Adia appoints first head of global communications


The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has obviously taken to heart some of the criticism about lack of transparency thrown at it in the course of the current controversy over sovereign wealth funds. It has appointed, for the first time ever, a head of global communications to oversee the tricky, but essential job of managing Adia's relationship with the world's media.

Euart Glendinning, who is just getting his feet under the desk in Abu Dhabi, is a communications professional of the highest calibre, coming from London after 11 year's experience as head of Morgan Stanley's European and Asia communications unit.

He has dealt with more corporate crises that most of us have had hot dinners, and, in my dealings with him, has always brought an urbane unflappability to the job. Adia has made a shrewd move with this appointment.

Now, however, the ball moves to the investment authority's court. They have the right man for the job, but will they let him do it? Most of the sovereign wealth funds in the region have been too private and defensive during the current debate over sovereign wealth funds investment in the West.

They have a positive story to tell, and should allow Glendinning to tell it.

Perhaps this is the way of the future. In yesterday's Emirates Business an interview with the new global head of SWF for US merchant bank Lehman Brothers, Makram Azar came out on the offensive, stating bluntly that the West had little to worry about from the region's SWFs.

There are a few more subtleties to the debate than that, of course, but if we are about to see a new generation of confident, assertive sovereign wealth investors batting away all those old clichés from the West, and the US in particular, then so much the better.

Glendinning's appointment certainly confirms the trend that Gulf SWFs acknowledge the need to explain and persuade the rest of the world about their motives and methods, and are hiring the best executives possible to help them get their message across.

If Adia, as the largest SWF in the world with a reported $1,000 billion of funds, adopts such a policy of openness, others will surely follow suit.