In the face of global adversity, as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the global economy, QNB has continued to spearhead the digital transformation across the region and became the most valuable banking brand in the Middle East and Africa. We asked Yosef Darwish, General Manager Group Communications at QNB to tell us more about the company's approach to dealing with the crisis and supporting their stakeholders during these difficult times.
What role does technology play in the relationship between QNB and your stakeholders, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We consider technology as an enabler for our strategy. With this in mind, we leverage technology for revenue and cost optimisation. We target efficiency enhancement by leveraging technology and streamlining our processes to ensure better customer experience.
Technology has helped us respond to the wide-reaching impact of COVID-19. The previously commenced strategic initiatives aiming to digitise the interaction with our customers and employees allowed us to quickly respond to the challenges of social distancing and lockdown from the pandemic. We therefore have been able to leapfrog the delivery of key milestones to support the evolving needs of our customers.
We are focusing on strategic themes across the network that we believe can create lasting value and “move the needle” through additional revenue opportunities or efficiencies at scale. Our strategic themes address Open Banking, Platforms, Robotics Process Automation (RPA), Big Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as digitisation and automation.
How would you contrast the banking industry’s role in the Global Financial Crisis vs the role it is currently playing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was mainly caused by banks and their shortfalls in liquidity, capitalisation, and adequate risk management practices. This caused an entire overhaul of the banking sector over the last decade with regards to risk regulation and capital requirements.
Contrary to the GFC, COVID-19 was caused by a shock external to the financial system. This time the banking sector was not the cause, but rather a facilitator to mitigate the impact on the overall economy. Globally, companies and individuals are navigating a long list of disruptions, ranging from dramatic loss of personal and business income due to enforced lockdowns, interrupted supply chains, difficulty in managing working from home arrangements and lower consumer confidence.
Banks across the world have had to implement actions such as the accelerated roll-out of digital banking solutions, the postponement of credit facilities, the temporary reductions in fees and supporting companies in managing their liquidity to cope with the challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the global financial system under severe strain, facing its biggest challenge since the GFC.
Are there any initiatives you are most proud of that have arisen at QNB as a result of the pandemic?
Despite the challenges that COVID-19 imposed on the global economy, we are proud to have been able to maintain our leading position as one of the leading banks in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. This year QNB Group surpassed the trillion-riyal watermark in total assets for the first time in our history and were the first bank in the region to do so. This is a considerable milestone in our growth journey.
At the Group level, we launched initiatives to promote social distancing measures among staff and customers and a ‘Stay Safe’ campaign designed to minimise contact.
As part of our efforts to support SME’s during the pandemic, QNB announced the postponement of SME loans for three months without any interest or fee. The Group also launched an initiative allowing medical professionals in Qatar to enjoy the benefits of QNB First’s premium banking products and services.
These and other initiatives highlight the unrelenting focus on continuously improving the value we give to our customers. This year, QNB was once again recognised as the most valuable banking brand in the Middle East and Africa, increasing our brand value to more than USD6 billion. Additionally, QNB Group’s brand maintained its wide international recognition by continuing to receive several prestigious global awards.