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Sovereign wealth funds: In the shadows of the shadows

Beyond the shadowy world of the big-four Gulf sovereign wealth funds, which can be opaque, seemingly inactive or conservative, a second tier of sometimes equally elusive SWF-style entities has sprung up.

For many years, the global fund manager has had four names on the must-see list when he visits the Gulf: the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the Kuwait Investment Authority, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency and, more recently, and with an increasing sense of futility, the Qatar Investment Authority. But lately, a second tier of state-backed institutional wealth has started to emerge. These entities are not necessarily any easier to pitch for mandates, but at least it makes for a little variety.

This trend has been under way for years in Abu Dhabi, which has long bewildered the outsider trying to understand the delineation between its many sovereign entities. Beyond Adia, there are not one but two Adics – one of which, known universally as The Council, appears to be in clear overlap with Adia, if not in outright competition with it. On top of that there is Ipic, Mubadala and at a federal level the Emirates Investment Authority. But those institutions are all well known and bedded in; external consultants and managers have learned to live with the opacity of their various mandates.

Instead, the emergence of a new tier is most pronounced in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and with a particular tilt towards local society and especially education.

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