50 years of national pride
June 09 2014 10:41 PM
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From humble beginnings in 1964, QNB has grown to become the largest bank in Qatar and an international financial institution operating across some 26 countries and three continents. The banking giant enjoys domestic and international confidence and has sustained an enviable track record in terms of profitability, capitalisation and return on shareholders’ equity. Throughout its 50 years of existence, QNB has continued to shoulder national responsibility and participate in the development of Qatar. The bank is now at the forefront of supporting the government’s infrastructure projects programme aligned to the Qatar 2030 National Vision.


From a small base of one branch in 1965, QNB has grown into a major banking group with operations spanning across 26 countries in three continents.

Today is an historic day, marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the QNB Group.

A celebration of ‘50 years of excellence’ charting the journey of the banking behemoth that has established its presence both on the domestic and international stage in line with the rapid economic developments taking place in Qatar.

Through prudent and strategic leadership, QNB has steadily grown to be the largest bank in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region and is by far the leading financial institution in the country with a market share exceeding 45% of banking sector assets.

The commitment to serve a diverse range of retail and corporate customers has been fulfilled by the adoption of the latest international developments in financial services, focusing on upgrading service quality to meet customer expectations and expanding the branch network and electronic channels options available to meet the needs of a growing number of domestic and international customers.

It was very different 50 years ago when QNB was launched with limited capabilities. Senior officials at the Ministry of Finance, headed by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani had a vision to help develop the national economy and establish a strong financial foundation by creating the first national bank in Qatar.

From those humble beginnings in 1964, a leading bank of scale, presence and stature was born.

The QNB Group was established in 1964 as the country’s first Qatari-owned commercial bank. Today, it has an ownership structure split between the Qatar Investment Authority and the private sector.

Starting from a small base of one branch in 1965 in a government-owned building (shared with the post office) in Doha, QNB started life with just 35 employees. With no indigenous domestic banking structure in existence, everything had to be built from the scratch by the early pioneers.

The Indian rupee was in circulation, along with the British pound, and as the economy and population centres grew, QNB began to steadily build its branch network in the out-laying regions of Doha and the country.

The pioneers won the respect of local merchants and ordinary customers as they built client confidence in using modern banking services to gain trust. Today, QNB is proud of the long-established nature of many of its client relationships spanning almost five decades.

The QNB Group now operates in some 26 countries and across three continents. From India to China, from Yemen to Geneva from Malaysia to Egypt – QNB’s international expansion is underpinned by a prudent, and well executed, strategy.

However, the fundamentals of the QNB Group business today have their roots firmly embedded in the solid foundations of the past. Time has witnessed evolution in people, practices and processes but the guiding principles of QNB can be traced back to the planning and foresight of their founders back in 1964.

QNB’s strength now, and over the past 50 years, is its history and heritage of operating in Qatar. There exists a strong track record of building bridges between the past, the present and the future. As QNB has grown in presence and reputation, it has never lost sight of the journey made over the last half-a-century.

As the largest retail bank in Qatar with some 76 branches and a network of over 340 ATMs, QNB provides market leading and quality access to products and services related to education, retirement, savings and general financial planning.

Through a growing international franchise, the bank is able to facilitate key financial transactions that generate positive returns and support important government, business and community objectives.

The continuing goal is to provide insightful banking that balances the needs of today with the aspirations of tomorrow. By continuing to service the needs of a growing and diverse customer base – the stated ambition is to become one of “The Top 50 Global Banks” by 2030.

In the short term, QNB aspires to be a ‘MEA (Middle East and Africa) icon’ by 2017 and will seek to secure this achievement by leveraging its capital, people and networks to deliver strong and sustainable financial performance.

Today, as one of the ‘50 Safest Banks in the World’ (according to Global Finance Magazine in 2013), QNB continues to provide financial and strategic advice that enables Qatar to prosper, maximise its potential and embrace new opportunities.

This has been the way since 1964 and it is set to continue to be the way of the future.

Being both financially profitable and sustainable were founding principles of QNB in 1964.

QNB continues to execute on this strategy and what remains unchanged is the drive to continue to provide robust and impressive financial performance that is capable of generating sustained growth in the long term.

Back in 1965, the bank posted a net profit of QR1.8mn and the shareholders equity was QR17.6mn. By 1994, total assets under management stood at QR15,824mn and net profits had risen to QR275.2mn.

For the first three months of 2014, the group recorded net profit of QR2.4bn ($668mn), up by 13.7% on the comparable period for 2013.

Total assets increased by 20.6% in the same period to reach QR458bn ($125.9bn), the highest ever achieved in the group’s history.

One of the “best capitalised” financial institutions in the Mena region, the last five years, in particular, have witnessed an explosive growth in assets, loans, operating income and profits which have expanded at a compound annual growth rates of 23%, 29%, 25% and 21% respectively.

