STRONG AND STABLE

Qatar 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Raghavan Seetharaman, Group CEO of Doha Bank, on the Finance sector.

Raghavan Seetharaman
BIOGRAPHY
CEO of Doha Bank and a distinguished fellow of IOD, Raghavan Seetharaman holds a PhD in global governance from the European University and a PhD in green banking and sustainability from Sri Sri University. In 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians by the Indian government. He is a Chartered Accountant and holds certificates in IT systems and corporate management.

How will fintech affect the country and Doha Bank in particular?

There has been a significant push to promote Qatar as a regional fintech hub. Qatar offers the right regulatory environment, extremely competitive operating costs, government support, funding support, and a ready financial services sector to work with. The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) recently launched a new strategy that needs to ensure that fintech firms enhance the financial system. QCB Governor HE Sheikh Abdulla bin Saoud Al-Thani reiterated that Qatar is committed to investing in the rapidly emerging financial technology sector and has developed a strategy to create a fintech hub in the country. Fintech can help QCB achieve its goals to set up in the financial sector strategy. There is momentum building in Qatar, with opportunities in digital payments, money management, lending, loyalty and rewards, remittances, investments, and advisory. Doha Bank is keeping abreast of these developments and will determine its next course of action accordingly.

How do you assess the impact of the blockade on Qatar's economy?

Qatar's net international reserves dropped 30% in June 2017, and foreign currency deposits in banks fell the most in almost two years. That said, its reserves are more than twice its GDP, and the country made alternate arrangements for supplies. Essentially, Qatar was engaged in converting from plan A to plan B. In terms of financial stability, Qatar is strong, stable, and functional. The country's foreign exchange reserves with the Qatar Central Bank remained broadly stable, at around USD38 billion in February 2018, equating to six months of import cover. Qatar's banking system needs no further support from the central bank and sovereign wealth fund, as the decline in non-resident liabilities of lenders has subsided, according to the IMF. Qatar came up with various reforms in 2017 after the economic blockade that will further encourage diversification of the country's economy.