By Saeed Azhar
DUBAI, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, said on Thursday its total employee count surpassed 1,000 as of December, marking an addition of about 300 employees since the start of the year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sovereign fund, which had around 40 employees in 2016, told Reuters in an email that 80 new recruits have been drawn from this year’s cohort of its Graduate Development Program.
The new hires also include Fadi al-Said, the former head of Lazard Asset Management Middle East and North Africa (MENA), who joined as a senior director in PIF’s local equity funds department in September, the fund said.
Earlier this year, the fund also hired Maziar Alamouti, a former head of trading at advisory and wealth management firm Quilter Investors, to build PIF’s trading capabilities.
The hiring spree comes as other financial institutions have been under pressure to cut costs in the Gulf region, while the PIF continues to grow into an aggressive global investor.
About 84% of PIF’s employees are Saudi citizens and 26% of its total employees are women, including Shihana AlAzzaz, the fund’s general counsel and secretary general to the board, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
“PIF is committed to a diverse workforce, underlining the fund’s commitment to delivering on Vision 2030; developing young Saudi talent and improving access to high-quality career opportunities,” a spokesman for the fund said in an email.
PIF, which manages $360 billion and bought $7.7 billion worth of North American and European stocks in the first quarter, is also taking advantage of market weakness due to the coronavirus.
After boosting its global stock portfolio to about $10 billion by the second quarter, PIF cut its exposure to North American equities by $3 billion in the third quarter.
PIF is chaired by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had said in November the fund will inject 150 billion riyals annually ($40 billion) into the economy in 2021 and 2022.
(Editing by Uttaresh.V)
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