Middle East: From differentiation pains to diversification gains?

Chris Wright
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Qatar Financial Centre always wanted to be different to the other Middle East hubs. But the model was confused. Now it aims to be the engine for the broader transformation of the country’s economy.

There is a new website at the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC). '10 Years’, the home page now says. 'A decade of facilitating success.’ 

In many ways, however, it has been a decade of looking for a direction. The QFC’s mandate has evolved throughout its life and has recently shifted again, broadening to include economic diversification where once it was deliberately focused on asset management. There have been a number of interesting deals – notably the asset management ventures set up by Credit Suisse and Barclays, and the arrival of Axa – but it is still hard to argue that the QFC has been a success. 

Yousuf Al-Jaida, QFC
Asked directly what the QFC is for, its new CEO, Yousuf Al-Jaida, calls it "a leading business and financial centre that provides an excellent platform for local and international firms to grow and expand their activities and, ultimately, support the state by facilitating the diversification of its economy." 

Diversification appears in any discussion of the QFC’s purpose now, especially since oil prices have fallen. But the nature of that diversification has changed and, with it, the metrics for judging the success of the QFC.