“Together we can achieve more”
These words by Luxembourg Minister of Finance, Luc Frieden, summed up the discussions at a seminar organised by LFF with the support of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA). This event, which is the first to follow the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Grand Duchy and the State of Qatar six months ago, was designed to foster contacts between members of the two respective financial centres. Minister Frieden’s words were echoed by Mr Abdulrahman Al Shaibi, Managing Director of the QFCA: “We have so many things in common”, he said; “we can learn from each other’s experience.”
So what are the similarities? Both countries have a small, wealthy population and a financial centre that services a real economy but is resolutely open to the outside world. Both countries have demonstrated a high degree of resilience during the financial crisis, offering security and an environment of growth – be this at rather different speeds. Like Luxembourg, Doha intends to become the principal onshore regional financial centre.
Mr Al Shaibi explained Qatar’s “2030 vision” a plan that will drive diversification of the economy away from its reliance on the hydrocarbon industry, creating high quality jobs. Building an international financial centre will help achieve this goal, he continued. For Qatar, the value of the relationship with Luxembourg will be to leverage its cross-border expertise for use in the GCC region, while benefiting from the same expertise to offer products and services in Europe. In this context Fernand Grulms, CEO of LFF, suggested the importance of a GCC “cross border passport."
Diversification: a shared ambition
Just as Luxembourg diversified away from the steel industry in the 1970, so Qatar did the same in the 1990s. Beginning with vertical integration in the oil industry, investing in transportation and distribution outlets, Qatar went on to spot an opportunity in the regional insurance and reinsurance markets and, more latterly, asset management. “Only a small amount of private wealth is currently managed in Qatar”, said Shashank Srivastava, Acting CEO and Chef Strategic Development Officer at the QFCA. He added, pertinently: “The growth markets are in Africa and Asia; can fund managers in Europe really do this better than us?”
Welcoming long-term investors
Qatar funds recently invested in two Luxembourg banks, KBL European Private Bankers and BiL. Both were represented on the round table panel, at which Jacques Peters, CEO of KBL, described himself as “very enthusiastic” about the development. “What a bank needs”, he pointed out “is stability (we have that from our government) and long term investors: we needed that and now we have it.” He added that the deal made good strategic sense: new wealth creation is no longer in Europe; “it comes from this part of the world.” Speaking for BiL, François Pauly added that he hoped the deals would help to grow the Islamic finance industry in Luxembourg.
The 68 strong delegation from Luxembourg had an opportunity to meet an even larger number of delegates from Qatar during the course of the day. ER