Into New Markets: Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, CEO at QFC, on the Growth Opportunities and Ways to Invest in Qatar
Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer at Qatar Financial Centre. We touch on the industries in Qatar that present abundant opportunities for companies wishing to expand in the Arab world and what makes the QFC the best institution to work with for quick and easy set up in Qatar and beyond.
Hello Mr. Al-Jaida, Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s start the interview with a question about your professional history. Before joining the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), what are the roles you fulfilled in the early stages of your career?
I have been a part of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) for almost 10 years now. I was appointed Chief Executive Officer in June 2015, but prior to this, I held roles including Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Chief Strategic and Business Development Officer and Director of Asset Management & Banking at the QFC.
I currently represent the QFC on the boards of the Qatar Stock Exchange, the Qatar Finance and Business Academy, the Financial Markets Development Committee and the Free Zones Authority.
Earlier in my career, I was Head of Indirect Investment at the Qatar General Retirement and Pension Authority, which included overseeing the management of hedge fund, private equity, real estate, fixed income and equity portfolio investments. I also have previous experience in engineering project work for Qatar Petroleum and Dolphin Energy and managing various real-estate projects in Qatar.
Qatar boasts one of the most stable and competitive economies in the world – ranked as the world’s richest country per capita based on data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2017. What are the key growth sectors in the region? How significant are the opportunities within these industries?
As one of the world’s leading and fastest growing onshore business and financial centres, we continue to promote the vast opportunities available in Qatar’s various sectors.
Over the next few years, we expect the non-hydrocarbon sector and the private sector to continue to contribute to Qatar’s growth, and we expect to see more financial consultancies, management consultancies and professional services set up shops.
As a financial centre, financial services has and always will be a core focus for the QFC and we see a number of emerging opportunities in this sector, particularly in Asset Management, Islamic Finance and Fintech.
As we move closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, it is no surprise that the Sports and Events market, where Qatar is investing close to USD$20 billion until 2023, will also provide many opportunities to investors.
Other sectors we see opportunity include:
• The Transportation market, where Qatar is investing US$12 billion
• The Healthcare market, where Qatar is investing US$5.8 billion
• The Tourism and Culture market, where Qatar is investing US$5.5 billion
These are the high priority industries we believe have vast investment opportunity in and we will continue to keep a close eye on these markets.
QFC plays an integral role in the development and diversification of Qatar’s economy, could you elaborate on the centre’s contributions to such endeavour? How are these efforts facilitating the attainment of Qatar National Vision 2030?
At the QFC, our mission is to drive economic development and diversification by providing a world class commercial, legal and regulatory environment. We continue to focus on attracting firms that will serve Qatar’s purpose to diversify its economy, in-line with the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Our vision is to transform Doha into a leading global financial and commercial capital and we continue to play a key role in attracting FDI by providing a competitive platform for firms to expand to Qatar and beyond.
Currently, the QFC has over 570 firms from a wide range of professional and financial services firms on its platform. We offer up to 100% foreign ownership and 100% repatriation of profits and allow businesses to trade in any currency. Through our offering and unique platform, we attract a growing volume of businesses from Qatar and across the world. We also successfully enable local companies to expand beyond Qatar and tap into new markets.
Another aspect of us playing a key part in helping economic growth in Qatar is our contribution to knowledge sharing. At the QFC, we attract top international firms from various market sectors, and such businesses naturally bring along a vast amount of knowledge and professionals to the country, consequently adding value to the growth and prosperity of the local economy.
We also actively invest in local talent. In 2009, we established the Qatar Financial and Business Academy (QFBA), an entity fully committed to developing the business and finance skillset of Qatar’s youth. Recently, the QFBA announced the launch of Northumbria University, UK in Qatar to offer degrees in Accounting, Finance & Investments, and International Banking. By helping to improve the financial services skillset, Northumbria is one more way the QFC is helping to invest in local talent.
Being the country’s only business and financial centre has also allowed us to put Qatar on the map and reiterate the growing business opportunities available here ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ and beyond.
