SWFs in ME or Singapore

Hi guys,

regarding the semester abroad I had the idea to choose a country with a strong SWF so that I would be able to present a coherent story when applying for a position there after a few year in Banking. I read a few positive stories about ADIA, Mubadala and Aabar in the UAE, but also GIC in Singapore is interesting. Both countries are appealing to me and my uni offers exchange possibilities in both countries.

How easy is it for expats to enter either countries SWFs? How about compensation & lifestyle? Are the long term prospects at the UAE SWFs blurred because of the oil price?

I would really appreciate some insights from people who worked there/who knew people who worked there, since most of the posts date back quite some time.

Comments (9)

Apr 27, 2016 - 10:04am

Generally there are 0 barriers to entry in terms of just being a foreigner for entry-level/associate hires - I have friends at GIC and ADIA and they are full of foreigners. Not a problem at all at that level.

GIC compensation at the junior level is going to be comparable market base compared to an IBD role of similar seniority, but probably a little less. This is comparing Singapore GIC to IBD in a major hub like NY/HK/LDN. Lifestyle is a little better than banking, but I know GIC juniors work their asses off regularly because that's just the culture over there in SG.

Personally, don't see either as a very attractive opportunity. SWFs tend to attract those kids who have always eyed that public sector prestige...you know the ones that have day dreamed of one day becoming a diplomat, almost went to Gtown SFS but chose Stern at the last minute, etc. IFC/World Bank is lumped here as well. In general, the talent they take is generally slightly worse than the kids that end up at KKR/Carlyle et al. Not to say these guys are not talented though. Both funds also get progressively more unbearable as a foreigner the further up you go.

Don't get sucked into the novelty / "cool factor" of working for a SWF. it disappears the moment you get there. I know for a fact GIC is a great place to learn (i.e. their GPP program) but the traditional private sector routes would be of similar difficulty with larger payoff imo.

Apr 28, 2016 - 4:03am

Thanks for the great reply! But is the payoff really that much better in the private sector? I mean certainly you'd get a higher payout at some MF in NY/HK/LDN, but then there is tax and you probably also work much longer hours.

So do you think one should't apply there at all, or would it be legit to complement your entry level applications with e.g. an application for the GPP, NBIM Investment Talent Programme etc. and also your Buy-Side applications later on with applications to SWFs?

May 3, 2016 - 12:36am

From what I know (a friend did GPP and another went through NBIM interview process), undergraduate recruiting for GPP/NBIM ITP is much more selective than the experience is actually worth. Meaning that you, as a non-national, will probably be able to land a gig at BB/AM more easily than GPP. But say you get both and take GPP, would you come away with skills greater than a similar stint in ER/IBD/AM? Most definitely not. You will also typically make less than your counterparts in pure private sector finance too. But what you do get is a somewhat more differentiated brand and entry-level experience, which will be worth more or less depending on who is viewing your resume.

I think going to a place like GIC is a lot more reasonable of a choice post-IBD/ER for a 2-year stint before B-school, because SWFs genuinely do look very nice for applications and they place well into B-School. That way you get the benefit of the brand without committing to rising up in their crappy political hierarchy while also experiencing the tried and true 2-year post-undergrad experience in IBD/ER/AM.

People doing SWF at the undergraduate hire (right out of college) level typically have extrinsic motivations to do so besides the drive to grind tons of hours and learn finance/investing to jump somewhere else. Whether that is the public sector prestige, patriotism, working culture, etc - I don't know enough to opine.

May 8, 2016 - 8:33pm

TheOceanizer's comments are really accurate.

You'll have zero trouble getting in as a foreigner. If you can make it through the technical aspects of the interview, they'll be happy to have you join. Your optics as someone with a well-known American/English university degree, prior brand-name experience (presuming you at least interned at a BB or similar firm), and Western cultural experience will all be a positive to them.

The downside is that the politics get tricky the further you progress there. At the end of the day, it's a vehicle to advance the interests of the local government. If you're not a native, how much influence can you really have? There are a few funds with foreigners at the most level of the investment committee or advisory board, but for every one of them there's ten natives from the ruling party or family.

I have friends at each of the largest SWFs. The ones that are natives of that country enjoy it and seem to plan to stay. The ones that aren't native are there for the brand-name, global experience, and relationships they can develop in 4-6 years before returning to traditional finance.

I am permanently behind on PMs, it's not personal.

May 9, 2016 - 4:13am

Thanks for the insights! I have interned at a BB, though it was in AM, as well as in Big 4 TAS. There is no IBD internship on my resume yet (may be to come between my bachelors and masters). Do you think that is already solid enough to apply or do they require IBD (internship) experience?

May 9, 2016 - 4:54am

Generally when people go to SWFs, they do so after 2 years of IBD. This is probably the best path. On the other hand, there are programs that let you join earlier (e.g. GPP) but generally the people that get them have IBD internship experience as well.

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