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2019: Poised to achieve continuing growth.

Another year of exceptional growth.

2019 was yet another year of remarkable success for us at the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), recording exceptional growth of 35% and reaching over 800 registered firms on the platform.

 

We witnessed key milestones over the course of the year from the unveiling of our 2022 strategic roadmap that places a key focus on clusters poised for growth, to signing 11 landmark MoUs with world-renowned entities, to taking a more prominent role in key global conferences and continuing to connect with new markets around the world.

Chairman's Foreword.

The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) had yet another successful year as it continues to support Doha in its vision of becoming a leading global financial and commercial hub. 2019 saw a number of achievements that reaffirm the QFC’s integral role in providing companies with a platform to expand to Qatar, enabling them to tap into the multi-billion-dollar opportunities our flourishing market has to offer.

Our nation’s robust economic landscape is owed in large part to His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, who has made significant progress in the economy through key legal and business reforms. Qatar’s recent reforms include the cabinet’s approval of Qatar’s private-public-partnerships law as well as a single window e-portal to facilitate easier business set-up, which will jointly contribute to a favourable investment environment that’s increasingly being recognised on the world stage.

It is no doubt that our reflection of 2019 is set against an impressive economic backdrop with real GDP growth calculated at 0.5%, according to estimates by The World Bank. Complementing Qatar’s commitment to maximize resource-based revenue and to remain as one of the largest exporters of LNG and GTL, is the great emphasis on economic diversification and the development of the private sector.

 

In 2019, Qatar has taken major strides that are shaping the Nation’s reputation as a business destination and gateway of choice to the larger MENA region. This includes a number of mega projects as part of a multi-billion-dollar infrastructural development, comprised of big-ticket transport projects coupled with the rapid expansion of tourism, education and real estate, which continue to bolster our economy and attract foreign direct investment.


I congratulate everyone at QFC on the achievements of 2019 under the leadership of Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer. I anticipate that in 2020, with the QFC’s continued, exceptional delivery on its core mandate paired with the sustained growth and success of our economy, we will soar to even greater heights.

H.E. Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari

Minister of Commerce & Industry & QFC Chairman

A word from the chief.

Welcome to the Qatar Financial Centre’s (QFC) 2019 Annual Review – a unique opportunity to reflect on our collective dedication, milestones, and achievements over the past year – though of course each year I find our successes far too numerous to name in their entirety.

QATAR

Over the last year we have seen Qatar more proactive than ever in boosting activity to stimulate foreign direct investments in line with international best practices. Careful government planning and strategic investments paired with key legal and business reforms enacted by His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, continue to shape and position Qatar as one of the fastest growing and dynamic economies in the world. The numbers across foreign direct investment point to impressive growth; at the end of the second quarter of 2019, FDI rose by 11.3%, stood at $209.6 billion, up from $188.3 billion in the same period in 2018.

 

On a quarterly basis, Qatar’s foreign investment grew by 5%, from QR722.6 billion ($199.6 billion) at the end of the first quarter of 2019 >

QFC

Similarly, the QFC has seen tremendous development of its own in 2019 as we continue to deliver on our core mandate of promoting economic diversification and attracting FDI to Qatar. We witnessed exceptional growth of 35 percent with nearly 200 firms being registered on the platform in 2019 alone, strongly edging us nearer to our 1,000 firms target that we set on a couple of years ago. Mirroring the nation’s commitment to sustaining healthy bilateral economic ties, the QFC connected with key markets around the world including Russia, Turkey, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, France, Spain, London, Switzerland, South Africa, United States, and more.

2022 STRATEGY

We began the year with the unveiling of our 2022 strategy, where we announced our commitment to focusing on the highly-developed and growing digital, media, sports and financial services sectors. We can already count several key agreements signed across these sectors with local and international entities that will both support our growth in attracting these industry-specific firms, and also aim to leverage the knowledge and expertise of world-class institutions to contribute to Qatar’s diversifying economic landscape. The QFC is already proudly home to leading Fintechs such as Goals 101, QPay, and Instimatch, media outlets such as Bloomberg, and key sports entities including Qatar SportsTech and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC.

IPAQ

2019 also saw the launch of the Investment Promotion Agency of Qatar (IPAQ), which is registered on the QFC platform and aims to be a single and complete source for investment solutions in Qatar by attracting FDI in all of the country’s priority sectors. IPAQ is testament to the nation’s FDI strategy and will complement the efforts of the QFC and other FDI platforms in Qatar.

INTERNATIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

By joining two international bodies committed to establishing a sustainable global financial industry – namely the World Alliance of International Financial Centers and the Islamic Financial Services Board – and participating in over 40 local and international as well as welcoming delegations from all over the world, I am proud that the QFC’s growing reputation as a leading platform for firms to do business in Qatar and beyond continues to grow.

