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MEETING THE GROWING DEMAND FOR ISLAMIC BANKING

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Steve Troop

Well positioned to meet the growing demand for Islamic banking, Barwa Bank is Qatar’s fastest growing Shari’ah compliant banking service provider, established in Doha and licensed & regulated by the Qatar Central Bank. The bank provides a full range of Shari’ah-compliant banking services including retail, corporate and commercial banking, private banking, real estate finance, structured finance, investments and asset management.

MEETING THE GROWING DEMAND FOR ISLAMIC BANKING 3

Barwa Bank has grown significantly in both size and stature since it was established in 2008; it now has six branches in Qatar, and has integrated three acquisitions –The First Investor, First Finance and First Leasing – in its first four years of operation. One of the major factors behind Barwa Bank’s continued growth is its differentiation and its commitment to service as a point-of-competition. As a recent entrant to a very congested market-place “there is no appetite for another ‘me-too’ bank” says Steve Troop, CEO, Barwa Bank and added that, “We are relatively small and turn our size to our advantage. We have a flat hierarchy and are more nimble because we don’t have layers of management. This allows us to deliver the consistently high quality service standards that our customers have come to expect.”

Steve Troop

Steve Troop

Barwa Bank looks to challenge the widespread misconception that Islamic finance involves an implicit trade-off between, on one hand, Shari’ah compliance and on the other, sophistication and service excellence in the delivery of financial services. It aims to deliver on both. “We aspire to a leading role in Shari’ah compliant banking through innovative products and services that meet customer needs. We may not be the largest but we want to be the best and the most recommended” said Troop.

The bank enjoys strong relationships with major companies in Qatar, and is playing an important role in financing the country’s infrastructural projects and development in line with Qatar’s 2030 vision. Mr Troop continued, “Qatar offers an extremely dynamic business environment with a great deal of potential and opportunity for a bank like ours to flourish. As a local bank, we are at the centre of this evolving economy through our relations with major corporates and the developing SME sector as Qatar places increasing emphasis on the future and reduced dependence upon the hydrocarbon sector.”

New business initiatives have played a part in this growth as the bank builds on its established presence in Corporate and Retail banking, and continues to diversify. The successful debut of the Bank’s Private Banking proposition in 2012 has been coupled with major investment in its Treasury & Capital Markets capacity and capability. Troop said that Barwa Bank has been fortunate enough to secure an excellent team, which has been focusing its expertise on the sukuk markets. “We have had lead management roles in a number of very high profile transactions and we have been active traders of sukuks on behalf of our investors. So that has certainly helped build our business in this growth sector.”

Barwa Bank’s elevated profile has gained significant recognition both domestically and regionally, a development reflected in both customer acquisition volumes and a number of prestigious industry awards recognising its innovative products, outstanding service and exceptional growth. Recently announcing its financial results, Barwa Bank recorded strong growth in both balance sheet and profitability, with profits of QAR 447 mn for the nine months ended 30th September 2013 up from QAR 279 in the same period last year, an 60.21% improvement, year-on-year.

‘Our financial performance for the first nine months of this year has been very encouraging and builds on the earnings momentum we achieved last year.  We look forward to further growth, our continuing contribution to the development of the Qatari economy and Shari’ah compliant financial services, as well as creating value for our customers and shareholders” concluded Mr Troop.

Banking

Nedbank private wealth celebrates its tenth anniversary in Dubai

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Nedbank private wealth celebrates its tenth anniversary in Dubai 4

After ten years operating in Dubai, Nedbank Private Wealth is looking forward to continuing to support its client base and further build its business as the region expands its welcome to expatriates.

International wealth manager, Nedbank Private Wealth, today (Monday) kicked off the celebrations for its tenth anniversary of operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having originally opened its representative office in Dubai in 2011.

Andrew Bates, head of private banking for the Middle East, stated: “While we clearly identified multiple opportunities in the region from the outset, we have been surprised by the development of the financial sector and particularly recently. In addition, there is an increased scope for growth emerging as the region seeks to rotate away from oil as its predominant source of wealth.

“The UAE authorities are clearly thinking strategically about the future sustainability of the country’s appeal and Dubai’s as a financial hub. This was clear from the introduction of five and ten-year long-term residency visas in 2019, as well as the more recent ‘right to retire’ initiative, and the extension of citizenship on an invitation-only basis, provided appropriate capital criteria is met. We may already be seeing these impact property prices, which, particularly for family villas, have started to buck the recent trend that saw values soften.”

