Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), its main sovereign wealth fund, said on Thursday it had filled key posts as part of plans to expand investment capacity and help reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil income.
Under economic reform plans announced early this year, the government has said it aims eventually to expand the PIF, founded in 1971 to finance development projects in the country, from $160bn to about $2 trillion and increase investments abroad.
The PIF did not name the people it had appointed, but LinkedIn profiles showed at least five financial professionals had begun working at the Fund in the last several weeks.
Kevin O’Donnell, previously managing director of private and opportunistic investments at Kaiser Permanente in California, has joined the PIF as head of global private equity, according to his LinkedIn page.
Other appointees include Marc-Oliver Fischer, an investment banking analyst at Jefferies in London who was appointed as an “investment professional” at the PIF in October.
Jacobo Solis joined in October also as an “investment professional”. His LinkedIn page shows he was previously an investment banking associate at J.P. Morgan in New York.
LinkedIn also shows the PIF made hires in the fields of compliance and risk. Martin Botha was appointed this month as director of risk to oversee the set-up of a risk management function; he was head of risk management at Kleinwort Benson, a London-based private bank.
Richard Collins, previously head of risk management at Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy, was hired in October to build a compliance function at the PIF.
Four of the five men did not respond to efforts by Reuters to contact them, while the other referred Reuters to the PIF’s communications team.
In a statement today, the fund said the appointments would help it “build a world-class investment portfolio, domestically and internationally, positioning it amongst the leading sovereign wealth funds globally.”
The PIF owns tens of billions of dollars’ worth of stakes in top Saudi companies such as National Commercial Bank, the kingdom’s biggest listed bank. In a statement this week, the Fund said it had no plan to sell stakes in local companies.
In its expanded role, it is to invest more actively abroad in order to boost the government’s returns on its financial reserves and help to obtain business and technology that can diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil.
In June, the PIF departed from Saudi Arabia’s traditional strategy of ultra-conservative investments abroad and took a step into the tech world by purchasing a $3.5 billion stake in US transport firm Uber.
Last month, it said it might invest up to $45bn over the next five years in a technology investment fund that it would establish with Japan’s SoftBank Group. The new fund could grow as large as $100bn, making it one of the world’s biggest private equity investors, the partners said.