ADIA at 40: Sovereign wealth fund has really safeguarded the Emirate, says Eissa Al Suwaidi

When the Abu Dhabi Government was looking for experienced leaders such as Eissa Al Suwaidi for its newest sovereign wealth fund in 2007, it looked no further than the Emirate’s biggest pool of financial talent: the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia).

Mr Al Suwaidi joined the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, Adia’s sister fund and main domestic peer, at its creation and became its managing director last year.

Like many of the chiefs of Abu Dhabi and UAE institutions, including the central bank, the top echelons of the financial elite are graduates of Adia. As the Emirate’s oldest and most venerable financial institution, Adia has played a dual role in Abu Dhabi’s success – as the primary caretaker of its oil wealth as well as a training ground and centre of excellence from which to populate the ranks of other leading institutions.

Its alumni benefit from a rare and diverse combination of hands-on experience in global financial markets as well as extensive training and development programmes that sharpen their skills.

“In terms of sophistication, reputation, size, there is nothing else like it,” says Mr Al Suwaidi.

“Ministers, chairmen of departments. A lot of them came from Adia. Adia contributed a lot.”

In addition to financial training, Mr Al Suwaidi cites the discipline of Adia’s investment processes and its strong focus on ethics and reputation as skills he brought to his new role at the Abu Dhabi Investment Council.

The executive joined Adia in 1982 after studying economics abroad on a government scholarship at Northeastern University in Boston. When he came back, he says, he was confronted with the choice of either joining Adia or Adnoc, the Emirate’s main oil producer.

He chose the former because as a trained economist he would be more of a benefit to the country by helping it invest the gains from oil.

Mr Al Suwaidi quickly ascended the ranks at Adia joining its internally managed Far East Equities Department, overseeing investments in countries including Japan and Australia, before ascending to the post of executive director.

After 25 years at Adia, Mr Al Suwaidi said he left with satisfaction that the fund had met the expectations envisioned by its founders.

“Foreign observers comment, not as a compliment but as being fair,” he says.

“The creation of Adia has really safeguarded the Emirate.

“It is the storage of wealth. Hopefully you will not need it, but when you need it, it will be there.”

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