Tech to help banks ‘survive and prosper,’ says Abraham
December 08 2019 10:38 PM
Abraham being interviewed by Euromoney Conferences director (Middle East and Africa) Victoria Behn at the opening session of the ‘Euromoney Qatar 2019 Conference’ at The St Regis Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Ram Chand

By Pratap John/ Business Editor

The application of technology will definitely change the way the banks interact with their clients, said Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham.
“Technology is key to the future. Banks that embrace technology will continue to survive and prosper,” he said in a keynote interview at the opening session of the ‘Euromoney Qatar 2019 Conference’ at The St Regis Doha yesterday. 
Commercial Bank has won many awards for the ‘60 seconds remittance proposition’ for the best financial technology innovation, Abraham noted.
On the future of banking, the Commercial Bank Group CEO said, “I don’t think banking is doomed. I think its nature and shape and form will change. The application of technology is definitely going to change the way the banks interact with their clients. A lot of this will be done using technology in a more remote manner than has been happening in the past. 
“The application of technology will be applied to many of the processes, which were done manually. So you are going to see a lot more automation, straight through processing and robotics. Just like they are applied in manufacturing, they will be applied in the process automation in the banking sector.” 
On 2019 Qatar’s banking sector performance, Abraham said, “Basically 2019 was a good year for Qatar and the banking sector in general. The Government and the Qatar Central Bank have done excellent macro-economic management.”
He said, “Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that Qatar has absolved the effects of the oil price decline of 2014 to 2016, and the subsequent blockade due to its “strong fiscal balances and strong external buffers.”
“And this has also been further benefited by prudent fiscal management. Qatar’s fiscal surplus of approximately 3% is expected to rise to 3.6%, while the current account balance, which is 4% surplus now, is expected to rise to 4.5% next year. 
And the GDP growth rate is expected to be 2.6% this year and 3.2% in 2020. In 2017, it stood at 1.6% and 2% in 2018.
Abraham highlighted Qatar’s huge investments in its hydrocarbon sector and said, “LNG production will increase to 126mn tonnes per year (tpy) over the next six or seven years, which will be a significant uptake of over 70%.”
Further investments in logistics, self-sufficiency, core infrastructure, Hamad Port, and Hamad International Airport will add greater momentum to the economy, he said.
There are a lot of good policies that are underpinning this, he said. Some of these are the setting up of free trade zone areas, the 100% ownership (for foreign investors in most sectors of the economy) and Qatar’s push to tourism. 
“We continue to see very positive momentum coming from these investments into the economy.”
On Qatar’s banking sector, he said, “As already stated, Qatar’s banking sector is already very strong. Strong Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) averaging 16%, NPL ratio of 1.7% or 1.8% and Return on Assets (ROA) are all good. I will say that trend will continue into 2020.” 
Supporting the financing of the World Cup infrastructure including stadia and contractors and sub-contractors will be growth areas for Qatar’s banking sector, Abraham said.
“The development of self-sufficiency initiatives, whether that is in logistics, food security, water, offshore investments to provide some of the securities – all these areas will see continued growth.” 
Abraham said, “Qatar has a high net investible surplus available with its population. As they will also move away from investing purely in real estate, they will look at a more balanced portfolio. This will provide opportunities in the wealth management and advisory space.”

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