AsianInvestor's Top 10 sovereign wealth fund (SWF) executives in Asia list is aimed at recognising exceptional senior executives -- from CEOs and CIOs to alternatives and sustainability specialists -- responsible for leading the industry’s growth and development.
With the right governance structures in place, SWFs can be particularly valuable in preserving and growing a nation's savings.
We believe it is important to acknowledge the role key individuals play in boosting the influence of SWFs in the region, especially as these entities are set to grow in importance in coming years.
It's also important to recognise that not all SWFs are the same – they can have vastly different mandates and investment goals. AsianInvestor recognised those differences as we created our list.
You can find out more about the rationale for our Top 10 SWF executives in Asia list here.
Today, we spotlight two senior executives from Saudi Arabia- and Singapore-based wealth funds.
Yazeed Al Humied
Deputy governor and head of MENA investments, Public Investment Fund
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) enters our list because Middle-East SWFs, with billions of dollars in assets, are becoming active investors in Asia and their influence is only set to intensify in coming years.
The wealth fund has become a rapidly rising star in the global SWF universe after its restructuring in 2015, when Saudi Arabia announced its ambitious Vision 2030 to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil.
The revamp transformed PIF from a local investor in traditional industries into a sovereign powerhouse charged with developing emerging growth sectors and bringing in foreign partnerships and investments.
One of the key people behind this transformation is Yazeed Al Humied, who joined PIF in 2015, as an advisor on the restructuring process.
The restructuring's sucess can be credited, among other things, to Al Humied's array of skills developed over years heading the mergers and acquistions (M&A) team at Saudi Arabia’s capital markets regulator as well as working with the regulatory body of M&A in the UK.
Now as PIF’s head of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) investments, Al Humied is responsible for managing domestic equity holdings and local sector development. Both pools have the highest concentration of assets under management (AUM).
PIF’s investment portfolio has so far supported the establishment of 93 companies across 13 strategic sectors in Saudi Arabia.
Its AUM soared from less than $200 billion in 2015 to over $700 billion, and the goal is to hit $1 trillion by 2025.
In 2023, PIF emerged as the world’s most active sovereign investor even as peers dialled back on investments. It deployed $31.6 billion in 49 deals locally and globally, 33% more than in 2022, according to Global SWF data.
These include becoming the largest foreign stakeholder in Japanese video game-maker Nintendo and establishing a joint venture with Korea's Hyundai to build an automated car manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia.
Part of Al Humied's role is to encourage international strategic partners to invest in Saudi Arabia and bring in cutting-edge technologies. That makes him one of the main executives in charge of extending PIF's footprint in Asia, including Hong Kong and mainland China.
In 2022, PIF opened an office in Hong Kong -- its first overseas office in Asia -- alongside New York and London, to support the sovereign entity's international expansion.
AsianInvestor understands that the fund is also looking at setting up an office in mainland China and expanding the team in Hong Kong.
In late 2023, PIF embarked on an Asia roadshow across Japan, Korea, mainland China and Hong Kong.
In collaboration with the Hong Kong government, it launched the first exchange-traded product in Asia Pacific to track the Saudi Arabian equity market. The CSOP Saudi Arabia ETF went live on the Hong Kong stock exchange in November, with PIF as the anchor investor.
“Our aim is to continue to attract foreign investors, keeping capital inflow into the Saudi capital markets and meet the ambition of Saudi companies,” Al Humied said at the ETF launch ceremony.
PIF is also exploring further collaboration with Hong Kong and is open to all ideas, including Saudi companies’ dual listings in the Asian financial centre.
De Rui Wong, as senior vice president in GIC’s sustainability office, leads a team that focuses on research on sustainability issues and how to identify risks and open up new opportunities for investment portfolios.
It’s a crucial function that helps the fund move from ‘principle’ to ‘action’ on sustainability – of which Wong is a passionate advocate.
As one of the main managers of Singapore’s reserves, investing sustainably is core to GIC’s mandate.
Some industry experts that AsianInvestor spoke to singled out GIC in Singapore for its sustainability efforts, even though Asian asset owners are still at an early stage in this process.
Overall, the GIC Board oversees the entity's sustainability approach and considerations on climate-related risks and opportunities.
The Singaporean fund also has a sustainability committee comprising senior leaders from its investment, risk and corporate functions tasked with implementing the sustainability framework and to monitor and respond to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
Wong is part of the sustainability office, which supports GIC’s sustainability committee.
He engages with a wide range of stakeholders such as board members, senior management, asset allocators, portfolio managers and investment analysts in his role.
Wong has previously said GIC’s beliefs on sustainable investments are threefold: a belief in investing in green solutions and transitioning businesses; constructive engagement over divestment; and that sustainability is nuanced for each sector, region and market.
He described GIC’s attempt at tackling sustainability as “a mosaic approach”, describing the institutional investor as relying on “an arsenal of different kinds of analytical tools that quantify both risks as well as opportunities.”
He also highlighted that environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles can vary for each region, sector and market.
That variability underscores the need for investors to continuously assess, analyse and update their data sources as they develop ESG investment strategies, he said at an event in October 2022.
Since sustainability as a field continues to evolve, GIC also collaborates with fellow asset owners through industry platforms such as Climate Action 100+, Asia Investor Group on Climate Change and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
Among the many reasons that AsianInvestor decided to include Wong in this list is because he is one of the few senior executives in the sovereign entity industry who is visibly vocal in explaining and advocating best practices in sustainable investing.
He is highly effective at using LinkedIn as a knowledge platform to disseminate views and thoughts on ESG while encouraging young professionals in a region that still desperately needs sustainability talent.
He excels at explaining complex concepts in elegant, digestible formats, which goes a long way in helping audiences understand the work that asset owners like GIC do, especially when issues such as decarbonisation and climate change are becoming hot topics.