Kuwait: As part of its continuous commitment to ensuring sustainability throughout all aspects of its operations, the Kuwait Financial Center "Markaz" has launched its third Sustainability Report. The report highlights the organization’s strong performance in key Environmental, Social and Governance areas (ESGs) during the period between 2020 and 2021, together with disclosures pertaining to all relevant parties including shareholders, customers, work teams and the wider community.
The publication of the detailed report underlines Markaz’s commitment to ensuring transparency in communications regarding available opportunities and emerging risks, with a strong focus on how its operations have been successfully managed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In a continuation of the diligent approach applied in the first and second editions, the new report was drafted in accordance with the latest international standards for sustainability reporting developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), with the aim of showcasing Markaz's contributions to achieving global goals. The report also aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), together with Kuwait's National Development Plan (KNDP) and Boursa Kuwait's sustainability indicators.
Evolving to Meet Global Challenges
Presented under the theme “Strategic Operational Transition Powered by ESG”, the report highlights the transformation undertaken by Markaz as part of the business continuity and contingency measures it implemented in response to the global pandemic. These served to accelerate Markaz’s ongoing evolution, which is characterized by a long-standing commitment to digitalization, as well as attracting and allocating assets that contribute to a more sustainable future.
Commenting on the third edition of the Sustainability Report, Deena Y. AlRefai, Senior Vice President – Investor Relations at Markaz, said: “We are pleased to present this comprehensive report to our partners, client and internal and external stakeholders, which details the adaptation undertaken over the past two years to ensure greater resilience and agility in the face of rapidly changing market conditions. Most importantly, this report underlines Markaz’s remarkable capabilities to maintain business-as-usual during tough times, and bring added value to investors and the communities in which we operate, all while reflecting to the highest standards of governance and sustainability, which has been made possible thanks to our well-structured, proactive and dedicated teams.”
Also commenting on the report, Sondos Saad, Vice President- Media & Communications at Markaz said: “Markaz’s keenness to voluntarily issue the sustainability report reflects our commitment to understanding our stakeholders and addressing topics of key importance to them, transparently and in line with global standards. It also reflects on the company’s past efforts and its future vision, and helps address potential gaps, to ultimately achieve our corporate goals and fully cater to our clients’ needs. Moreover, the sustainability approach adopted by Markaz since the beginning of its journey, with no doubt, has contributed to maintaining a solid and secure foundation, which has been positively reflected on the company’s financial performance over the past years.”
Key Components of Markaz’s Sustainability Report
Impact of COVID-19
History will recall the global disruption triggered by COVID-19 as the defining feature of the last two years. The report details how Markaz successfully remained on track with its strategy during the crisis through the activation of well-defined business continuity processes. The organization invested in pandemic-related measures, as well as accelerating its pre-existing digital transformation strategy to implement remote work solutions while maintaining the same levels of operational efficiency. Despite the challenges of the lockdown period, no data leaks were registered. During 2020, Markaz launched the iMarkaz App, which enabled users to continue their investment journeys from the safety of their homes.
Maintaining employee health and safety was also a top priority for Markaz, which rapidly implemented a full range of hygiene practices and precautionary measures in line with evolving government advice. As a result of these procedures, there have been zero recorded cases of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace since the pandemic began. In addition, Markaz intensified its efforts to successfully control all business activities and ensure seamless operations. This was achieved by creating clear channels of communication with key stakeholders, allowing the institution’s various departments to assess the economic impact of the pandemic and ensuring all findings were not only communicated to the relevant parties in a timely manner, but also addressed instantly.
In line with its belief that a diverse market leads to greater economic resilience and sustainability, Markaz has continued to attract and retain a client base of high net-worth individuals, governments, quasi-government institutions, and investment arms of corporations, both in the GCC and globally. In addition to building agility in challenging times, diversification supports Markaz’s efforts to ensure a positive economic impact in Kuwait and contributes to achieving key national economic commitments linked to the Sustainable Development Goals and New Kuwait Vision 2035.
During the period covered by the report, Markaz continued to maintain its robust corporate governance framework and apply ESG principles across all of its business functions. The institution’s activities are closely aligned with the applicable regulatory requirements and international best practices, as well as internal policies, systems and controls. In an important development, Markaz’s Board of Directors set a conservative policy that was transformed into a governance system prior to the issuance of related laws and legislation. With the efficient implementation of this policy, it has become one of the few Kuwaiti institutions to develop an official corporate governance structure with voluntary compliance.
One of the essential elements of Markaz’s strategy for sustainable development is its deeply-embedded commitment towards its people. Throughout the years, the benefits of an inclusive workplace culture have been reflected in high levels of employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement, enabling Markaz to overcome external challenges ranging from economic recessions to global pandemics. The organization’s dedication to diversity can be seen in its high levels of female employees, who comprised 27% of the workforce in 2020, a figure that grew to 30% by the end of 2021. Markaz is also committed to empowering Kuwaiti nationals, with a Kuwaitization rate of 45% in 2021. Nurturing employees remains a top priority for Markaz, which supports team members through performance management, learning opportunities, and policies that ensure their rights are properly upheld.
Markaz’s CSR strategy is founded upon three main pillars of building human capacity, promoting good governance, and aligning its business environment with the principles of sustainable development. With the COVID-19 pandemic heralding a global digital revolution, Markaz escalated its digital communication methods and adapted its operations accordingly. This process not only enabled the organization to maintain a seamless business flow, but also contributed to reduced costs in many areas. One of the areas that benefitted from digitalization was the Markaz Graduate Development Program (MGDP), which continued with the same effectiveness at a 87% lower cost than the previous on-site program.
Adopting a culture that reinforces sustainability and nurtures innovation is not only central to Markaz’s philosophy, but also recognized as an important driver of improved operational efficiency. In line with its belief that protection of the environment is integral to good business practice, Markaz has successfully adopted a number of initiatives, including paper and plastic waste reduction and recycling programs. These efforts were supported by a shift towards digitalization, as well as the launch of Kuwait’s first personalized investment app iMarkaz, a New Residents’ Services Portal, and the application of global best practices in information security.
Markaz continues to lead by example by placing the interests of key stakeholders at the heart of its extensive reporting and research efforts. With the publication of its 2020-2021 Sustainability Report, the Kuwait Financial Center has further emphasized its commitment to transparency by delivering in-depth evaluation and reporting across the business that provides valuable insights on how it is contributing to a more sustainable tomorrow.