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Keeping up with Qatar

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Shashank Srivastava, Acting CEO of the QFC Authority, tells BME what makes a successful financial centre: ”Gone are the days where the long-established traditional financial centres like the City of London, Wall Street and Tokyo dominated the markets. There are many more financial centres vying for ‘trade’ – and Qatar has its eye firmly on the prize.”

The gas-rich state opened the doors to its financial centre, the QFC, seven years ago (May 2005). It was the third such centre to pop up in the Gulf region after Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Spending spree:

Qatar’s aggressive sovereign fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), has been the most active of the region’s sovereign wealth funds in recent years, deploying the Gulf nation’s plentiful natural gas riches in assets ranging from German sports car maker Porsche to British bank Barclays.

Qatar has recently been pumping money into mining company Xstrata PLC – which means Qatar Holding now owns more than seven per cent of the Anglo-Swiss company, which is being taken over by commodities trader Glencore International.

Building bridges:

Qatar has just signed a deal to co-invest $250 million with Barclays’ natural resources private equity investment unit, underlining the State’s desire to plough some of its commodity wealth back into the sector.

Abdulrahman Ahmad Al-Shaibi, Managing Director of the QFC Authority, says this is an important milestone in Qatar’s strategy of developing an asset management hub and promoting the expansion of Qatar’s financial services industry. “Given BNRI’s outstanding track record, skills and understanding of the natural resources sector, we are confident of achieving quality long-term returns from this strategic partnership”.

The tie-up cements the relationship Barclays has with Qatar, which through its sovereign fund, was one of the top three shareholders in the British lender as at the end of last year, with a 6.8 per cent stake.

“Doha is an attractive business environment. We are very excited about the collaboration… which will provide us not only with the opportunity to further extend Barclays global capabilities, but also strengthen our relationship with Qatar,” says John Vitalo, Chief Executive Officer of Middle East & North Africa for Barclays.

Competitive edge:

Financial centres can compete on various aspects, and it not necessarily size that matters. Shashank Srivastava, Acting CEO of the QFC Authority, told BME that the availability of skilled personnel and the nature of the regulatory environment are two of the most important factors facing international centres.

What makes a good financial centre and how can you compete with the more established financial centres?

There are several factors to take into consideration:

- Availability of Skilled Personnel

- Regulatory Environment

- Access to Financial Markets

- Availability of Business Infrastructure

- Access to Customers

- Government Responsiveness

- Corporate Tax Regime

Interestingly, the top factor that comes out in studies is talent availability. One would assume that it would be more around legal, regulatory or taxation, which are important of course, but the number one factor happens to be talent availability. Then there are other things like ease of doing business and lifestyle issues. Then you need to be able to create markets and provide access to markets. All of these factors have to be there, not one can go missing.

What are you doing to address talent availability?

We have a subsidiary called the Qatar Finance & Business Academy (QFBA) which is focused purely upon the talent development in the financial services sector. QFBA is designed to service the entire industry for its talent needs. The idea is to create a pool of people who have the skill sets required and are trained at the vocational end of the financial services sector. It is not about whether you have degrees; it is really about whether you have the certification to operate in the insurance industry or the securities industry.

The Qatar Financial Centre provides a platform for financial services, focusing on reinsurance and asset management, but what sets it apart from the regional competitors?

The best way to explain what the Qatar Financial Centre has to offer, is by what the Chinese say, ‘one country, two systems. We have not constructed a Free Zone; we operate a legal, regulatory, judicial, tax environment where companies can set up wherever they wish and they can do business in the local currency. This is unique to us.

What is the five year plan for QFC?

Our plans are very transparent and clear, our roadmap is to develop the asset management, reinsurance and insurance industries in Qatar. That is our main focus.

What’s the significance of Qatar Asset Management Company’s partnership with Barclays Natural Resource Investments?

Asset management is fundamental to the Qatar Financial Centre Authority’s strategy for helping the growth of Qatar’s financial sector. With this announcement, BNRI joins a growing list of international firms which recognise the attractions of operating in Doha and of a QFC licence. Our long-term strategic partnership with BNRI is further evidence that Qatar is achieving global recognition as a dynamic economy, a business-friendly regional and international financial centre and a hub for asset management.

Are there any more partnership deals on the cards for this year?

It is difficult to put timelines on these things, but what I can confirm is that we are in conversation with a number global, regional and local asset managers. You will definitely see more partnerships.

Source: www.qatarisbooming.com

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