Head of IT Development at QSE Hamed Al Shaibani (left) and Head of Financial Sector Office at Qatar Financial Center (QFC) Henk Jan Hoogendoorn
Doha: In order to keep pace with digitalization in the global financial sector, the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) is currently exploring non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital assets that could be adopted in the Qatari stock market in the coming years , said an official.
Addressing a panel discussion on the “digitalization of Qatari banking and financial services” at the recently concluded Euromoney Qatar conference, Hamed Al Shaibani, head of IT development at QSE, said the exchange was looking to diversify the company’s asset options to be listed on the Qatari market, as well as being more accessible to international investors.
“Right now, we aim to expand our market and use technology to help businesses and investors. We are exploring new areas of digitization like tokenized assets or digital assets, and blockchain-based technology. These technologies can be used to reduce costs and increase market liquidity. We now look at non-fungible tokens. NFT is a market in itself that has not been used properly. In Qatar, we can see a potential opportunity for us to explore this area and offer it to different companies, institutions and governments who would like to invest in such technology,” said Al Shaibani.
NFTs, which have recently gained popularity, are blockchain-based tokens that represent ownership of a digital asset. According to market reports, the NFT market was valued at $41 billion in 2021; with corporate stocks and real estate among the many other things expected to be turned into NFTs in the future.
Recently, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) also announced its intention to be a market for NFTs, just like stocks.
“NFTs, digital assets, blockchain-based technology, all of these things are being explored, we are looking at them and hopefully in the years to come we will embrace them,” Al Shaibani added.
Meanwhile, on the regulator’s role in promoting a fully digital financial system, Henk Jan Hoogendoorn, Head of Financial Sector Office at Qatar Financial Center (QFC), said: “Digitalization is clearly Qatar Central Bank agenda. The primary focus of regulators is financial stability, consumer protection, and with technology you can achieve those things. We need to speed up regulations and our experience by also learning from others,” he said.
During the event, Hoogendoorn also pointed out that digitalization can also unleash Qatar’s maximum potential by “liberating the unbanked or underserved” into the market.
“Qatar is ambitious enough to take it to the next level. And we need to unleash that potential. Because what we have to do, although we are a relatively small market, if you look at existing banks, they serve maybe 800,000 bankable people. But we have 1.2 million workers. We have many SMEs that have difficulty accessing financial services. And digitization can essentially unleash this potential. So it’s one thing, unlocking the unbanked or underserved and that can create a big opportunity. In addition, there is now a booming fintech sector in the local market and in Arab markets. These local fintechs are stepping forward and need to partner with banks to make digitization truly achievable. So it’s not just the banks, it’s the combination,” Hoogendoorn added.
During the discussion, officials also pointed out that the financial services industry has benefited from the pandemic crisis over the past two years by digitizing its processes. But the pace of digitization is actually set by the consumer, so the job is never entirely done. And the benchmark is always against tech giants, which are moving at a very fast pace, an expert added.