Posted on February 23, 2013

This year’s annual meeting of Middle Eastern and North African bank chief executive officers – the 16th such gathering – concluded today in Doha, capital city of Qatar.

Organized by the Institute of International Finance and hosted by the Qatar National Bank, the event was attended by around 100 top executives of the region’s banks and other financial services’ firms, as well as senior representatives of global firms active in the MENA Region. The two-day event was designed, as in previous years, to facilitate networking and the exchange of views on the challenges facing financial institutions in the region, within the context of regional political turmoil and a sluggish global economy.

Introducing the conference, Mr. Tim Adams, Managing Director of the IIF, welcomed delegates by emphasizing the region’s growing economic importance. He said: “I am delighted to be here in Doha and to participate in this vital forum, which over the years has provided such an excellent venue for interaction between the MENA Region’s financial leaders. I thank QNB Group for its generosity in hosting us. As the mature economies make their way to a full recovery, and as Europe builds a more stable monetary union, it is the emerging economies that will fuel global growth in the future. The oil exporting countries of this region will play a crucial role in this process.”

Mr. Ali Shareef Al Emadi, the CEO of QNB Group welcomed the opportunity to partner with the IIF in organizing the conference. “We are proud of our longstanding and constructive relationship with the IIF as the premier global financial services organization,” he said, adding, “and we look forward to our further future co-operation. It has been a pleasure to welcome my colleagues, the CEOs and senior officers from financial institutions across the MENA region. I trust that this meeting provided the opportunity for all of us to reflect on the challenges as well as opportunities facing our institutions.” 

At a formal dinner on the first evening of the conference, Mr. Ibrahim Dabdoub, Group CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait and Dean of the IIF Board of Directors, welcomed the participants and read the keynote speech due to have been delivered by Dr. Josef Ackermann, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Zurich Insurance Group and former Chairman of the IIF Board of Directors. Dr. Ackermann was unfortunately unable to attend in person, but his insightful and lucid analysis of the Euro area debt crisis gave the conference much to ponder. The dinner was attended by, among others, His Excellency Yousef Kamal, Qatar’s Minister of Finance and Economy and His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla Bin Saud Al-Thani, Governor of Qatar Central Bank.

The program focused on key themes of special relevance to the MENA Region, and the discussions were rich and constructive. Following the opening session on global and regional prospects, chaired by Mr. Ali Shareef Al Emadi, there were three roundtable sessions: ‘Beyond the Arab Spring: Short-Term Risks and Long-Term Opportunities?’, chaired by Mr. Dabdoub; ‘Deepening Financial Markets in the MENA region’, led by Mr. Hassan Abdalla, CEO of the Arab African International Bank; and ‘Out of the Crisis: Regulatory Reform and Industry Response’, moderated by Mr. Kevin Nixon, Deputy Managing Director of the IIF and Head of the Institute’s Regulatory Affairs department. Mr. Paul Horsnell, Managing Director and Head of Commodities Research with Barclays, delivered a keynote speech during lunch, analyzing the prospects for the oil and energy markets in the context of an unsettled global environment.

Commenting on the proceedings, Mr. George Abed, Senior Counselor and Director for Africa and the Middle East at the IIF, said: “This was a highly productive exchange of views among the financial leaders of the MENA region. Taking note of the repercussions from the Arab Spring events, speakers commented on the growing divergence in the recent economic performance of countries in the region. Those that are going through political change continue to struggle with depressed growth and widening fiscal and external deficits. Meanwhile, the oil-exporting countries have continued to grow at robust rates while accumulating financial surpluses. Qatar in particular continues to register remarkably high rates of growth, while pressing forward with the diversification of its economy and the strengthening of its external position.”