Foreign residents account for more than 80% of the population of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms and, while they have been a mainstay of the economy for decades, the requirement for employment-led visas has remained consistent. In 2019, the UAE authorities approved the issuance of five and ten-year residency visas, which are automatically renewed. In 2020, the Dubai government offered individuals over the age of 55 the chance to ‘Retire in Dubai’ through a structured scheme. In January 2021, the UAE announced plans to extend citizenship to named individuals to attract talent and boost economic growth.

Meanwhile, the recent decision by Oman to progress with an income tax may mark the start of other GCC countries considering new taxes, following a similar pattern to the introduction of VAT. The boutique British-Isles-headquartered provider sees taxation supporting the growth of the wealth management sector, as the need for planning, to help clients achieve better long-term outcomes for their wealth, increases as individuals’ finances become more complex.

The anniversary comes at a time when Nedbank Private Wealth sees opportunities expanding in the UAE due to its handling of the pandemic. The country is ahead of all developed nations, bar Israel, in its inoculation programme, and is on track to have vaccinated half its population by the end of March 2021.

In August 2020, the UAE normalised relations with Israel, which will ease the lives of Jewish expatriates in the UAE, as well as the Israelis with dual citizenship who live, visit and work in the UAE. Immediate changes followed the announcement, including the UAE allowing people to direct dial Israel’s +972 country code, while both countries are planning regular commercial flights, following the first such flight from Israel to the UAE at the end of the same month.

Nedbank Private Wealth’s licence allows the business to offer wealth management, lending and private banking solutions to clients, as well as the opportunity for them to access wealth structuring vehicles. The celebrations will be concentrated on online activity, given the pandemic and the desire by Nedbank Private Wealth to protect its clients and its employees.

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Transforming the corporate WAN: a network to bank on

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Transforming the corporate WAN: a network to bank on 5

By Johan Ottosson, VP Strategy at Telia Carrier, looks at current opinions in the banking and finance sector on corporate WANs and new ways of doing things.

 

The banking and financial services industries have fully embraced the digital revolution. They rely on their ability to make transactions safely —at speed and at scale — and they want cutting-edge solutions that maximise efficiency and minimise carbon footprint. However, recent global research from Telia Carrier on the evolution of the corporate WAN and cloud, reveals dissatisfaction with current WAN providers and uncertainty about better solutions. Put simply, leaders in the banking and financial services industries know what they want, but they face significant challenges as they try to develop the corporate WAN for the 2020s.

Our research looked at the evolution of the corporate WAN and cloud adoption in four of the world’s biggest markets — the US, the UK, Germany and France. The research, based on a survey of senior decision-makers, reveals dissatisfaction with current WAN providers and uncertainty about better solutions from key stakeholders. Broadly, the conclusion was that leaders in the banking and financial services industries know what they want but not necessarily how to achieve it. 

The digital opportunity

In the world of banking and financial services, leveraging the public Internet and enabling cloud-based services dominate the WAN landscape (93% and 96% respectively in our survey).  Industry leaders rely heavily on connectivity – both for their core processes and new digital customer interaction – and are hungry for new tools that improve speed and efficiency, but are also mindful of environmental concerns, with significant numbers associating good technology with green technology.  Institutions understand the importance of evolving their technology, and can see how transforming their corporate WANs can have a positive impact on the business:

  • 85% in the banking industry and 90% in financial services want more automation to enhance their network services and connectivity experience
  • Network visibility plays an important role in managing reliability and the end-customer experience.  46% in banking and 39% in financial services make use of application programming interfaces (APIs) to gain real-time visibility of their WAN performance
  • 41% say a corporate WAN outage would have a high impact on their businesses, so appreciate the significance of building in resilience, and working with the right providers
  • Significant numbers associate good technology with green technology:  28% of banks and a sizeable 44% of financial services companies say they only shortlist companies with a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. 

Getting over the challenges

In today’s world, banks and financial services institutes need the bandwidth, scalability and network footprint to adapt to changes in traffic volumes as they grow and expand across diverse geographies.  They also need bandwidth flexibility during spikes in traffic, optimal levels of data security throughout the ecosystem of providers, low latency that minimises lag and delay, and a combination of self-provisioning tools and personalised, human-touch service and support.  That is a lot of things to try and get right! 

For too many, however, this is a WAN ideal that is out of reach. 

The problem stems partly from the legacy of a different era, where connectivity needs where equal to a static, internal-facing WAN, and the supplier base mainly limited to incumbent telco providers. Internet connectivity – equal to the local ISP – was a minor concern with limited applicability for the WAN. This tendency to think of the public Internet as a commodity that doesn’t vary significantly in quality seems to persist – 48% of those surveyed in banks, and 63% in Financial Services firms believed this – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  This outdated view, and the lack of knowledge of alternative providers, can mean that leaders are not always making informed decisions about their network development strategies.  As a potential option more in line with today’s requirements, the global Tier 1 network providers of 2021 have long outpaced the old Postal Telegraph and Telecommunications (PTT) of 20 years ago, and offer direct, high-bandwidth connectivity to the Internet and cloud but are often overlooked. 

