By Elizabeth Frasier-Nelson – email@example.com
The economy of Qatar has achieved strong growth over the past year. This growth has been underpinned by infrastructure development and increased amounts of investment capital flowing into the region in preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Recent reports from the Qatar News Agency (QNA) have indicated that the Qatari economy continued with strong growth through the course of 2014, despite the 50-percent plummet in oil prices that took place during the second half of the year. Qatar achieved a 6.2-percent economic growth rate in 2014, and this was primarily driven by the non-hydrocarbon sector—indicating to markets and investors that the Qatar economy is resilient against the volatility of oil markets. The non-hydrocarbon sector grew 11.5 percent in Qatar through 2014—which resulted from sizeable investment spending across the sector. The construction, finance, real estate and insurance sectors were the dominant contributors to growth—with construction growing by 18 percent due to the implementation of major infrastructure projects, such as Lusail, Barwa City and Education City. The trend of strengthening growth and development is forecast to continue through 2015 and beyond. There are numerous infrastructure projects in the pipeline—which have been funded and signed off at a growing rate. In addition, the government will invest $182 billion over the course of the next few years—through to 2018. As a result, double-digit growth is forecast for the non-hydrocarbon sector over the next three years.
The banking and financial-services sector of Qatar is growing and developing concurrently. By keeping pace with the evolving needs of the various parties across the nation, the banking and financial-services sector is continually aiming to come up with better products and solutions to help drive economic progress forward. The banking and financial-services industry of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) in general, and Qatar in particular, is increasingly driven by globalisation, product innovation, technological development and the quick pace of change in this region’s economies—which result in ever-changing customer demands. Market evolution has furthermore created potential opportunities for improved profits—however, these come with the associated increased amounts of risk. After the oil and gas sector, the financial sector is Qatar’s crucial source for future economic development. Commercial Bank of Qatar, or Commercial Bank, is Qatar’s largest private-sector bank and a key player within the banking and financial-services marketplace.
Set up as Qatar’s first private bank in 1975, Commercial Bank (CB) was originally founded by a small group of enterprising businessmen, led by Hussain Alfardan. The bank’s self-imposed mission was to introduce the concept of modern banking to a mostly unbanked nation. Receiving approval in 1973, the bank’s Articles of Association were drawn up in 1974, and the bank opened for business on April 10, 1975; CB officially celebrates its 40th anniversary this year as Qatar’s first private bank. Commercial Bank is today a regional banking business with a GCC presence through its associates the National Bank of Oman and United Arab Bank (of the United Arab Emirates). Building on a successful regional-expansion strategy, Commercial Bank acquired a majority stake in the mid-sized Turkish bank Alternatif Bank (ABank) in 2013. These strategic alliances enable Commercial Bank to offer integrated services across the region and take advantage of growing regional trade flows.
Commercial Bank operates in retail and wholesale banking and additionally makes strategic investments through its associates and subsidiaries. The bank’s services support individuals, the public sector and companies of all sizes in Qatar and internationally. As part of the bank’s work in wholesale banking, Commercial Bank provides a broad range of conventional commercial and investment-banking services and products to large, medium and small enterprises. These include corporate lending, trade finance, syndicated loans, deposits, letters of credit and guarantees. In addition, the retail-banking division of Commercial Bank provides a full suite of conventional personal-banking services and products to retail customers in Qatar, including current and deposit accounts, wealth management, mortgage lending, personal loans, vehicle loans, credit cards and other card services.
When it comes to wholesale banking, Commercial Bank stands out in the marketplace through its unique approach. The driving factor in the success of the bank has been to ensure customers’ changing demands are effectively met—and the bank endeavours to continue focussing on this vital goal into the future. The method through which the bank operates to meet these ever-changing customer demands is through applied creativity and innovation across all levels of the operational framework—innovation at the bank is focussed towards providing the market with services and products that meet customer needs in unique and specific ways. In addition, Commercial Bank has put in place a robust investment strategy to expand its banking networks and capitalise on digital innovation. These growth goals mean that CB is well-positioned to maintain its leadership role in transforming both the banking and financial-service sector whilst serving the development needs of society as a whole. Commercial Bank strives to make its banking facilities an ideal banking hub for business, creativity, and innovation—creating a service that enables businesses in Qatar to achieve their objectives, through the provision of banking experience and enterprise services of an excellent standard.
