Saudi’s $360 Billion Wealth Fund Rejigs Top Leadership

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund overhauled some of its top management as it prepares to take a greater role in the local economy.

The $360 billion Public Investment Fund on Tuesday said that Fahad Alsaif, chief executive officer of the country’s National Debt Management Center and adviser to the finance minister, will become head of corporate finance and a member of its management committee.

Alsaif replaces Alireza Zaimi, who joined the fund from Bank of America in 2017 to oversee the corporate finance division. Zaimi has been promoted to special adviser to the PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan across his various roles. Al Rumayyan’s other posts include chairman of Saudi Aramco and Saudi Arabian Mining Co.

The reshuffle comes as the PIF and its subsidiaries prepare to significantly increase domestic spending, for which it will likely have to borrow more from local and international markets. The fund is currently in the process of raising a $7 billion loan. Alsaif had been responsible for establishing the kingdom’s sovereign borrowing program in 2016.

The wealth fund is a key lever for the kingdom’s efforts to revive growth after what may be the deepest recession the world’s largest crude exporter has experienced in decades. Handed $40 billion earlier this year to buy global stocks, the PIF plans to plow the same amount into the domestic economy next year and again in 2022, even as the finance ministry prepares to cut spending over the next few years in order to try and balance the budget by 2023.

Senior Adviser

In other changes, Rania Nashar -- who was the first woman to lead a Saudi bank -- will become senior adviser to the PIF’s governor. While Saudi Arabia has given women more rights in recent years, they still hold few top positions across the Gulf.

Nashar is leaving as CEO of Samba as the lender prepares to complete a merger with National Commercial Bank, and is not part of the combined entity’s management team.

Rashed Sharif, who is currently responsible for PIF’s domestic holdings, will become CEO of the merged investment banking arms of NCB and Samba. Chief of Staff Yazeed AlHumied will replace Sharif as head of local holdings and Saad Alkroud, head of stakeholder management, will become acting chief of staff.

The PIF has rapidly expanded since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided to use it as a vehicle for his ambitions to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil, while also transforming the way it invests its wealth abroad. Previously a small, domestically focused investor, it now aims to have assets of over $2 trillion across a mixture of local and global holdings by 2030.

Since unveiling the new strategy for the fund, it has pumped $45 billion into the Softbank Vision Fund and invested in Uber Technologies Inc. Al-Rumayyan said recently the fund’s goal was to have about 80% of its assets outside Saudi Arabia.

The fund’s employees have expanded from under 100 people five years ago to over 1,000. It hired Lazard Asset Management LLC’s Fadi Al Said, who oversaw the firm’s equity strategy for the Middle East and North Africa, in September following the appointment of former Morgan Stanley Investment Management Chief Risk Officer Feta Zabeli.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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