DELIVERING MAXIMUM RETURNS

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Saudi universities can utilize HEF's resources and network to fund their projects and fulfill their goals, from conducting research projects to building a new college.

Abdullah M. Aldakhil
BIOGRAPHY
Abdullah M. Aldakhil joined HEF in 2016 as Deputy Secretary General and has served as Secretary General since 2017. Prior to this, he worked at his alma mater King Saud University (KSU), where he was Chief of Internal Audit, Chairman of the Management Department, and Associate Professor at the College of Business Administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from KSU and an MBA and PhD in information operations and technology management from the University of Toledo in the US.

Could you tell us more about the mandate and scope of HEF's operations?

Due to the need to ensure multi-generational equity, a Royal Decree was issued in 2001 to restructure the mechanism of stipend dispersion by establishing a higher education fund. HEF has been mandated to invest the remainder of universities' budgets on a long-term basis, whereas a portion of these investments is available to fund universities' projects on an ongoing basis. HEF was established with an ultimate goal of supporting the sustainability of funding of Saudi universities. Universities can utilize HEF's resources and network to fulfill their purpose with activities that range from conducting a research project to constructing new colleges.

Does your organization choose how to invest the remainder of the funds on structural strategic projects?

HEF's roadmap is outlined by its board of directors, and the implementation of that is monitored by its investment committee. The combined efforts of highly qualified members on the board of directors, investment committee, and HEF staff are directed to generate the highest possible risk-adjusted return to the universities. HEF invests in a multi-asset portfolio that complies with a strategic asset allocation that takes into consideration HEF's special objectives and constraints.

What are the most strategic areas that require your funding or are interesting for the Kingdom at the moment?

Every funding request received from universities follows a systematic process to ensure that the project is eligible for funding. However, we do not impose any constraints on the nature of the request nor do we require a strategic area for the funding, as we are here to serve universities and we aim to support them to achieve their specific long- and short-term goals. Our focus is to grow our portfolio and deliver the maximum returns on universities' balances.
In August 2017, the Ministry of Education concluded an 'Invest Wisely' partnership with Tadawul, aiming to improve financial literary. Could you tell more about this collaboration?
Tadawul approached the Ministry of Education to discuss an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of the stock markets. We were the facilitator between the Ministry of Education and Tadawul; we prepared the agreement between them and made sure that all the universities' needs are met in Tadawul.

Do you also intend to reach out abroad with your investment portfolio?

HEF already has an international portfolio that invests in multiple countries and different asset classes. Moreover, we are increasing the size of this portfolio to achieve greater diversification and minimize concentration risk.

What strategic goals have you set?

Our vision is to be the investment arm of Saudi universities. We invest part of the universities' assets and make our expertise available to enable their investment in local and international markets. Universities might have new regulations that will allow them to invest directly in the market and achieve greater financial independence, reducing the burden on the government. We assist universities utilize and grow their own resources and work with them to become self reliant. These new regulations will affect all universities, and HEF is responding to this in advance to provide the needed support, especially for those with limited experience and capabilities to set up and manage investment portfolios. HEF is a non-profit organization, and there are no charges for our financial services. In the end, we support the financial sustainability of the education sector by upholding fairness among universities and equity between generations.