Despite popular beliefs, the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) has one of the highest proportions of female employees among SWFs, at around 50%. One of the main reasons is its Fresh Graduate Training Program, which has since 1995 attracted the best Kuwaiti talent and supported women’s careers. The program is now headed by Ms. Aliah Al-Tameemi, who is the most senior woman at the fund and the first to be named as an executive director in 2017. She oversees a portfolio estimated at over US$ 100 billion in alternative investments, including real estate, infrastructure, private equity and hedge funds, and is the Chairman of infrastructure-dedicated subsidiary Wren House Infrastructure. We had the great pleasure of talking with Ms. Al-Tameemi about her career path, current responsibilities and future goals as a trailblazer of the SWF industry in the Middle East.
[GSWF] Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at the KIA?
[KIA] I joined KIA in 1995 with the first class of fresh graduates and I am now very happy to run the training program after 45 cohorts (we used to have one annually, and now we do it twice a year). After training, I started as an investment analyst and eventually became head of private equity in 2015. Two years later, I was promoted to Head of Alternatives, overseeing real estate, infrastructure and hedge funds, in addition to private equity. I am also the Chairman of Wren House Infrastructure, our US$ 10 billion subsidiary for infrastructure investments, which I am very proud to be part of.
[GSWF] Our latest analysis shows that, at global level, only 1 in 10 Sovereign Investors have a female CEO, and only 1 in 20 Sovereign Investors have a female CIO – what do you think of these statistics?
[KIA] This is a difficult industry, with long hours and lots of travel, so it is always tricky to juggle it all. I am so proud to be part of the KIA because at least 50% of our workforce are Kuwaiti women. In addition to my position, we have three other women leading the departments of Private Equity, US Equities, and Asset Management in the General Reserves Fund.
[GSWF] How do you ensure young Kuwaiti women are given the right tools to succeed?
[KIA] We onboard 20 graduates every class, of whom at least 10 are female. They need to have a GPA of 3.0 or above, a high GMAT score, and pass certain internal exams. Nine months of the program are spent with the KIA in Kuwait and three months are spent abroad, working with asset managers in London, Frankfurt and New York. Not all the trainees end up working with us, and some of them go on to work for other leading institutions in Kuwait and overseas.
[GSWF] Can you please walk us through your path to leadership at KIA? Was it always straightforward?
[KIA] My rise to leadership took me 26 years and it required a lot of hard work, but I always felt supported by my organization. It is important to have women around and a good balance in the organization. My personal view is that Kuwait is very progressive when it comes to gender equality, with the Government supporting young female students to go abroad and to acquire top-notch education. I don’t think there is a glass ceiling and I always aspire for more.
[GSWF] What advice can you give young women aspiring to become the next generation of SWF leaders?
[KIA] Work hard – Don’t let anybody tell you can’t do it – Believe in yourself – and you will succeed!