Qatarisation and Capacity

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As one of the principle pillars of Qatar’s non-oil and gas economy – and a leading light in the country’s private sector – the financial services industry has recently been a particular focal point in moves to strengthen the drive to Qatarisation.

Indeed, the replacement of a number of expat banking CEOs with Qatari nationals in recent months has been one of the more visible signs of this renewed emphasis.

Yet the implications of Qatarisation reach far beyond the boardrooms. A 20% Qatari-national quota by 2030 is the target, across the private sector – with this meaning change at every level of the industry.

At the same time, while foreigners and locals alike agree that Qatarisation is an essential goal, there are concerns over just how rapidly the target can be met.

In this, an assessment of the capacity of the country to provide the personnel is vital – with some promising signs already there that Qatar has made great progress in this field.

Numbers and Graduates

For the private sector as a whole, recent data suggests that the country faces a tough challenge in meeting the 20% goal, however, this is despite the fact that  the Qatarisation drive began with an Emiri decree as far back as 1997.

Data quoted recently in Doha News stated that non-Qataris constituted some 99.7% of the private sector workforce, although Qatar National Bank (QNB) reported in its September 2014 economic review that expatriates made up 94.1% of the private sector labour force, giving a 5.9% Qatarisation rate.

This is still a long way off the goal though, and far from a shorter term target of 15% by the end of the 2011-2016 five year plan – a goal that looks especially unreachable given the continuing growth in expatriate population as the country gears up for the 2022 World Cup.

In the financial sector, however, the numbers are generally much better.

QNB, for example, has implemented a five-year strategic plan in this area and claims a 50% Qatarisation rate on its website. Schemes such as the Ambassador programme, which give nationals a spell with a QNB branch abroad, have helped further develop and incentivise recruitment of Qataris.

Al Khaliji, meanwhile, also recently appointed a string of nationals to senior positions, including one to replace expat CEO Robin McCall. Many of the new appointments have been women, strengthening gender balance as well as national representation.

In addition, Barwa Bank recently appointed a new Qatarisation head and replaced its expat CEO. QIB, meanwhile, has long been pursuing a programme to attract nationals, with the bank saying that it had hit 29% Qatarisation by the end of 2013. Other financial sector outfits have equally been pushing hard towards their goals.

Naturally, key here is the role of training and education, and in this too, there has been some good progress.

The Qatar Finance and Business Academy (QFBA) has been central to efforts on this front, having also drawn up the Training and Competency Framework for the sector at the behest of the Financial Markets Development Committee.

“In 2013,” QFBA CEO Abdul Aziz Al Horr told OBG recently, “we had approximately 1,626 people come through our doors, with an estimated 2,000 expected in 2014. A large number of the participants have been Qatari, with a significant portion being trained by QFBA since opening.”

Demand for the academy’s tailor-made courses is high, with many applications turned down. “It’s not about quantity, but quality,” stresses Al Horr. Illustrative of this is the Kawader programme, which saw QFBA work with the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), while partnering with Qatar University, Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon and Stenden. Just 22 out of 200 applicants made the programme this year, up from 18 out of 70 the year before.

Other institutions offering finance courses include the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, which teaches advanced degrees and diplomas in Islamic finance; the College of the North Atlantic, which offers banking programmes; and Qatar University.

Challenges do remain, however. Training and education cannot be rushed, with the need to match quotas to actual availability clearly key.

The attractiveness of the sector for qualified graduates depends, of course, on how it compares to the public sector in terms of pay and conditions.

Here, the private sector has traditionally been at a disadvantage, with public sector jobs often granting more security as well as better pensions and other benefits. The private sector may therefore have to raise its game in these areas, if it is to meet the targets, while public sector reforms may be required if the playing field is to become more level.

Yet, as the popularity of the programmes already being run by the QFBA and others demonstrate – along with the success many institutions have already had – given the chance, Qatari nationals are far from lacking in the desire to leave their mark on the country’s dynamic financial industry.

---This original article from OBG originally appeared in Qatar's The Edge magazine, October 2014 issue.

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