Excellence at all levels of the bank has led to the success of Commercial Bank over the past four decades. Nowhere is this more the case than in Commercial Bank’s approach to and provision of customer service. Commercial Bank’s long-term commitment towards providing world-class customer service is underscored by their evocative and powerful motto of “everything is possible”. Management at the bank has set in place systems that execute periodic assessments of customer-service delivery and performance to ensure that high standards are being maintained. In addition, customer-satisfaction surveys are frequently carried out to help optimise service—from which the results are analysed and applied in order to improve, redesign and refine existing processes and create new, enhanced products for CB customers. This type of active analysis allows the bank to gain insight not only into customer views of the overall bank, but of every channel and customer access-point, across all market segments. Surveys are conducted quarterly by a leading market-research company to ensure the independence and robustness of the results, and survey results go on to form a critical input into the performance-management process of the bank. As part of its cutting edge approach to improving customer service, the bank also holds customer forums that provide customers with the opportunity to engage directly with top executives and staff in order to express their opinions and needs. As a result of this ongoing work, Commercial Bank ranked number one for online customer service among financial brands in Qatar in 2014.
Commercial Bank understands that proper staff management and training is critical to maintaining standards of excellence, not just in customer service but in all areas of operation. A balance between thorough training and development of the required knowledge and skillset with programmes designed to motivate, reward and inspire gives Commercial Bank’s workforce a unique and effective edge. For example, an employee-engagement programme allows staff to post stories of “wow” customer service on the bank’s intranet, and the best of these are awarded a service ambassador trophy by the CEO. In addition, Commercial Bank has programmes set up in line with the globally established and benchmarked standards of Qatar Vision 2030. As part of this work, Commercial Bank has supported and initiated multiple educational tutorials to enhance and retain talent as well as support Qatari nationals. Training programmes at the bank cover a wide range of roles and functions customised to fit with Commercial Bank’s overall strategy whilst fostering a healthy, encouraging and supportive learning environment. A prominent example of one of the bank’s most successful and effective programs is the Future Leaders Programme, a 13-month scheme designed to fast-track young people to leadership roles in the bank that is delivered in partnership with HEC Paris and specifically designed to create future leaders for banking in Qatar.
Keeping a keen eye on and constant pressure to adopt evolving technological solutions is part of the ongoing effort of Commercial Bank to be a leader in the banking and financial-services industry of Qatar. As the leading bank in Qatar for innovation and high-quality services, advanced technology is firmly a high priority for the bank as they seek to facilitate enhanced banking experiences for existing customers, whilst also capturing increased market share through attracting new customers. Technology also plays a role in helping the bank to distinguish itself from its rivals—through the bank’s approach of keeping pace with technological developments and customer needs. Additionally, Commercial Bank ranked number one for social-media engagement on six channels and has been recognised as the most engaging financial brand on social media over the last two years as well as ranking number one for online customer service among financial brands in Qatar in 2014. The bank is the premier bank in Qatar for digital advertising through visibility and web traffic and is established as the most visible financial brand in Qatar online with 276 million brand ad views through 2014.
Harnessing technology is a key tool for Commercial Bank—one which the bank handles deftly as it strives to provide convenient, accessible online solutions where needed, whilst also offering face-to-face interactions when this may be more effective. Commercial Bank also has a longstanding legacy of innovation—with a series of market “firsts” that the bank has brought to Qatar over the past 40 years. These include introducing the first ATMs in 1990, being the first Qatari bank to be listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2006 and launching the first Qatari mobile banking app in 2009. Outside of the online arena, the bank is a trailblazer when it comes to strategic development and innovation. Commercial Bank was the first Qatari bank to issue a bond in international capital markets, and in 2007 Commercial Bank created a strategic alliance with United Arab Bank. By 2008, the bank had listed global depositary receipts (GDRs), which became the first internationally distributed GDRs issued by a Qatari bank and the largest from the Gulf Region.
Commercial Bank takes active steps to promote corporate social-responsibility (CSR) initiatives that help benefit the local and wider Qatar community. Community outreach is an essential aspect of the bank’s business strategy to contribute to Qatari society. On this basis, Commercial Bank contributes and sponsors a wide range of social events with a particular focus on championing human endeavours across sports, education, culture and arts. As an example, in 2006, the bank signed an agreement to become the title sponsor of the Qatar Masters and has been hosting and sponsoring the event to date. And in 2014, the bank supported a wide range of activities, including an endowed professor of finance at Qatar University, hosting a blood donation drive with Hamad Medical Corporation and various sports, cultural, educational and CSR initiatives. CB also supports the promotion of Qatari arts and cultural programs. Driven by a determination to help create a more humanitarian society, Commercial Bank supports notable charities that are considered to be significant contributors to Qatar’s social infrastructure.
Into the future, by maintaining a keen focus on the evolving needs of the Qatar marketplace, Commercial Bank will remain a leader in the banking industry. The bank’s specialised and high-calibre approach to customer service and technological development will be crucial to their continuing success and development—both for the bank and across the wider Qatar society.