In terms of helping companies succeed in establishing or expanding their business in Qatar, what sets the QFC apart from other financial centres in the region? What are the competitive advantages companies could gain by working with you?
As Qatar’s onshore business and financial centre, the QFC complements the Qatar economy. The QFC platform offers its own legal, regulatory, tax and business infrastructure, allowing up to 100% foreign ownership and 100% repatriation of profits and allowing businesses to trade in any currency.
We host a competitive tax regime of 10% corporate tax on locally-sourced profits which is unmatched as the QFC does not impose an “end date” on this guarantee. We boast a robust and transparent tax regime, and companies that set up on the QFC platform also benefit from Qatar’s extensive Double Taxation Agreements with 60+ countries.
Moreover, unlike other regional platforms, the QFC allows firms to operate freely in Qatar, in any currency, and benefit from an unrivalled and solid tax regime. Our firms also benefit from a regulatory environment that conforms to international best practices and features an independent court with judgments enforced in the State of Qatar, regulatory tribunal and dispute-resolution centre.
We also offer firms entry into a market that is not saturated, but rather one that is continuously growing. Qatar’s market strength and stability make it an ideal location for businesses looking to expand to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
How do you at the QFC address the ever-changing demands and behaviours of your clients and investors?
Staying ahead of the curve is a major responsibility, which entails a lot of dedication, hard work and unconditional investment.
As well as producing technical research and economic white papers, we host a number of business and networking events to discuss current market trends. All this information is shared with our clients to help them keep up to date.
Our Client Affairs team offers all our firms dedicated relationship managers, whose role is to manage client relationships, taking any queries/requests they may have and ensuring our clients are kept up-to-date with any QFC related news and/or changes.
To continue to promote the QFC platform and Qatar as a destination for investment and business growth, we continue to host a number of international roadshows. This year, we targeted even more cities including Paris, Madrid, Shanghai and Beijing. We continue to update our clients on the growing opportunities here in Qatar and in new emerging markets.
In terms of your offerings, what initiatives are you focusing on at the moment and what should your present and future business partners look forward to?
As we gear up to the next stage of our five-year roadmap, the QFC will continue to bring value to the Financial Services and Professional Business Services sectors and these will continue to be at the top of our agenda.
Another focus is to further strengthen our bilateral trade relationships with other countries in the region. We will look to increase Qatar’s access to countries including Kuwait, Oman, Turkey and Pakistan. QFC firms will also be able to set-up and operate in and out of Qatar, which in turn will help contribute to Qatar’s growth by attracting more businesses and investments to the country.
On an international level, we will continue to showcase the lucrative market sectors available in Qatar and how the QFC offers the best platform for entering the market. This year, we concluded roadshows in China, Madrid and Paris where we conducted networking events with professionals from Chinese, French and Spanish corporations and private firms. The roadshows provided us with an opportunity to highlight the strong historical relationships that exist between Qatar and China, France and Spain, and offered the opportunity to help companies looking to grow their business in the Middle East.
We will continue to run our international roadshows in key markets as we aim to further strengthen our relations with our global partners.
What’s the most significant impact your platform has brought to companies across industries? What has been the remarkable achievements you have received?
The QFC has been a critical contributor to the country’s non-hydrocarbon growth, bringing over 570 firms to Qatar, from a range of regulated and non-regulated industries. This includes a range of top international FTSE and Nasdaq listed companies as well as local firms, which we have helped offer a platform for international growth.
Since our inception in 2005, we have come a very long way, with a number of achievements. There are many milestones in our journey.
One example is Amwal LLC, a QFC listed firm, which this year succeeded in the listing and management of the largest exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the GCC region. Being traded under the symbol QETF on the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE), it is the first of its kind in Qatar that will measure price performance of the top 20 largest and most liquid companies on the Qatari bourse. One of the key points in our 2022 roadmap is to increase growth in assets for QFC firms and we are doing just that.
