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QDB supporting change in Qatar through the founding of an SME sector

Interview - March 17, 2015

In 2008, the government agreed its highly ambitious 2030 Vision for Qatar, and I quote, H.E. The Governor Sheikh Abdulla of the Central Bank, “Qatar 2030 will be a place where all Qataris can work, prosper and experience advanced living standards.”

ABDULAZIZ BIN NASSER AL-KHALIFA, CEO OF QATAR DEVELOPMENT BANK (QDB)
ABDULAZIZ BIN NASSER AL-KHALIFA, CEO OF QATAR DEVELOPMENT BANK (QDB) | CEO OF QATAR DEVELOPMENT BANK (QDB)

How has this vision progressed?

For us in Qatar the national vision 2030 is a guiding path that we all aspire to achieve, we at QDB embed the QNV2030 through embracing and nurturing the entrepreneurial abilities and spirit within the Qatari community and beyond.

Supporting SMEs is at the heart of our development, our economy, and our ecosystem in general. We know in Qatar, as everyone else does, that we are heavily dependent on oil and gas. The way we are building our diversification plan is by increasing the contribution of non-oil and gas productivity in our GDP. QDB and the whole entrepreneurship and private sector SME ecosystem is getting the pieces together to ensure a vibrant and sustainable economy that is well balanced in existence. Just recently Q3 of 2014, Qatar’s non-hydrocarbon sector accounted more than half of GDP so indeed we are making progress in the face of this mighty task. But it is not just about supporting the enterprises and individuals that make this all possible. It is ultimately about creating value, creating jobs and improving the lives of our friends, families and neighbors and I am proud of the progress we have made so far while the torch of light (QNV2030) is showing us the way ahead.

This ambitious vision will require strong economic and social development, and that is why the government of Qatar created the Qatar Development Bank. As the Governor calls it, “A pillar for growth around which a brighter future will be built”. Would you please describe the genesis of Qatar Development Bank, and discuss how it contributes to Qatar’s bright future?

Qatar Development Bank (QDB) was established in 1997 as the Qatar Industrial Development Bank, a 100% government-owned developmental organization. Its primary aim was to develop investments within local industries, thereby accelerating growth and economic diversification in Qatar through support for the local private sector. Between 1997 and 2005, the bank expanded its portfolio, diversifying from its industrial base to include support and guidance for a range of non-industrial sectors identified as key to the development of Qatar (education, health, tourism, livestock, fishery agriculture, and value adding services) of course with a continuous major focus on manufacturing. Shortly afterwards, the bank revisited its mission statement to reflect the successful completion of its new strategic objective and changed its name to Qatar Development Bank with a capital raise to 10 billion Qatari Riyals.

Fast forward to 2014 - a year marked by exceptional performance and institutional growth for Qatar Development Bank. Product and service innovation, investment in the customer experience, and continuing to enlist strong partners remained tenets of the bank’s success. Through our core portfolio of direct lending, indirect lending through Al Dhameen, advisory services, and export promotion through Tasdeer, QDB stimulated further private sector growth and participation by Qatari businesses in 2014. In the year ahead, we will continue to support Qatari businesses and individuals at each step of their journey.

Within this role as the pillar for growth of Qatar, QDB is physically contributing to the diversification of the market, and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit never before seen in the region. Please discuss QDB’s portfolio and how it supports institutional investors, developers and entrepreneurs, giving Qatari businesses an edge.

QDB, now more than ever, offers Qatari SMEs and entrepreneurs a one-stop-shop for products and services, supporting their growth each step of the way. Growing a vibrant, prosperous and competitive private sector in Qatar begins with their success. As an institution, we lived this philosophy in 2014 - doubling down on our commitment to enhancing the journey of Qatari SMEs and entrepreneurs. Last year, 262 SMEs benefitted from QDB Advisory services, with 200 individual counseling sessions held. We launched landmark strategic initiatives, held more counseling sessions for entrepreneurs, conducted more market studies and hosted more workshops and trainings for Qatari industries than we ever did in previous years.

In September 2014, in partnership with the Social Development Center, we launched Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) - a 20,000 square meter mixed-use business incubator in Qatar and the largest in the Middle East and North Africa. In November, Enterprise Qatar (EQ) and QDB merged to create a single window of support for the development of SMEs, consolidating efforts to better serve them by providing all financial resources and technical expertise in one place. For our customers, this creates synergies and new opportunities across an even stronger portfolio of products and services, particularly with respect to the strategic advice and resources we offer Qatari entrepreneurs. We understand that SME’s in Qatar are following a journey and we have to be there for them at each step of the journey to success as for us and them success is a journey and not a destination; we have built our offerings around that concept.

This year, QDB has been named the Best Development Bank in the Middle East, among more than 200 financial institutions in the region. What is that makes QDB stand out among region contemporaries as you accelerate the development of the private sector?

QDB was awarded “Best SME Loan” by the Banker Middle East Qatar Product Awards in 2014 - the latest recognition of the bank’s leading position supporting and financing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar. Also this year, QDB was awarded the “Best Development Bank” and, the year prior, was recognized for the “Best SME Finance Scheme” for our successful Al-Dhameen indirect lending program. We are proud of this honor, which reflects QDB's achievements over the past year and recognizes our tireless efforts to support SMEs in Qatar - helping ensure strong, continued private sector growth for the future. Behind this award is an exceptional portfolio of products and services for SMEs and a track record of success in delivering them. In the past year, QDB granted approximately 375 loans, helping more than 100 SMEs in Qatar. To date, the bank has supported around 250 SMEs through nearly QR 3.5 billion in financing.

QDB is different because we strive to be seen as less of a bank and more as a strategic partner with the means and expertise to make a difference - providing the capital, advice and skills needed to support Qatari businesses and individuals each step of the way. The bank is structured around the customer in a way that nurtures loans for the maximum benefit of the customer, the business, Qatar’s private sector and the country. We have an amazing team that makes all this possible and because of them mainly we are always wining such prestigious awards.

Please can you discuss opportunities for foreign investment in Qatar, and what opportunities have evolved from the dialogue with the Qatar Tourism Authority?

is a highly attractive market for foreign investors. Our exponential economic growth in line with the National Vision 2030 and accelerated preparations for the World Cup in football have generated a huge investment interest. We have identified many opportunities for the private sector in Qatar which consists of local and foreign players. We are strong believers in fair chances and our system and people are very open to always help and support, at the same time we are very keen to see knowledge transfer between foreign companies and local players through joint ventures that have win-win aspects to them.

Our partnership with Qatar Tourism Authority falls in line with our aim to enhance the private sector’s contribution to Qatar’s economy. What we did, early last year, was working to identify gaps in the tourism sector and then help the Qatari private sector fill these gaps - converting these gaps into achievable business opportunities. Several projects were selected in the first phase because of their attractiveness to Qatar’s private sector and their enormous potential to strengthen the local tourism sector. Tourism is a strategically important component of developing a non-hydrocarbon economy toward the National Vision 2030. In December 2014, Qatar Development Bank and Qatar Tourism Authority jointly announced the signing of four agreements which enabled the startup of four new projects in the emerging sector - a major milestone and one of many impactful local business promotion initiatives across the public and private sectors.

Also in 2014, QDB and Qatar Shell welcomed 5 new Qatari SMEs into the Pearl GTL supply chain. 110 local SMEs and entrepreneurs participated and 33 companies were qualified to tender across seven specific business opportunities.

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