Interview with Khalifa Abdullah Al-Subaey


Member of the Board, The Commercial Bank of Qatar

You’re both a board member of Commercial Bank and President of Qatar Insurance Company. Which post is more important to you?
Very difficult question! We’ve been involved with Commercial Bank from the beginning, since 1975 or so. Qatar Insurance is actually owned 20% by the government and 80% by the public. There are 45 major shareholders in addition. Most of these are the wealthiest families. They have huge investments and were involved with Qatar Insurance from the beginning. We set up in 1964. 

So you predate Commercial Bank?
Of course. We are involved in most of the public companies in Qatar. But with Commercial Bank, we have this special relationship in that we are one of the Bank’s founders. 

All the other board members are family-orientated businesses; you are the only corporate investor. 

When did you start with Qatar Insurance Company?
I joined in ’86.

Do you ever feel tired of the growing responsibilities?
I’m exhausted! It was one company – now we are a group of five specialised companies. We are the number-one insurance company in the Middle East, and we are number 140 in the world.

How does that make you feel?
It makes me proud of taking a company from nowhere to where we are today.

Why does Commercial Bank succeed where others do not?
Very simple: management. They have strategies, they have plans, and they have targets. That is the way we operate here. We just announced a five-year plan for Qatar Insurance Group. We are expanding in Europe; we need to become an international conglomerate. The Middle East is exhausted as a market for me.

Where is Qatar heading with all of this helter-skelter growth?
Qatar as a market is relatively small. You cannot do anything about that unless you import millions of people and house them in Doha to create a market. But this will not happen. So you need to expand. For us, it is time to enter the international arena, and Commercial Bank is going in the same direction. That’s the reason I have special respect for Commercial Bank’s style of management and vision. We have such huge wealth. This wealth has to be turned over to start generating profit. 

If you could be 21 again, what would you do differently?
I am happy about what I have done in my life. Whether by accident or not, things led me into the insurance business. When I came back from the States, I joined the oil companies. One day the head of training phoned me: ‘We are setting up an insurance section. Would you like to move over?’ I said,‘Yes. I’ll try my luck.’ From that day I never regretted the decision I took.

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