Back in 2016, we also announced that Qatar First Bank, a QFC firm, was the first Qatari entity to be listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE). I anticipate we will see more QFC firms joining the QSE in the years to come.
I am also very proud of the establishment of the Qatar Finance & Business Academy (QFBA), which is designed to help organisations and professionals achieve their learning and business objectives. As stated earlier, Northumbria University will help to further improve the financial services skill set, and I am very proud for such a prestigious university to join the QFBA.
Qatar will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, how is this event contributing to the Economy of Qatar? What are your services that are mostly in-demand?
If we look at the Sports and Events market, Qatar is investing close to USD$20 billion until 2023 in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™. While Qatar is investing massively in order to ensure the required infrastructure is in place, there are countless other opportunities for investment from local and international businesses, all of which will help contribute to expanding the economy of Qatar.
The QFC is preparing for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ and beyond by providing the necessary legal, regulatory and financial support to local and international firms that are essential to Qatar’s journey towards economic maturity, diversity and sustainability.
The QFC has an important role to play in developing a strong private sector in Qatar, which will contribute to the creation of jobs and encourage local and international investments in a diversified competitive economy.
The QFC platform can be utilised to support a variety of services that relate to Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ including all types of consulting services, legal services, IT services, marketing and brand management services, PR firms, advertising agencies, recruitment firms, accounting/audit firms to name a few.
That said, we adopt a long-term outlook which not only takes 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ into consideration but also looks at potential opportunities for growth that extend well beyond 2022.
What do you think are the things that must be strengthened in Qatar to continuously make it a hotbed of economic activity in the GCC region; to generate future sustainable growth and wealth for companies in this region?
The blockade has been a catalyst for change and Qatar is emerging stronger than ever. There have already been several legal and business reforms including a free zones law, which will attract billions of dollars of investments, and new ownership laws to ensure up to 100% ownership for foreign investors in most sectors of the economy in Qatar.
In addition, there is now visa-free entry for over 80 nationalities – the most of any GCC country. Qatar is becoming more self-sufficient and opening up more opportunities for local entrepreneurs as well. SME incubators such as Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC) and Qatar Development Bank (QDB) also help foster a strong entrepreneurial ecosystems in Qatar.
Qatar continues to retain its position as a strong economic hub as seen by:
• Its top position globally for paying taxes, and the 19th in the world for ease of obtaining construction permits, according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2018 rankings
• Qatar is also the second most competitive market in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017 – 2018
• Qatar was recently ranked first in the Arab world in the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2018, a key indicator of innovation, growth, and a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem
• Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East and 8th worldwide in terms of visa facilitation according to The World Tourism Organization’s visa openness rankings
• The Qatari capital market “is the best and most important” financial market in the Arab region and “is one of the top 10 financial markets in the world” according to The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018
I am confident that the government of the State of Qatar will continue to bring about further reforms in an effort to ensure that Qatar continues to offer its competitive edge.
On a lighter note, what message do you want to get across to the organisations that are wondering about the status quo of Qatar’s investment opportunities and business environment?
If you are a business that is currently looking to expand to the Middle East and are looking for a market with untapped opportunities, that is still growing, with billion-dollar investments taking place, Qatar is the country to look to.
Qatar’s GDP is forecast to improve to 2.6 percent in 2018 and the budget balance is seen to be swinging to a healthy surplus. In addition, ratings agency Fitch issued an AA-rating and outlook upgrade to stable earlier this year.
In addition, if you are looking for a business environment that adheres to international best practice standards, the QFC offers access to an independent and transparent legal environment based on English common law and an independent Employment Standards Office. Our benefits, which include up to 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of profits, ability to trade in any currency and our one-stop shop to help businesses set up with immigration etc. will help businesses quickly and effectively set up in Qatar.
Thank you very much. A real pleasure speaking with you.
About the Interviewee
Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida has been the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Financial Centre Authority since June 2015. Mr. Al-Jaida previously held the role of Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Strategic and Business Development Officer at the QFC where he was responsible for the overall strategic development of the organisation. He has a strong financial background with experience across a variety of roles.