H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Managing Director of ADIA, has issued an open letter on the occasion of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, ADIA, celebrating its 40th anniversary. The full text of H.H.'s letter follows.
"It is with great pride at the combined contributions and achievements of so many that I write to you today to mark the 40th anniversary of ADIA’s creation.
Over the course of the past four decades, ADIA has evolved from a small operation using shared office space to become one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated investment institutions. It has achieved this while always remaining true to its mission and by forging its own path – one that was right for ADIA – and not simply following the route taken by others.
On this day in 1976, an Emiri Decree was signed announcing ADIA’s creation. However, the true significance of ADIA’s anniversary lies in the foresight and vision that led to that historic decision. For this, we feel a great sense of gratitude to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and ADIA’s Chairman since inception, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. I would also like to highlight the significant contributions of Ahmed Khalifa Al Suwaidi and Mohammed Habroush Al Suwaidi, former Vice Chairman and Managing Director respectively, as well as the late Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former Managing Director, God rest his soul, who all worked tirelessly to build the foundations for the success ADIA enjoys today.
In choosing to create an independent institution, whose investment decisions would be based solely on economic considerations, and through the clarity of its mission, ADIA’s founding fathers created the conditions that have underpinned our success for the past 40 years.
The other crucial ingredient has been ADIA’s people – almost 5,000 in total who have contributed in countless ways, small and large, over the decades. We are in debt to you all for the successful realisation of our founders’ vision.
ADIA’s culture is unique. It combines great diversity, with more than 60 nationalities represented today in ADIA HQ, with an acute awareness of the responsibility we all share to safeguard Abu Dhabi’s future prosperity. This requires a degree of prudence and discipline that is integral to everything we do – from how we are organised to how we make decisions.
But simply avoiding risk is not a strategy for long-term success. It must always be counter-balanced with a recognition that we operate in a fast moving world and must remain vigilant and open to new and better ways of doing things where appropriate.
Looking back, a clear and visible line of continuity can be drawn between the ADIA of today and the small group of handpicked UAE nationals and international professionals who came to work for the first time in 1976 to begin building ADIA’s foundations.
However, ADIA’s first employees started work in more simple surroundings than those they enjoy today. Although only a short distance away from ADIA’s current headquarters on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, ADIA’s HQ in March 1976 consisted of shared offices near the current head office of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi itself bore little resemblance to the busy metropolis of today, with a population of only around 200,000.
Building on the achievements of its precursor, the Financial Investments Board, ADIA’s initial strategy was relatively simple, focused on stocks and bonds, with a small number of respected external managers overseen by our internal team.
Then, as today, ADIA’s culture was one that emphasised collaboration and respect for the opinions of others. Above all, it involved taking a long-term view toward everything we did. On the investment front, this involved creating processes to ensure shared decision-making based on detailed analysis and accountability. Our philosophy was based on the simple but unshakeable belief that while risk taking is part of the business of investing, our reputation must always come first. While a profitable investment might be forgotten soon, a single error of judgement could be remembered for years.
It also recognised that market downturns were an inevitable part of every cycle and not cause for panic, but rather an opportunity for patient investors. This can be seen through ADIA’s proven track record in generating steady returns over the decades, irrespective of market conditions.
Our long-term focus carried through into the way we interacted with the outside world. ADIA has always chosen its partners carefully, seeking to build long-term relationships based on mutual understanding, respect and a shared interest in our success.
Possibly the most important element, though, has been ADIA’s steadfast commitment to finding and developing the best national and international talent, and creating a work environment where they could prosper and benefit from each other’s experiences.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding President of the UAE, placed education among his top priorities, and his vision remains as alive now within ADIA as it did when we first began.
In addition to offering a wide range of employee training opportunities, ADIA remains committed to continuously developing UAE National talent, for its own benefit and beyond. Indeed, we are proud that so many of ADIA’s talented UAE National alumni have gone on to perform key roles in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere across the UAE.
Another recurring theme throughout ADIA’s history has been its willingness to embrace innovation – not for the sake of it – but where it was clear that doing so would bring long-term benefits. ADIA was unusual in that it began its life as a global investor, at a time when this was still an exception. It was among the earliest investors in private equity and alternative investments, and developed its own model for portfolio construction, with regional and asset-class weightings that reflected our unique, long-term view of the world.
In each case, ADIA approached these decisions in its characteristic deliberate and thorough way, recognising that the best innovations are those that deliver rewards sustainably over time.
The ADIA of today is the result of all of these values and actions, large and small, over the past four decades. We now have investments in more than two dozen asset classes and categories. We are also continuing to evolve, both in terms of how we invest and in how we are structured, in order to maximise our effectiveness and ability to capture opportunities.
Over the years, ADIA has made great strides toward developing its internal capabilities and increasing its internal flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions. We have clearly defined the organisation’s long-term objectives and enhanced the systems and processes that help us plan for the future.
ADIA has witnessed much in its history, from market booms to steep declines, and wide swings in commodity prices. The responsibility we hold requires us to navigate with a steady hand through all conditions, never losing sight of the horizon. This ensures we are able to fulfil our obligations at all times, without compromising our long term investment goals or reputation in the market.
I firmly believe that ADIA’s role today has never been more relevant. By remaining disciplined, and by drawing on the knowledge and experience built over 40 years, we will ensure that Abu Dhabi continues to prosper."