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Howard Kitson - Mashreq Bank
Howard Kitson, Mashreq’s Country Head in Doha

Mashreq, a leading regional bank in the MENA region, is successfully operating a long-established branch network in Qatar to capitalise on the country’s rapid growth. Howard Kitson, Mashreq’s Country Head in Doha, talks to Inside Investor about the bank’s strategy and future plans.

Q: When did Mashreq decide to open a branch in Qatar and how has business developed since?
A: Mashreq has operated in Qatar since 1968, and has a long history of serving personal and corporate customers in the country. Our client base is broad, covering the government, private sector, large family businesses, as well as well as Qatari and expatriate individuals.

Q: What are the most popular banking products for retail and corporate customers of Mashreq Qatar?
A: We have an innovative wealth division called Mashreq Gold, which is one of the most popular segments and a real focus area for us. We employ 25 people alone in this area, which targets wealthy nationals and expats. It provides a highly personalised type of service and fairly tailored products that clients can use to accumulate wealth. For corporate customers, we have a full suite of services, including, for example, a range of bonds, a currency exchange service, financial instruments to hedge exposures and the like.

Q: As you are not able to offer Islamic banking products through the Qatar branch of Mashreq as per Qatar banking regulations, can Qatari customers opt for Mashreq Al Islami products through the UAE or other branches of Mashreq?
A: We cannot offer Islamic banking products in Qatar as per the Qatar Central Bank’s regulations, that’s correct. And indeed we have Mashreq Al Islami in the UAE which offers Islamic services to our banking customers in the UAE but we would not offer them here.

Q: A lot of big-ticket investing and financing is currently going on in Qatar. Is Mashreq involved in major projects?
A: Well, all the banks are gearing up for the new big projects such as Lusail, Doha Port, the highways, and the Doha Metro. Mashreq has a large contracting finance segment in the UAE – that means we have a substantial product portfolio for international contractors who operate in the region. We can offer a fairly rapid service for them as we already have facilities in place for most regional and international contractors. For example, if they switch from the UAE to Qatar projects they remain with us – that’s our natural advantage in this product segment. For the big projects – as many of the developments are reaching volumes of several billion riyals – we may enter partnerships with other banks in project financing to manage risk.

Q: Is there strong competition from banks in Qatar?
A: There is strong banking competition in Qatar. There is presently substantial liquidity in the market, and Qatari banks are more aggressive and have developed a targeted approach to funding the larger flagship projects in the country. Competition in the local banking market is high, and I believe over the next five years there will be some consolidation of local banks through mergers to address this issue.

Q: How will Mashreq grab its slice of the cake?
A: As I said, we have a natural advantage as we already work closely with a number of international and local contractors, and they have a very good reason to continue using our services. Mashreq corporate clients are from the oil and gas sector, large contractors, oil off-take exporters such as aluminium, as well as retailers, traders, and non bank financial institutions. These clients make use of our extensive product suite and our regional network. We are helping Qatari firms to move overseas by funding their expansion. As such, we are also supporting the Qatari government’s ambition to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.

Q: What activities do you have in Southeast Asia?
A: In Asia Mashreq primarily focuses on bank-to-bank transactions, placements, clearing and custody. For corporate and retail services we remain focused on the MENA region. The UAE remains a substantial element of our business.

Q: With which Asian contractors are you working in the GCC?
A: There are a number of Malaysian, Korean and Japanese contractors working in GCC in the fields of construction and engineering with whom we have very solid relationships. This is a major growth area for us.

Q: What are your biggest projects at the moment in Qatar?
A: Mashreq is involved in a broad spectrum of government related projects in Qatar. We are presently involved in provision of facilities related to the Doha Metro project which is one of the largest investments undertaken by the country to date.

