Financial & Professional Services Sector in Qatar
Qatar has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and has recorded impressive economic growth in recent years driven primarily by the fact that it is the biggest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in the world. However, its continued success will not be dependent on hydrocarbons; although that sector will drive its economic diversification. As the economy grows and investment in Qatar accelerates, the demand for financial, legal and other professional services is expected to increase steadily.
The Qatar National Vision 2030 plan is intended to transform the country into a modern, knowledge driven economy. Prudent planning for future generations is very much at the forefront and the Qataris are wisely employing heavy investment in areas which will yield a much higher standard of living for its growing population. In the civic arena, the 2011-12 budget earmarked significant expenditure in 3 key areas – infrastructure, education and health. In preparation for delivery of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, in excess of US$160 Billion will be spent on essential infrastructure. Qatar is also a significant global investor with major stakes in UK businesses and property. As the economy grows and investment in Qatar accelerates, the demand for financial, legal and other professional services is expected to increase steadily.
Asset Management: Qatar’s GDP per capita is already among the world’s highest. In 2011, it totalled $173.8 billion. Per capita income was estimated at $98,329 and is expected to rise to $106,394 in 2012. Revenues from oil and gas, policies designed to diversify the economy and high levels of investment in education, health and infrastructure will continue to drive significant economic growth over the next few years. In addition, a growing demand for new investment products and for asset management mechanisms features strongly and development of this area is increasing. This is expected to continue.
Insurance & Reinsurance: The sector is comparatively small with a few select companies offering both general and specialised, tailored services .The expectation is that it will expand naturally as Qatar diversifies thus the demand for relevant products will increase. Currently, the majority of insurance risks are written or reinsured outside the region often in the London markets. Insurance and reinsurance is a key business focus for the Qatar Financial Centre Authority.
Education, Training & Qualifications (ETQ): Currently, approximately 18 (local and foreign) banks operate in Qatar .Overall, the sector is very competitive with opportunities existing for education, training and qualifications providers. The Qatar Finance & Business Academy (QFBA), part of the QFC enjoys good links with UK training providers.
Legal Services: The number of international legal practitioners in Qatar has risen sharply in the last few years as more firms have established a presence in Doha (including prominent UK-based firms).
Other Professional Services: As outward investment increases and an influx of international firms establish themselves locally, opportunities for professional services will rise. Economic diversification and investment in areas such as Transport, Infrastructure and Construction will also drive demand for professional and legal services.
Getting into the market
Qatar Financial Centre (QFC)
The QFC comprises the QFC Authority (QFCA), a commercial or development arm and the QFC Regulatory Authority (QFCRA). The QFC also has an independent judiciary in the form of a civil and commercial court and a regulatory tribunal which together aims to uphold the law and ensure the transparency of QFC business transactions.
The QFCA plays a leading role in developing Qatar’s financial services sector focusing in particular on asset management, reinsurance and captives. The QFC allows 100% ownership by foreign firms with all profits remitted outside Qatar. QFC-licensed firms can engage in offshore and onshore business.
The QFCRA is the independent regulatory body of the QFC, regulating firms conducting business in or from the QFC.
Overall, Qatar is a dynamic market but with culturally conservative underpinning. There is recognition that change will enhance opportunity in the Financial and Professional Services markets although some areas are moving more quickly than others.
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