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The engaged investor

Omar Syed, GrDip 99
November 6, 2023
By Samantha Rideout, GrDip 10

Portrait of a slightly bearded man in a suit and tie.

Omar Syed views himself as a citizen of the world, having lived and worked in eight different countries. His latest home base: the Arabian Gulf island nation of Bahrain. As chief investment officer for the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, he oversees roughly $20 billion in assets.

These holdings encompass major domestic companies like the National Bank of Bahrain and the aluminum-smelting giant Alba. They also include international investments such as the British luxury automaker McLaren.

Syed brings an active, private-equity mindset to Mumtalakat and has joined the boards of several key companies in its portfolio. 

“Whereas most private-equity funds have a limited life cycle, we don’t have that pressure,” he says. “Management teams appreciate that we’re thinking in terms of long-term value creation.”

A world-class city

“I’ll be honest: I was nervous to study in Montreal because I grew up in hot climates and I didn’t know how I would handle the weather. But over time, I started loving winter. I haven’t seen snow for a while now and I miss it. Montreal is a beautiful, multicultural, student-friendly city; I spent the best years of my life there.”

On adaptability

“Whether you’re in a new country, a new market or a new situation,  as experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t be rigid. Bringing a diversity of experiences to your career will add to your skills.”

The art of active shareholding

“Be a good listener. The growth of a company requires a collaborative environment where both the board and the management team have a common view of where they’re going. This won’t happen if you just dictate.

That said, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and bring a different perspective to the room. I’m surprised by the number of times I’ve sat in a board meeting and people just took topics for granted. It’s not the job of shareholders to develop a company’s strategy, but it is their job to help audit, support and challenge the strategy.”

Major motivation

“At this point, what really drives me is developing young talent. Beyond anything else, that will leave a lasting impact.”

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