I am certain that with the many successes we witnessed in 2019, we had the same hopes for 2020. With the growing public health crisis of Coronavirus (COVID-19), however, we’re seeing our local and global economy faced a set of critical pressures and challenges. We are fortunate for the speedy and proactive response of our government and our public and private sectors, each of which are taking extensive measures that highlight the resilience of our leadership and our economy.

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida

Chief Executive Officer & Board Member

Qatar, in the heart of our mission & vision.

We have a vision to transform Doha into a leading global financial and commercial capital

and a mission to drive economic development and diversification by providing a world-class commercial, legal, and regulatory environment.

At a glance,

the 2030 Qatar National Vision.

We have tirelessly worked since our inception to support and diversify Qatar’s economy in line with the objectives set out in the Qatar National Vision 2030.

 

Our platform offers businesses looking to establish a presence in Qatar and the region a host of unique benefits and incentives that remain unmatched.

Benefits that ensure growth for our licensed firms.

Up to 100% foreign ownership

One-stop-shop for licensing, commercial registration, immigration and related services in a streamlined and transparent process

10% corporate tax on locally-sourced profits. Competitive tax environment with 81 double tax agreements

100% repatriation of profits with no withholding tax

Transparent, accessible and predictable operating environment based on English common law

A unique Administrative Employment Dispute Resolution Centre accredited by the International Labour Organization (ILO)

Trade in

any currency

Simple visa and employment process

World class regulator

A business bridge between Qatar and the rest of the world.

2019 was a momentous year for us, where we kick-started the year with the unveiling of our 2022 strategy, announcing a renewed focus on the digital, media, sports, and financial services industries.

Partnerships

at home, and abroad.

MoU with Microsoft to collaborate on supporting Qatar's smart country transformation & enhance digital competitiveness

MoU with the Taiwan External Trade Development Council to exchange trade, market and economic information as well as disseminate data on goods, services and partnership possibilities that may be available in either or both countries

MoU with Oooredoo to work on a number of initiatives driving entrepreneurship and innovation, including: Digital Cluster, Digital Financial Solutions, and the Innovation Incubator

MoU with the Finance Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey that aims at establishing of passporting services for financial institutions in both Qatar and Turkey, especially for entities based in both financial centres

MoU with Invest Hong Kong to promote inward & outward investment in Qatar and the Hong Kong SAR

MoU with the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities to enhance the coordination with regards to AML/CFT risks associated with fundraising

MoU with Paris Europlace to collaborate in different fields that include Technology, Digital activities, and Ancillary services

MoU with Pakistan Stock Exchange to promote relevant business opportunities in respective home market & in accordance with the respective laws

MoU with the General Authority of Customs to tackle AML/CFT-related issues

Keeping the

show on the road.

 

Further in line with our core mandate to promote economic diversification and attract foreign direct investment, we organised a series of international roadshows in strategic markets.

Americas

United States

Europe

Spain, Turkey

Asia

Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan

International key-players, active thought-leaders.

We continued to cement our position as a thought-leader by participating in and organising key events to discuss FDI and Doha’s growing reputation as a commercial and business hub.

2019 saw our inaugural participation in St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), where we joined a high-level Qatari delegation and participated in key panel discussions and B2B meetings, paving the way for a more prominent role in 2021.

We also welcomed various high-profile delegations from around the world including Canada, Mexico, the United States, France, Holland, Turkey, Russia and Japan.

We joined the
World Alliance of International Financial Centers.

 

As part of the alliance, we will share our unique business model and expertise as well as impart successful endeavours in diverse financial sectors including Islamic Finance, Fintech, Asset Management and Capital Markets.

We joined the
Islamic Financial Services Board.

 

As an Associate Member, we are able to participate in the IFSB General Assembly, receive technical assistance from the IFSB and participate in Working Groups, Task Force and closed-door discussions for the development of IFSB prudential standards.

At the front,

on the local front.

Qatar's first Bloomberg studio

In a strategic partnership with Bloomberg, we launched a remote Bloomberg Television studio for live reports at our headquarters. We also co-hosted ‘The Future of Investing: Spotlight on Qatar’ on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York.

Qatar Business Awards 2019

We held the second edition of our annual ‘Qatar Business Awards.’ This year, we opened the awards to all businesses across Qatar as part of our ongoing efforts to recognise achievements of the nation's growing business community.

Qatar IT Conference
& Exhibition

We were also a key sponsor of the Qatar IT Conference and Exhibition (QITCOM) which saw panel discussions on the QFC’s contribution to Qatar’s growing digital sector as well as the signing of a strategic partnership with Microsoft.

