Spotlight on Donors Investing in Ideas

The trading relationship between Kuwait and the UK is a healthy one. As well as being the UK’s third largest trading partner in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Kuwait is also the UK’s 45th largest export partner. Ahmad Khalid Alhomaizi DLEMBA2010, Director of Veritas Capital, explains how his relationship with London Business School mirrors that of his home-country and the UK.

New business practices

Kuwait is one of the single largest investors in the UK in terms of liquidity, investment portfolios and property, both by Government institutions, private sector companies and private individuals. As an investor in the region, Alhomaizi has seen first-hand the impact of business education in Kuwait and the GCC.

“The EMBA Dubai programme helps business in the Gulf region by preparing students for leadership,” he says. “My class learnt best-practice from large successful firms; we took that knowledge and adapted it to our region’s way of doing business – to match our culture.”

Alhomaizi says that the practical skills students gain transform them into effective business leaders. Students on the EMBA programme examine the investment decisions and financial market decisions companies make, such as capital structure, and develop the tools to make informed data-reliant decisions of their own. This ability to examine macro-organisational issues and apply diagnostic analysis is just one best-practice Ahmad advocates for businesses in Kuwait.

Business education is taken seriously in the region – the Central Bank of Kuwait now encourages leadership and management skills-training through seminars and courses for its board members and high level management. Moreover, governing bodies are also required to undertake professional training, to improve their skills, draw on the best of the rest of the world and apply those lessons to business in the region. According to Alhomaizi the recent move has been adopted by the Capital Markets Authority and companies listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange as well as the Central Bank.

Giving back

“My family believes in giving back to communities and helping out in different charitable areas,” says Alhomaizi. Although his family typically gives to local initiatives he realised that the LBS Campaign chimed profoundly with their values.

“Whether it’s helping to give scholarships to the best and the brightest, improving teaching methods, or attracting more faculty and research, these elements are part of what my family believes in, but in the past we focused more locally – on the traditional areas of giving,” he explains.

“I think it’s a very important thing, giving back to the School. I had a great programme experience and supporting this initiative will enable my family to help develop more students. Perhaps they’ll develop ideas that will help the environment and help communities in the UK and around the world.”

Kuwait is a close-knit society, its people are well educated and have a reputation for financial astuteness and business acumen. That’s why Alhomaizi believes the School will be supported by more people in the region once they fully understand the Campaign.

“Traditionally for people in the region, donating is about building hospitals or helping to bring food to the less fortunate. Giving back to a business school is new in our region – as most universities in the area are government-run, they rarely have a need for alumni fundraising,” he says.

“But if people understand that they can support a scholarship, and that the scholar could come up with an idea or a business to help a community, or that they could help fund a professor’s research, contributing to improved social community life, or an improved way of living, I think they will give back.”

It’s not unusual for LBS alumni to take the lessons they learn in London into their global working environments. From Alhomaizi’s own programme business ventures such as Dubai-based crowd funded micro-financing platform, PiSlice, and Jeddah-based restaurant, F6or_Faris have been successful. Ideas are thriving in the Gulf region, one of the reasons LBS launched its Entrepreneurship Mentor-in-Residence program in Dubai last year, enabling successful alumni to give back to students through mentoring.

Dual location, dual benefits

“Having people in Kuwait and London makes my job easier,” says Alhomaizi who has two smaller offices in Kuwait and another in London.

“Initially everything was run by the Kuwait office, but after I finished studying at LBS, it seemed to me there was a much better way of managing our international assets. Having an office in London seemed a more logical way of structuring the business.” The London location opens up opportunities of new business and enables his team to connect with high-calibre asset managers, while the Kuwait office looks after business in the Gulf region.

The link back to London is very important for him. With a wealth of cultural and business opportunities, London is at the centre of global business; over 700 of the world’s leading businesses operate out of the city. The networks and connections allow a unique perspective into some of the world’s most successful and innovative organisations. And that’s exactly why Alhomaizi maintains an interest in LBS events, like the student-led Middle East Day Conference.

He says: “In the future I’ll look to these events to gain two things. One: to see what’s happening in the different professional interest areas (club events), and two: to develop my network even further.”

How does Alhomaizi see his relationship with the School developing over the next few years?
“I developed great relationships and I still do business with people from the class, I'm friends with lots of them and I know that I can pick up the phone and contact them with business questions, or for coffee or dinner,” he says.

“I’ll be more involved and closer to what the School is doing. I’m looking forward to supporting the School to achieving its goals for the next 50 years and at the same time seeing business education in Kuwait go from strength to strength – that’s the plan for the future.”