Q: Where would you to see Mashreq Qatar in five years?
A: Mashreq will focus on the elite clients within Qatar, offering a level of innovative products and personalised service. We will not be a mass market bank locally. Mashreq will be the bank of choice to contractors and local corporate names, in view of our strong levels of service.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Howard Kitson, Mashreq’s Country Head in Doha

Mashreq, a leading regional bank in the MENA region, is successfully operating a long-established branch network in Qatar to capitalise on the country’s rapid growth. Howard Kitson, Mashreq’s Country Head in Doha, talks to Inside Investor about the bank’s strategy and future plans.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Howard Kitson - Mashreq Bank
Howard Kitson, Mashreq’s Country Head in Doha

Mashreq, a leading regional bank in the MENA region, is successfully operating a long-established branch network in Qatar to capitalise on the country’s rapid growth. Howard Kitson, Mashreq’s Country Head in Doha, talks to Inside Investor about the bank’s strategy and future plans.

Q: When did Mashreq decide to open a branch in Qatar and how has business developed since?
A: Mashreq has operated in Qatar since 1968, and has a long history of serving personal and corporate customers in the country. Our client base is broad, covering the government, private sector, large family businesses, as well as well as Qatari and expatriate individuals.

Q: What are the most popular banking products for retail and corporate customers of Mashreq Qatar?
A: We have an innovative wealth division called Mashreq Gold, which is one of the most popular segments and a real focus area for us. We employ 25 people alone in this area, which targets wealthy nationals and expats. It provides a highly personalised type of service and fairly tailored products that clients can use to accumulate wealth. For corporate customers, we have a full suite of services, including, for example, a range of bonds, a currency exchange service, financial instruments to hedge exposures and the like.

Q: As you are not able to offer Islamic banking products through the Qatar branch of Mashreq as per Qatar banking regulations, can Qatari customers opt for Mashreq Al Islami products through the UAE or other branches of Mashreq?
A: We cannot offer Islamic banking products in Qatar as per the Qatar Central Bank’s regulations, that’s correct. And indeed we have Mashreq Al Islami in the UAE which offers Islamic services to our banking customers in the UAE but we would not offer them here.

Q: A lot of big-ticket investing and financing is currently going on in Qatar. Is Mashreq involved in major projects?
A: Well, all the banks are gearing up for the new big projects such as Lusail, Doha Port, the highways, and the Doha Metro. Mashreq has a large contracting finance segment in the UAE – that means we have a substantial product portfolio for international contractors who operate in the region. We can offer a fairly rapid service for them as we already have facilities in place for most regional and international contractors. For example, if they switch from the UAE to Qatar projects they remain with us – that’s our natural advantage in this product segment. For the big projects – as many of the developments are reaching volumes of several billion riyals – we may enter partnerships with other banks in project financing to manage risk.

Q: Is there strong competition from banks in Qatar?
A: There is strong banking competition in Qatar. There is presently substantial liquidity in the market, and Qatari banks are more aggressive and have developed a targeted approach to funding the larger flagship projects in the country. Competition in the local banking market is high, and I believe over the next five years there will be some consolidation of local banks through mergers to address this issue.

Q: How will Mashreq grab its slice of the cake?
A: As I said, we have a natural advantage as we already work closely with a number of international and local contractors, and they have a very good reason to continue using our services. Mashreq corporate clients are from the oil and gas sector, large contractors, oil off-take exporters such as aluminium, as well as retailers, traders, and non bank financial institutions. These clients make use of our extensive product suite and our regional network. We are helping Qatari firms to move overseas by funding their expansion. As such, we are also supporting the Qatari government’s ambition to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.

Q: What activities do you have in Southeast Asia?
A: In Asia Mashreq primarily focuses on bank-to-bank transactions, placements, clearing and custody. For corporate and retail services we remain focused on the MENA region. The UAE remains a substantial element of our business.

Q: With which Asian contractors are you working in the GCC?
A: There are a number of Malaysian, Korean and Japanese contractors working in GCC in the fields of construction and engineering with whom we have very solid relationships. This is a major growth area for us.

Q: What are your biggest projects at the moment in Qatar?
A: Mashreq is involved in a broad spectrum of government related projects in Qatar. We are presently involved in provision of facilities related to the Doha Metro project which is one of the largest investments undertaken by the country to date.

Q: Where would you to see Mashreq Qatar in five years?
A: Mashreq will focus on the elite clients within Qatar, offering a level of innovative products and personalised service. We will not be a mass market bank locally. Mashreq will be the bank of choice to contractors and local corporate names, in view of our strong levels of service.

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