Curating dialogues on Islamic Finance

Locally, the QFC curated an engaging panel on Islamic Finance at the Doha Forum for which it was a key sponsor, having served as an ideal platform to launch and discuss key findings in the QFC’s 2019 Annual Islamic Finance Report.

All entities, in unity.

 

2019 also saw the launch of the Investment Promotion Agency of Qatar (IPAQ), which is registered on the QFC platform and aims to be a single and complete source for investment solutions in Qatar by attracting FDI in all of the country’s priority sectors. The QFC works closely with IPAQ, flying one flag to attract business to Qatar.

Key highlights,
major achievements.

  • Government Tenders

    Successfully obtained the Council of Ministers’ approval for QFC companies to participate in government tenders.

  • Partnership with Bloomberg

    Signed a strategic partnership with Bloomberg to open the first Bloomberg Television studio in Qatar for live reports out of our headquarters in Doha.

  • Asset Management

    Developed an Asset Management Sector focus with a strong network of Qatari investment managers and tax benefits to attract new asset managers and funds.

  • Aviation Finance

    Developed tax and legal groundwork to promote QFC as platform for Aviation Finance with interest from international Aircraft lease companies to set up at QFC.

  • Net Promoter Score

    Achieved a Net Promoter Score of 73, highlighting our clients’ willingness to promote and recommend our business platform.

  • Qatar Business Awards

    Held our 2nd annual Qatar Business Awards under the patronage of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and extended the event to the wider business community for the first time.

  • 24/7 Call Centre

    Launched our multi-lingual QFC Call Centre, which is now fully operational 24/7 and services all our  departments and clients.

  • Benefits to Investment Managers

    Amended our tax regime to allow investment managers in QFC to elect for the 0% concessionary rate for certain types of income.

  • 2022 Tax Exemption

    Issued a Concessionary Statement of Practice (CSOP), granting QFC entities involved in the organisation of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 an exemption from tax.

  • Qatarisation

    Made headway on Qatarisation efforts, with overall number of Qatari Nationals at QFC increasing by a further 13% in 2019.

We broke records, and reached new milestones.

The highest growth-rate to date.

We ended the year on a high note with an exceptional growth of 35%  reaching 71% of our strategic 2022 target.

2005

2019

2022

YEAR

705

1000

LICENSED
FIRMS

+323% beyond our annual target.

 

To meet our 2022 target of 1,000 firms, a total of 91 strategic fits were needed in 2019. Instead, we completed 294 strategic fits.

143

2

FINANCIAL SERVICES

6

MEDIA

76

52

15

SPORTS
LOCALISATION
DIGITAL
OTHERS

If we project this growth rate till 2022, we will generate

$2.4Bn

Revenues

4,966

FTEs

Excluding 3,000 Host Broadcast Services (HBS), and 4,840 ITECO part-time employees

$1.8Bn

Assets

A warm welcome to our newly licensed firms.

In 2019, we had the highest number of yearly firms licensed since our inception in 2005. We also had an expansion of firms on representing a variety of industries, both financial and non-financial services, including Fintech, IT, and tax and investment advisories.

2005

2017

461

2018

151

2019

204

A total of 204 firms were licensed in 2019.

Regulated

4

Non-regulated

200

Non-regulated firms by permitted activities

136

1

FOUNDATIONS

5

MANAGEMENT OFFICES

38

20

HQ's
SPECIAL PURPOSE COMPANIES
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

Non-regulated firms by legal structure

119

1

FOUNDATION

1

LLP

15

LLC (G)

18

SPECIAL PURPOSE COMPANY LLC

26

20

HOLDING COMPANY LLC
LLC BRANCH
LLC

Top countries of origin of 2019 licensed firms

41

4

GERMANY

4

PAKISTAN

5

TURKEY

6

LEBANON

6

FRANCE

9

JORDAN

11

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA)

20

UNITED KINGDOM (UK)

27

INDIA
QATAR

On the digital path to full automation.

Moving more efforts into the digital space.

 

As an organisation, we pride ourselves on our digital presence. We are constantly striving to enhance our activities by utilising the latest digital tools to ensure that all our efforts are more efficient, more measurable, and more environment-friendly.

We automated our certifications.

The generation of QFC Registration Certificates and signing has been moved digitally. The user is then able to verify these documents through our public register verification engine.

We automated our client care.

To ensure that we continue to provide our best client support, we utilised Microsoft Power App technology to track and manage all the queries of our firms.

We digitised our internal approvals.

We digitised our internal forms and signing process via DocuSign with the aim to become a paper-less QFC in the near future.

We digitised our event branding.

We have significantly reduced our print-branding by investing in a number of digital screens. These screens replaced the traditional paper roller-banners at all our internal and external events.

We automated our payments.

Implemented Host to Host (H2H) automation with Masraf Alrayan bank for our payment processing. This automation process eased the approval SLA matrix for the authority and eliminated the manual signature.

