The Business Year

Nazem Al Kudsi

UAE, ABU DHABI - Economy

A Modest Touch

CEO, Invest AD

Bio

Nazem Al Kudsi has over two decades of international investment experience. He has held senior positions at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, including postings in San Francisco and Tokyo.

What does Invest AD have to offer international investors? Invest AD’s mission is to provide global investors with attractive investment opportunities in the Middle East and Africa regions where we […]

What does Invest AD have to offer international investors?

Invest AD’s mission is to provide global investors with attractive investment opportunities in the Middle East and Africa regions where we have operated successfully for over three decades. We offer equity funds and discretionary accounts with a proven track record of outperformance in recent years, and have also forged strategic, global relationships with partners in Western Europe, Russia, and East Asia. The attraction is high-quality access to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, through a partner with wide and long-standing networks across the region. I believe that we are genuinely playing a part, however modest today, in the formation of new patterns of capital flow that will shape and rebalance the global economy over the coming years.

Why does Invest AD have such a specific focus?

This is because of its increased international profile, especially over the past decade, where Abu Dhabi has emerged as a key gateway to the Middle East and Africa regions. Intra-regional trade and investment have been growing steadily, and I can see from the official delegations that visit Abu Dhabi and the global reach of the Emirate’s institutions, that international linkages are only going to grow further. Invest AD has a specific role to play in supporting global partners who also see the high potential of the region. A couple of years ago, we commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to survey the world’s major institutional investors on their attitudes to investing in Africa, and the message was clear; almost all intended to significantly increase allocations to the continent over the subsequent five years. The main motivation for interest was the region’s rising middle class and personal income; quite a shift for a continent that had previously attracted interest merely as a source of commodities.

What are your connections in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China, and how do you engage with those parts of the world?

We have been developing relationships with institutions in East Asia for a number of years. I believe it is a natural development for investment flows between the regions to rise significantly now, given that trade has already flourished. Currently, we manage private institutional money from Japan and also have partners in China. We also have a strategic agreement with the Korea Development Bank.

“ We have plans to establish a presence in Morocco and are among the very few entities to have received a license from the Casablanca Finance City. “

What challenges do Invest AD’s Africa-related plans face in terms of geography, language, and time zone, and how are you working to overcome them?

We have plans to establish a presence in Morocco and are among the very few entities to have received a license from the Casablanca Finance City. This is a particularly interesting proposition as, in investment terms, much of the greater Northwest Africa region is uncharted territory and, by providing a gateway, Casablanca Finance City can help investors to participate in Africa’s exciting transformation. It also seeks to establish itself as the window to investment opportunities in West Africa as a financial hub. The region is home to 520 million people, and its economy is developing rapidly thanks to intra-regional investment and trade flows, as well as through greater integration into the global economy.

What is your policy toward developing human capital at Invest AD?

When considering the factors involved in production, the human factor emerges as the most important. Your legacy is measured by what you have done to advance your people. In the UAE, we are blessed with leadership that has made its citizens the top priority. At Invest AD, we are committed to training our employees, but even more importantly, to making sure that they benefit from our everyday operational exposure to international finance. All new hires at Invest AD receive a thorough induction to its business areas, receiving training in technical skills, business skills, and management to encourage fast progress. Development and potential are regularly monitored so as to identify high-performing individuals who are likely to succeed in senior management roles. We also encourage our employees to interact with the community. We are proud supporters of autistic students at the Abu Dhabi Autism Center, and extend our means to facilitate their inclusion in society to be able to contribute to Abu Dhabi’s economy and society.

Is this shifting global economic paradigm affecting the operations of Invest AD?

The global economy is undergoing a large-scale process of rebalancing, and the implications and impact are obviously going to be felt over many years. Everywhere you look, the world is being redefined. For example, India plans to send a spacecraft to Mars, and is truly competing with the US, Europe, and Russia in the space industry, which could have a knock-on effect on innovation in many fields. Meanwhile, China has not only become the manufacturing base of the world, but is also moving swiftly up the value chain. Here in the UAE, the key objective is to diversify our economy and build a knowledge base. In Africa, we see countries jumping several stages of development in small, but significant ways. For example, in Kenya, people who only a couple of years ago had no access to formal banking, are now receiving salaries and storing money deposits on their mobile phone accounts. Our job is to try to understand the changes and to position our offering through our different funds to clients accordingly. That is why, at Invest AD, we pursue on-the-ground research when exploring investment opportunities. Our portfolio managers are always on the go, especially in Africa, and place strong emphasis on direct contact with the senior management of companies, and policy makers.

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