Commercial Bank to issue bonds worth up to $700m: CEO

Commercial Bank, one of the largest conventional lenders in Qatar, is set to issue bonds worth up to $700m (about QR2.55bn) to fund some domestic as well as overseas projects and other activities, according to Group CEO, Joseph Abraham.

The Bank, in December last year, had announced that it could raise up to $1bn (QR3.64bn) in debt in 2019 to further diversify its funding sources.

“We are looking forward to issue bonds worth between $600m and $700m. But we do not know the exact date, and waiting for the right time and the interest rates. Since the interests rates are going down, so we will see when we can issue it,” Abraham told The Peninsula in an exclusive interview recently.

Commenting on the Bank’s activities and future outlook of the nature of its services, he noted that services at the Bank’s branches are going to witness major transformation.

The number of physical transactions at branches is fast changing. More and more people are doing online transactions. However, the CEO of the Bank also noted that people still want branches and they are visiting them.

“We expect the nature of services at bank’s branches is transforming from being transactional to be more advisory. As the number of people with surplus wealth and savings is growing fast, they want to go beyond deposits. They want different types of products such as wealth management, insurance, stocks and other types of products that ensure better returns,” he added.

“These products and services will have more face-to-face advisory relationships with customers. And eventually the conventional baking transactions at branches will become subsidiary part of their objectives.”

He also said that that bank is also witnessing a directional change in the number of customers and transactions. A growing number people prefer to do banking transactions at malls and metro stations, so the Bank is focusing in those areas to serve better.

“We have already opened branches at several malls, and recently we opened one at DECC metro station in West Bay. It’s a small facility fully equipped with cash deposit and cheque deposit machines and ATM. And also there is one person to assist the customers. And we are expecting to enhance our coverage in the near future,” said Abraham.

He also highlighted that the Bank is also focusing on operational aspects. It has been implementing robotic and automation process, and has been investing on deploying technology such as artificial intelligence, and has created computer programmes and analytics that understand customers’ needs.

Commenting on fintech, he said that this is a technology in evolution. Since most of the fintech is in the payments space, Commercial Bank is now exploring possibilities in blockchain and documentation. “These are the areas where several countries such as Singapore have capabilities and we can bring it here also. Singapore has also opened up to digital banking and given licenses, and I am sure it will come to Qatar also.”

On the Group’s subsidiary in Turkey (Alternatif Bank), which came under stress due to depreciation in the value of Turkish Lira, he said that it is progressing and doing well. “We have cleaned up of our assets that helped to address the issue significantly.”

On overseas expansion, he said that the bank has no such plans for now, and fully focusing on the local market and the existing overseas investments for good returns.

Source from: The Peninsula