Nest Egg

Family offices mull diversification to guide their Gulf investments

Hundreds gather in Abu Dhabi to discuss the future of family funds in the Middle East, with total assets forecast to hit a half trillion dollars.

The Abu Dhabi skyline. (Photo: Getty Images)

Hundreds of investors gathered in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to discuss the future of family offices – a growing group that is steering an expanding pot of wealth to the region at a pivotal moment of economic transformation.

“Our mandate is to stay away from oil,” Abdulrahman Al Suwaidi, Managing Director of the UAE’s AS Investments, quipped on a panel at the Abu Dhabi Family Office Summit on Saadiyat Island.

Instead, the investors safeguarding the Gulf’s intergenerational wealth are looking to the diversification strategies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 or the UAE’s “Future Economy” initiatives, to guide their investment decisions.

Al Suwaidi, who was previously the director of investments for the ruling family of Dubai’s family office, the Al Maktoums’ Dubai Holding, said his current fund is deploying capital in food security – they own a stake in the biggest halal poultry farm in the U.K. – as well as in green energy. 

In a part of the world overrun by fund managers looking to drum up capital, Ali Raza, CIO of Saudi Arabia Holding Co., said a key missing piece is how to effectively navigate the market.

“This goes for any region in the world but this is really the gap here,” Raza said.

Echoing Al Suwaidi, he implored would-be fundraisers to look to the economic transformation strategies in the countries where they are deal-hunting to identify opportunity.

Raza’s fund is deploying capital into electric vehicles and future mobility as well as semiconductors and data centers, he said. “Think very literally about Vision 2030,” he advised. 

Family offices in the Middle East have grown rapidly in recent years, with total assets under management forecasted to hit a half trillion dollars in 2025, according to an analysis by Forbes.

Some 45% of family offices in the region are managing a portfolio worth $251 million to $500 million, with another 32% presiding over $2.1 billion to $5 billion.

Although slightly ahead of their Asian counterparts, the concept of family offices remains relatively new in the region, with less than half operating for more than a decade, Forbes found.

By comparison, roughly two-thirds of U.S. and U.K. family offices have been around for more than 10 years. 

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