IT Development Manager at QSE Hamed Al Shaibani (left) and Chief of Financial Sector Office at the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Henk Jan Hoogendoorn
Doha: In a bid to keep up with digitalisation in the global finance sector, the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) is currently exploring non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital assets which may be adopted in the Qatari stock market in the coming years, said an official.
Addressing a panel discussion on ‘Digitising Qatari banking and financial services’ during the Euromoney Qatar Conference which concluded recently, Hamed Al Shaibani, IT Development Manager at QSE said the stock exchange seeks to diversify options of company assets to be listed in the Qatari market, as well as to be more accessible to international investors.
“Right now, we’re targeting to expand our market and to utilise technology in assisting companies and investors. We are exploring new areas of digitalisation like tokenised assets or digital assets, and blockchain-based technology. Such technologies can be used to reduce costs and increase liquidity in the market. We are now looking at non-fungible tokens. NFT is a market by itself that hasn’t been utilised properly. In Qatar, we can see a potential opportunity for us to explore this area, and to offer it to different companies, institutions, and governments that would like to invest in such technology,” said Al Shaibani.
NFTs, which have been growing in popularity recently, are blockchain-based tokens that represent ownership of a digital asset. According to market reports, the market for NFTs was valued at $41bn in 2021; with company stocks and real estate among the many other things expected to get turned into NFTs in the future.
Recently, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has also announced its plan to be a marketplace for NFTs, just like with stocks.
“NFTs, digital assets, blockchain-based technology, all these things are under study, we’re looking at them, and hopefully in the coming years we would be adopting them,” Al Shaibani added.
Meanwhile, on the topic of the regulator’s role to foster a fully digital financial system, Henk Jan Hoogendoorn, Chief of Financial Sector Office at the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) said: “Digitisation is clearly on the agenda of the Qatar Central Bank. The main purpose of regulators is financial stability, protect the consumers, and with technology you can achieve those things. We need to accelerate regulations and our experience by learning from others as well,” he said.
During the event, Hoogendoorn also highlighted that digitisation can also unlock Qatar’s maximum potential by ‘unlocking the unbanked or underserved’ in the market.
“Qatar is ambitious enough to go to the next level. And we need to unlock that potential. Because what we need to do, although we are a relatively small market, if you look at the existing banks they serve maybe 800,000 of the bankable people. But we have 1.2 million workers. We have many SMEs that have difficulty in accessing financial services. And digitisation can basically unlock that potential. So that’s one thing, unlocking the unbanked or underserved and that can create a great opportunity. Also, there is now a rising fintech sector from the local market and from Arab markets. These local fintechs walk ahead and they need to partner with the banks to make digitising really feasible. So it’s not only the banks, it’s the combination,” Hoogendoorn added.
During the discussion, officials also stressed that the financial services sector has taken advantage of the pandemic crisis in the last couple of years by digitising their processes. But the pace for digitisation is actually set by the consumer, so the work is never fully done. And the benchmark is always against the tech giants, which are moving at a very fast pace, an expert added.