. Many of the foreigners are here not only to make a living, but also to send money to their families through remittances. We have introduced a service that provides a 60-second remittance for certain countries. We have done it for India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, and we just opened up for Nepal and Pakistan. These countries contribute to the majority of the working population in Qatar. The service is digital, which is important so they do not have to withdraw money and go to a remittance place or branch. It is incredibly fast and secure, and users receive a confirmation back via an SMS. We started this about a year ago, and we have seen our volumes multiply by 10-13 times. However, the most important aspect is that by putting digital remittances into the work environment, we are improving people's experience and saving their time.

Sanaduk is a tailored solution to support SMEs in Qatar. What does it entail?

In any economy, SMEs are usually the main sources of employment. We have a dedicated division for SME clients that provides services to more than 12,000 clients. Sanaduk is a tailored solution for young entrepreneurs and companies because it is a ready package of services ranging from account opening to giving the owners the privilege and priority banking service to order POs, for example. We also work with the Qatar Development Bank on its specific loan program for SMEs and start-ups to bring financing to both current and prospective clients. Finally, we have also been focusing on bringing digital banking to our SME clients, since it is a productive, efficient, and quicker way of operating.

How is the Commercial Bank of Qatar planning to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

There are many contracts being awarded in the construction sector, while we are also financing one of our clients for one of the stadiums. The World Cup is a major driver of growth in the construction sector, and many of our clients are involved in construction and transportation, so we help them by financing their daily operations and projects. It is a great opportunity and we are seeing, for example, a lot of Turkish contractors working in Qatar for whom we are a natural link because we have a branch in Turkey. In general, Qatar will be increasingly visible on the international stage over the next four years.