This consistent expansion has dovetailed with the rapid growth of the Qatar economy. With strong relationships in the corporate sector, both from the private and public side, QNB has critically been playing a pivotal role in contributing to the ongoing diversification of the domestic economy.

Over a large part of QNB’s history, the focus has been on the considerable expansion of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facilities but the next stage of evolution in Qatar’s journey will centre upon the non-oil sector. For example, the share of bank’s lending to the services sector has risen considerably in recent years and now accounts for almost 16% of corporate lending.

QNB Group is among the “highest rated” regional banks from leading international credit ratings agencies including Standard & Poor’s (A+), Moody’s (Aa3), Fitch (A+) and Capital Intelligence (AA-).

Its reputation has also grown in recent years and the bank has been the recipient of many prestigious awards from leading International specialised financial publications.

Bloomberg Markets, the leading provider of business, financial and economic news, ranked QNB as “The World’s Strongest Bank” in 2012. This accolade was given from a ranking list that included some of the largest, and most renowned, financial institutions in the world.

Significantly, QNB was the only bank from the Mena Region included in the list.

In addition, QNB has also just recently secured the prestigious “Best bank in the Middle East” Award from Euromoney magazine reflecting both its growing reputation and robust financial performance credentials.

From the very beginning, building a profitable and sustainable bank that makes a significant contribution to the economy, business and communities across Qatar has driven the QNB approach. Building something of substance for the next generation has been a core QNB philosophy.

Since 1964, QNB has sought to be there to support the evolving needs of its growing base of customers and clients.

From the opening of the first branches outside of Doha in 1974 at Al Khor and Mesaieed, QNB has been instrumental in driving change and bringing innovation and progress to the financial lives of people across Qatar and further afield.

Until 1988, all financial data was processed manually. However, the need to bring technology into the branch network was recognised by QNB and in 1989 they introduced the ‘KAPITI Online Banking System’ that linked the network to a mainframe system. This was leading technology and practice and QNB did not stop there.

By 1992, QNB had introduced the first automated treasury dealing systems to allow new products and services to be shared by both domestic and international operations. In fact, the first “computerisation” programme was installed by QNB at its London office in 1984 and by 1988 the first automated teller machines (ATMs) were installed in QNB branches in Doha.

In 1989, QNB introduced VISA cards for customers and by 1994, the bank had issued more than 50% of the “Premier” and “Classic” cards issued by all the banks operating in Qatar at that time.

Throughout the 1990s and keeping a pace with best international banking practices, QNB introduced sophisticated technologies to allow treasury functions to offer bonds, securities trading, swaps, options and margin trading to clients.

QNB was renowned for having one of the most modern dealing rooms in the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) back in the 1990s and used this to drive its growth and expansion plans as Qatar’s leading bank.

QNB also was the first bank to launch a vehicle finance division in 1994 and being the premier financial institution in Qatar continued to administer the majority of government-related business across key departments and ministries.

But innovation has not been confined to simply products and services. QNB has led the market in the manner in which its business is conducted from governance and controls perspective.

Using international best practice, the bank was the first to introduce a stand-alone legal department in 1985 and this was followed by the introductions of specialised audit and financial controls functions. Prudent procedures, required controls and regulatory awareness and adherence have been key QNB watch words over the past 50 years.

For the period 1994-2004, QNB led the way in banking practices by introducing the first voice banking, home banking, personal housing loans and point-of-sale cards technology. Innovations included the launch of Internet banking and round-the-clock call centres in 1999, the first fully automated e-branch in Qatar in 2001, and the introduction of SMS alerts and electronic statements in 2004. All designed to benefit customers and clients and keep QNB at the forefront of technological change and innovations.

Recent customer and technical innovations have included the introduction of ‘QNB Life Rewards’ as a loyalty vehicle to both earn and redeem points against banking transactions, exclusive partner outlets and household bills, QNB becoming the first bank in the Mena region to partner with ‘PayPal’ to enhance customer convenience via Internet e-payments facilities and QNB launching the first ever “self-service payment kiosk” in Qatar with chip and pin facilities allowing customers round-the-clock access to conduct their financial business.

As international banking practice continues to evolve, QNB said it is committed to bringing the resulting benefits to its customers and clients. “This has been their way for 50 years and this will be their approach for the next 50.”

Throughout the last 50 years, QNB has supported national infrastructure development through its robust financial performance. They have been a key and vital partner in the comprehensive development process taking shape in Qatar.

Since QNB participated in securing important financing for the construction of Doha International Airport back in 1965, the bank has financed numerous projects across all economic sectors during the last five decades.

The national economy has come a long way since 1964. That year, Qatar National Company for Cement was established.

Oil production was 100,000 bpd and by 1975, the state budget had grown to QR8.2bn.

QNB was one of the first local banks to contribute to, and support, Qatar Petroleum in these mega project deals. It also contributed to the developmental investment and commercial projects seen in Qatar including the landmark investment in Qatar LNG Gas project.