We automated our employee services.

We digitised our employee requests through an online self-service system and made it available on-the-go through our QFC Staff mobile app.

We automated our vehicle insurance.

Through Vehicle Insurance Registration System (VIRS), we integrated our licensed insurance firms with the Ministry of Interior which made policy submissions to Traffic Departments automated, instant, and paperless.

We digitised our publications.

We replaced the traditional book publications with digital alternatives. This Growth Report is living proof of that, as 2019 marks the second year in which our annual review report is fully digitised.

Socially responsible, community invested.

United for more good.

 

Since the launch of our social investment programme 'United for Good', several successful initiatives focused on Youth & Education and Community Development have been successfully implemented.

In 2019, we've expanded our focus and mobilised our CSR initiatives under three focus areas: Financial Literacy and Youth Empowerment, Sustainability and Social Engagement.

We mean
financial literacy.

We collaborated with Qatar Stock Exchange and Qatar National Bank to host Global Money Week Qatar 2019, a week-long campaign designed to promote financial education among school children.

We mean
no child left out.

We sponsored 'No Child left Out' a fund-raising campaign by Education Above All which aims to educate marginalised children and give them a brighter future. About 300,000 children benefit from the campaign.

We mean
social engagement.

Our Busmah programme remained instrumental. We engaged Injaz volunteers during our series of client targeted events, Fast Forward, to give them visibility and access to a rich community of possible volunteers.

UNRWA Humanitarian

Response.

We announced our partnership with the Office of the UN Secretary-General's Humanitarian Envoy and the UN, to collaborate in raising awareness about global humanitarian challenges amongst the greater business community in Qatar.

We mean youth empowerment.

We sponsored a student delegation to the 23rd Youth Assembly in New York City, which connected the world’s young talent with leading professionals in various fields to gain the relevant knowledge they need to tackle global challenges.

A decade of capacity building in the professional market.

Qatar Finance
& Business Academy

 

Over the course of a decade, QFBA has established itself as a key enabler in Qatar’s Financial Services and Government Sector by supporting capacity building in the professional market. 2019 was a hugely successful year for the QFBA marked with greater growth and visibility.

Islamic Finance

 

In 2018, QFBA, with the support of Derasat, developed a bespoke training and certification framework for the Qatari Islamic Banking Sector, with qualifications aimed at entry and mid to advanced level Islamic Finance professionals. These qualifications are endorsed and supported by the Qatari Islamic Finance sector.

 

In 2019, QFBA further developed Qatar-specific customised training material based on the designed curriculum for various certifications in the framework and will launch the delivery of its training programmes in 2020.

AML / CFT

 

QFBA in partnership with the National Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Committee (NAMLC) and the Financial Integrity Network (FIN) delivered a comprehensive AML/CFT Training Programme (QAML) for various financial institutions, jurisdictional authorities, and other stakeholders throughout 2019.

 

The programme facilitated their understanding and provided insight into managing heightened and evolving risks related to anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing, sanctions compliance, anti-bribery/corruption, and counter-proliferation financing.

WHO BENEFITED FROM THE PROGRAMME?

 

Several public sector companies benefited from the programme including investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial authorities; CIF regulatory, supervisory, and examination authorities for financial institutions and DNFBPs (Designated Non-Financial Business and Professions); CIF analytic authorities; Sanctions authorities; and Charitable and Non-Profit Organisations (“NPOs”) sector regulatory, oversight, and examination authorities.

 

The private sector companies that benefited from the programme include all Qatar-based local and international financial institutions, DNFBPs, and charities.

900

Professionals

30+

Public Entities

100+

Private Entities

Kawader

 

Kawader is an exclusive and innovative learning initiative especially designed for potential business leaders and decision-makers in Qatar’s dynamic financial services industry.

The programme provides a broad overview of the financial services landscape and supports building professionals to industry standards by training for internationally-recognised certifications (ILM, CFA Investment Foundation and IISI – CISI).

7

Cohorts

176

Participants

For the seventh cohort that was successfully delivered in 2019, participants were offered internships in Qatari entities as well as international internships held in London and Singapore.

Professional Training & Development

During 2019, QFBA successfully delivered thousands of learning hours across a number of certifications (CPA, CFA, CMA, CIA, CISI – IISI and ACAMS) and customised, bespoke training programmes, training thousands of participants overall.

Custom training programmes were delivered across Business and Management, Communications and Soft skills, Compliance and Anti-money laundering, Finance and Accounting, and Information Technology.

4,900

Learning Hours

162

Bespoke Programmes

4,250

Participants

8

Certifications

37

Clients

WHO BENEFITED FROM THE PROGRAMME?

Key Financial Services Clients

Key Ministry & Corporate Clients