How PIF is embracing diversity in the board room to deliver long-term impact

Global Insights
09 July 2024 Riyadh, KSA
  • A foresighted approach, strong governance, and board diversity are key to the success of PIF portfolio companies
  • Strength in PIF boards lies in international expertise and cross-sectoral knowledge, says AviLease Board Member
  • Board members across portfolio companies play a crucial role in the impact of PIF’s future-shaping investment initiatives

PIF does things differently when it comes to board membership of its portfolio companies. Its approach to member nomination and selection is a comprehensive analysis of each company’s objectives and strategic goals, with a strong emphasis on aligning the right capabilities to the right role regardless of geographical location. 


As Saad Alkroud, PIF’s Chief of Staff and Secretary General to the Board, explains: “Ideal board members aren't just advocates of shareholder value, they’re our partners of choice on the journey to success. Through navigating challenges and fostering a culture of innovation – this ultimate partnership guarantees the long-term growth of PIF’s investments.” 


It is this process that serves as a robust foundation for successful investment ventures, ensuring portfolio company objectives are met, while contributing to PIF’s overall strategy. In its tireless search for candidates who share its passion for the portfolio companies and the work they do, PIF reinforces its significant role as an attractor of global talents.


“Building sectors that did not exist before is incredible in its emotional momentum,” said Fahd Cynndy, CEO of Saudia Technic; Vice Chairman, The Helicopter Company; and Member of the Board, Aircraft Leasing Company. “It’s an investment for a nation.”


Indeed, board members within PIF’s portfolio companies oversee a long-term strategy and implement investment policies, with the Fund’s strong governance ensuring transparency and efficient decision-making. 


“The strength of PIF boards and the couple of boards that I sit on is definitely the broad exposure and the international expertise that is being presented and the cross-sectoral knowledge and skillset that comes across,” said Cynndy.


“At GIB, the Chairman encourages different voices and he encourages dissent,” added Anju Patwardhan, Member of the Board, Gulf International Bank, Saudi Arabia. “When people have different points of view, we always make sure that everybody gets to present their viewpoint – and the important thing is that at the end of it, we make a decision.”


The outside-in and fresh perspective that board members bring to a company is also key, noted Tariq Alamoudi, Chief Human Resources Officer, BUPA Arabia; Member of the Board & Member of the NRC for several PIF portfolio companies, including Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI); Saudi Tourism Investment Company (Asfar); and Jeddah Central Development Company (JCDC). “I think there’s a lot of value to building the collective knowledge of the board.”


Arndt Rautenberg, Member of the Board, Saudi Telecom Company (stc), noted the issues of bringing together an international board: “I think diversity always comes with the challenge of not stepping on other people’s toes, particularly if diversity is culture-specific. I continue to be aware of this diversity and find it increasingly easy to manage. There’s been a good onboarding process, and people have always made me feel very welcome and very much appreciated.”


Continual learning is also integral to a board’s success. “Learning allows you the opportunity to discover new technologies, new businesses, and new business opportunities,” said Nabelah Altunisi, President, Viridi MENA; and Independent Member of the Board, Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden).


This is particularly necessary given the challenges offered by PIF in creating long-term value for companies beyond simply financial value. If the company is regional, notes Yasser Alobaida, CEO, Sudair Pharma; and Member of the Board, Halal Products Development Company (HPDC), then we have to consider how we can make it international. “This offers a very nice journey that is unique to PIF, in that it is looking to grow the value of these companies – not only in financial terms, but also in terms of impact on the community.”


PIF’s leading role in transforming Saudi Arabia’s economy means that it also has global impact. Without doubt, the huge range of local and international experts, who make up the boards across PIF’s diverse portfolio companies, play a crucial role in the impact of the Fund’s future-shaping investment initiatives. 


These achievements were marked at the PIF Directors’ Gathering, held in November, which brought together directors from a variety of countries and sectors, with the event serving as a knowledge-sharing platform to identify paths to success.