In addition, they also participated in the extensive programme of factories being built across Qatar and all of the expansion projects involving Qatar Airways and Qatar Telecommunication Company.

This commitment to investing in Qatar’s future continues today with significant finance and resources being deployed in major projects such as the QNB Group led syndicate of banks being mandated for the new Doha Metro Project – Red Line South package and QNB coordinating and arranging project finance for Qatar Electricity & Water Company’s Ras Abu Fontas A2 Water Desalination Project.

However, investment in realising and supporting the Qatar National Vision 2030 goals is not purely targeted at large infrastructure projects.

At the outset, the bank was established with one main mission – to support and enable the private sector to successfully contribute to the growth of The State of Qatar. This core objective remains today and is both complemented by, and derives further strength from, Qatar’s growing international presence by expanding and diversifying its strong and resilient business model.

QNB said it is heavily committed to supporting the development of Qatar’s economic growth and promoting the next generation of entrepreneurs. This has been an instrumental guiding principle since the formation of the bank some five decades ago. Strong relationships in the private and public sectors continue to provide solid foundations for entrepreneurs to grow as tomorrow’s “drivers of the economy”.

Several new initiatives to provide entrepreneurs with specialised products and services have been launched for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in recent years and this key strategy will continue as QNB helps to stimulate the Qatar economy through diversification.

“Fifty years of investment. Fifty years of support. Fifty years of helping Qatar to prosper.”

At the heart of QNB’s success over the last 50 years has been its people.

Since the inception of the bank, QNB has been fully committed to the recruitment, development and retention of quality employees.

Starting with just 35 employees in 1964, the bank grew to almost 500 domestic and international staff by 1994.

Today, the total number of staff employed is around 14,000 operating from some 590 locations. Approximately 2,000 employees operate from Qatar with the remainder spread across the QNB network of subsidiary and associate companies.

In recent years, the international “mix” of people working under the QNB brand has grown with the acquisition of a 97.12% controlling stake of the second largest private bank in Egypt (QNB Alahli previously known as NSGB); a 35% stake in the Jordan based The Housing Bank for Trade and Finance; a 40% stake in Commercial Bank International based in the UAE; a 99.6% stake in QNB Tunisia; a 51% stake in the Iraqi based Mansour Bank; a 49% stake in Libya-based Bank of Commerce & Development; a 20% stake in Al Jazeera Finance Company in Qatar; a 51% stake in QNB Syria and a 70% stake in QNB Kesawan in Indonesia.

In addition to taking these strategic and controlling stakes in financial institutions, the group has opened a representative office in China and established a fully owned subsidiary in India under the name of “QNB India Private Limited”.

Since 1964, QNB has earned a reputation for attracting, developing and nurturing top class leadership and management talent that have both helped the group meet the many challenges and opportunities presented and importantly supplied Qatar with a growing number of highly skilled and experienced individuals.

A key development in the evolution of QNB Group has been its commitment, in line with the National Vision 2030, to implement an effective Qatarisation programme with the aim of attracting high calibre Qatari graduates to the bank.

A dedicated human resources division was created in 1994 to ensure the delivery of this objective and today, QNB has a Qatarisation rate in excess of 50%, the highest rate within the country’s financial services industry.

In addition, over 70% of senior management positions are held by Qatar nationals and this figure is set to increase in the coming years.

This will be facilitated by QNB’s state-of-the-art training centre that was opened in 1991. Each year, hundreds of employees drawn from across the QNB Group go through this facility receiving high class developmental training to meet both their individual skill set needs and the needs of the growing business.

The need and desire to be “the employer of choice” is as paramount today as it was back in 1964.

QNB also takes its social responsibility duties seriously and firmly believes that CSR should live at the heart of the business.

Being a “Good corporate citizen” matters to QNB and it actively supports communities with strong and comprehensive CSR activity and sponsorship programmes.

From the opening of Qatar Museum of Arts in 1978, to the support of local charities and education establishments in the 1990s to high profile sponsorships of Paris St Germain Football Club in France, QNB has endeavoured to give something back to the communities that it operates from.

Today, QNB has an active community support programme and sponsors various educational, social and sporting events.

The CSR strategy is shaped and implemented to achieve measurable impact and focuses on six main areas of activities: culture and arts, economic and international affairs, health and the environment, social and humanitarian affairs, sports, education and youth.

As a responsible bank, putting something back into the community has mattered to QNB and many organisations, charities and institutions across Qatar and wider afield have benefitted from this laudable philanthropic approach.

 

 

BELOW:

From a small base of one branch in 1965, QNB has grown into a major banking group with
operations now spanning across 26 countries in three continents. Today is an historic day, marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the QNB Group. Photos provided by QNB are from its inauguration in Doha in 1964 attended by the Qatari leadership at the time.

 

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