Interview: Yousuf Mohamed Al Jaida
How has the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) worked to attract professional services firms to Qatar?
YOUSUF MOHAMED AL JAIDA: In 2015 the QFC licensed twice as many firms as in 2014, and it continues to attract a broad range of companies, both international and local. Around 30% of our licensed firms are local. We also looked at ways to expand the QFC’s value proposition and support the state’s diversification goals. In 2015 we looked at ways in which we can improve our firms’ experience and facilitate their success. This has resulted in a complete overhaul of our technology systems, the creation of a dedicated client relations team and a strong focus on facilitating our clients’ partnerships with the local business community.
Looking forward, what is the development strategy in terms of widening the net of sectors or industries that can be licensed through the QFC?
AL JAIDA: Expanding the breadth of industries at the QFC is a key part of our strategy to support Qatar’s economic diversification. To put our plans in context, it is important to present some of the changes that have already taken place. Since 2013 the QFC has been taking steps to expand our environment and align it with the state’s needs. These include the removal of the requirement for a nexus to financial services, the expansion of the definition of professional services activities to the full extent permissible under the QFC Law and the introduction of “companies limited by guarantee”, which allows business councils and professional associations to set up in the QFC.
We aim to continue broadening our platform based on the local market’s requirements. We are considering expansion to allow foundations and limited-duration companies at the QFC. We will also work closely with our colleagues in other government agencies to identify and fulfill their needs in terms of getting the businesses and services that they require onshore, within the confines of the QFC’s laws and mandate.
The decline in oil prices suggests a need for greater economic diversity. Where are the opportunities for the business sector and the QFC?
AL JAIDA: A crisis is both a problem and an opportunity. The oil sector has taken a knock in the past year, but other sectors are proving resilient and diversification is continuing at a good pace.
The Qatari non-hydrocarbons sector accounts for more than half of the economy and growth since 2014. The financial sector is critical to this diversification process, both as a means and an end. Efficient financial intermediation increases the productivity of investment, so the more efficient the financial system, the higher the growth rate will be.
Management of personal wealth is also a growing area for professional services firms and asset managers. Qatar has a very high density of private wealth, and there are also many regional opportunities.
There are opportunities for professional services firms too. As family businesses grow more complex, their investments more diverse and appreciation of the challenge of succession planning rises, many are turning to solutions like family offices and trust structures to help them manage their financial affairs.
Another opportunity is the first renminbi clearing centre in the region, which was launched in Doha in April 2015. The centre opened China’s trade gates, and will increase financial connectivity between China, South-west Asia and the MENA region, as well as provide the opportunity to expand trade and investment between China, Qatar and the region. The centre provides access to China’s onshore renminbi and foreign exchange markets for local financial institutions, fostering cross-border use of renminbi in the region. Banks can now expand their portfolios of financial services and products via facilitation and issuance of financial instruments such as trading of debt market products, and interest rate and commodity-derivative products denominated in renminbi.
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