Postcard from Qatar
By Carmen Haddad, Citi Country Officer, Qatar February 03, 2016 12:30 PM
Around the world, Citi Country Officers (CCOs) work to balance the execution of their country business strategy with their responsibilities ensuring the safety and soundness of the Citigroup franchise. Through this blog series, we are pleased to share perspectives from CCOs around the world, as well an insider’s look at the countries and cities where Citi operates.
Tell Us About Qatar
Official language: Arabic
Currency: Qatari Riyal (QAR)
Population: As of 1 January 2016, the population of Qatar was estimated to be 2,117,848 people. Qatari Nationals number represents a mere 12 percent of the total population in the country.
Weather: Qatar has a dry, subtropical desert climate, with low annual rainfall and intensely hot and humid summers. Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit Qatar, when temperatures are warm but not hot and the evenings can be pleasantly cool.
Qatari Cuisine/Best Places to Dine: Qatar’s small size is no obstacle to its multicultural culinary offering a number of fantastic establishments catering international and Middle Eastern cuisines. There are many retreats perched in different cultural and picturesque destinations over Doha, the capital of Qatar.
Favorite Local Beverage: Coffee is extremely important in Qatari culture. Arabian coffee is of a very high quality and made from a lightly roasted bean spiced with cardamom and either sweetened or served with dates. Fresh fruit and herb cocktails are also very popular and sold by street vendors throughout the country.
Best Tourist Sites: Souq Waqif (old traditional souk), the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art, and Katara (cultural man-made village) are some of the most famous tourist sites.
What I Love About Qatar: Qatar has taken a tremendous step-forward in the region to become a major education hub and destination over the past few years. Under the auspices of H.H. Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the Qatar Foundation has provided a foundation for the development of an education city comprised of various international colleges and universities. This is one of the two main attractions I find in the country, in addition to the eye-catching marina over the blue coast of the Gulf.
How many years has Citi been in your country?
Our presence in Qatar dates back to the 1950s, but the business closed for some time and was re-established as a fully-licensed branch in 2007.
What business units operate in your country?
We have an ICG branch that offers a full range of corporate and investment banking services, including trade services, lending and advisory to major corporations and financial institutions operating in the country in addition to public sector entities.
What are the opportunities and challenges of doing business in your country?
Citi currently relies on developing business in areas where local banks are unable to provide comparable coverage. Examples include cross-border M&A, equity derivatives and commodity derivatives. Our other great strength is leveraging our global footprint. Also, given the small number of clients in Qatar, there is considerable exposure concentration, particularly to Government Reporting Entities (GREs). We keep a close eye on the fiscal health of the Government of Qatar and its support policy for GREs.
Disruption to our business from existing competitors remains the key threat. Local investment banks are growing and gaining expertise and may compete with us in that space in the long run, but the surrounding political environment will always play a role in determining the market’s fortunes.
However, Qatar’s top-line growth is a function of organic growth in CPB, which requires the capture of key episodic transactions as a result of strong relationships with key clients.
Personal/ Professional Background
Where were you born?
I am Iraqi/German, born in Germany.
What did you study that helped you prepare for a career in banking and were there any subjects you realized subsequently would have helped you?
I hold a Bachelor of Arts from University of Richmond in the U.S. and started my career in financial services shortly thereafter. I also completed multiple professional training certifications over the years. More recently, the various coaching and leadership courses I attended have sharpened management skills and as Co-Chair of the Citi Women’s Network in the UAE, the knowledge I gained from those courses has been relevant to pursuing my goals of helping to promote the development of women and inspire our diversity agenda.
What other roles and countries have you worked in at Citi?
I’ve been with Citi in a variety of roles since 2000. Prior to my appointment as CEO for Citibank Qatar in November 2013, I was -- and still am -- a Citi Private Bank Executive leading the Gulf, Egypt & Levant Private bank business in addition to leading the Family Office that serves Citi’s largest Middle East shareholders since April 2009. Before that, I was a Senior Private Banker, Investment manager and Team Head in London focusing on the Middle East region. As a Private banker, I was an eight-time Hall of Fame member of the Citi Private Bank (CPB) Chairman’s Council.
Did you choose any of those roles thinking they would prepare you for a role as CCO?
When working in a multinational institution that offers a robust leadership developmental program, it’s always possible to move into new roles with appropriate experience and further exposure. Having said that, my aim has always been to fulfill my current role by capitalizing on my investment background, working partnerships, team management and by providing an executive leadership role model to my colleagues.
Role and Responsibilities
How do you maintain work-life balance? What are some activities you do in your free time?
Work-life balance is always a challenge for someone like me who has competing work and life commitments. However, I always remind myself that work is just one part of life and that every person needs to take a break occasionally while carving out spare time for family and social life. Also, as a leader, I believe in setting an example for my team on that dimension, as they also need to balance work and their personal lives.
Talking about my spare time, family engagement has always been a primary focus, mixed with adventure travel to different destinations. Neither ravel nor family, however, has ever tempted me to drop reading as a fulfilling hobby that I started from a very young age.
Being fluent in different languages (English, German, Arabic, French and Spanish) is another asset I inherited from my diverse background both at home and in school. Nevertheless, being openly exposed to different societies, I believe in being an efficient member within the variety of different communities I occupy, whether that means staying an active member of the Women’s Network on the one hand or fighting to help the people in need on the other.