Speed, bandwidth and consistency are not the only factors either.  Security and customer experience matter immensely for any business, but understandably banking and financial services are particularly sensitive to both.  Here, a worrying 41% of banks and 38% of financial services companies say simple problems take providers too long to resolve with their existing provider.  Often, this is not just about the level of technical resource available, but where it sits in the network. In an Internet-centric network, the further down the supply chain, and away from the backbone that a network provider sits, the more likely it is to suffer congestion, and the more complicated it can be to discover a root cause and get it fixed.

The biggest pain point for respondents was security, which is so critical to banks and financial services companies (33% and 20% respectively highlighted this). Yet, despite attacks such as BGP hijacks (also known as route or IP hijacks), affecting large brands, many companies are unaware of how to keep traffic safe in an Internet-based delivery model. Whether it is ensuring customer data remains protected in transit or having the resilience to defend against DDoS attacks designed to try and taking financial institutions offline – a network provider should be the first point of defence for its customers. 

Moving forward

Banking and financial services industries may need to review their IT strategies and look more deeply into the infrastructure underpinning their mission-critical networks. Top-ranked Tier 1 backbone networks can promise high bandwidth and low latency and, thanks to their close relationships to the tech companies that have built their business on the Internet, also explore transformative tools and technologies.  But there are questions that should be asked of every network provider to evaluate for your connectivity needs, and these broadly fit into five areas:

    • Scalability and reach – Does it have the capacity, footprint and peering ecosystem to adapt to rapid changes in the volume of data traffic, regardless of where or for which digital service? 
    • Reliability – Is the supplier able to resolve issues quickly, or better yet, prevent them from happening by re-routing traffic easily to avoid congestion and service outages? 
    • Security – Can it keep customer and business-critical data safe; does it offer the right mix of public Internet and private connectivity, with full network control, down to the fibre layer? How will it help keep your Internet-facing attack surfaces shielded?
    • Innovation – Is it a leader in fibre optics, APIs, SD-WAN and other emerging technologies?
  • Sustainability – Does it have a good track record on sustainability; does it deploy new technology in the most environmentally responsible way; do its data centres prioritise green energy? 

The banking and financial services sectors rely on their ability to make transactions safely —at speed and at scale – so strong corporate networks are core to the business model.  Corporate network providers are mission critical partners, so the choice of network provider has a critical role to play in any brands future, especially in an increasingly digitalised world. 

Building a scorecard for each supplier around each of the key areas outlined above can help in making more informed choices that will be aligned with your connectivity goals.  For banks and financial services organisations that really want to create the networks that will transform their businesses, whilst controlling costs and reducing their carbon footprint, it will be essential to review their network strategies for the next three to five years.  Network providers can be strategic partners supporting growth and innovation — the trick is choosing one that is aligned with your needs.

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Dovish BOJ policymaker calls for new strategy to beat price stagnation

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Dovish BOJ policymaker calls for new strategy to beat price stagnation 6

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan must lay out a new strategy for hitting its elusive 2% inflation target at this month’s policy review, board member Goushi Kataoka said, warning the drag to growth from the COVID-19 pandemic could prolong price stagnation.

Kataoka said the pandemic’s hit to demand will likely delay Japan’s economic recovery and weigh on inflation expectations, which have been falling since the end of 2019.

“If we see a repeated rise in infections, that would negatively affect both the output gap and inflation expectations. This, in turn, will prolong price stagnation,” Kataoka said in a speech to an online meeting with business leaders on Wednesday.

The BOJ plans to conduct a review of its policy tools in March to make them more sustainable and flexible to weather what had become a prolonged battle to reflate growth and achieve its price goal. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has stressed the review will not lead to an overhaul of its stimulus programme.

“The BOJ must examine and explain its policy strategy going forward, taking into account how the path toward achieving its price target has become unclear,” Kataoka said of the policy tools review.

Kataoka, seen as the most dovish policymaker in the BOJ’s nine-member board, has lobbied unsuccessfully for cutting interest rates and strengthening the BOJ’s commitment to take stronger steps to fire up inflation.

He repeated his calls for the BOJ to more strongly commit to keeping rates low for a prolonged period.

“It’s hard now to foresee inflation powerfully heading towards our 2% target,” Kataoka said.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Lincoln Feast.)

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