2016 Forty Under Forty

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Sajal HedaHead of Investments,El-Ajou Group
(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) 35
Sajal Heda
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“I can say without any reservation that Sajal is universally respected by those whom he advises.”

Name the most noticeable generational divide in investment style between sub-40-year-old investors and baby boomers.

There’s a striking shift from passive to active investing among the under-40 investors, mainly due to allocations to more diversified portfolios than the typical 60/40 approach. Now we have options of private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, private debt, infrastructure, commodities, etc. that allow for well-diversified portfolios.

Your least favorite part of being an asset owner is...?

The operational side of the business—mainly back-office work.

The manager you don’t currently work with whose brain you’d most like to pick for an hour is...?

David Swensen. The Yale model is not only a phenomenal approach to investment, but also takes a particular mindset.

... and where would that meeting take place?

On a long walk in Central Park.

Describe the weirdest interaction you’ve had with an asset manager.

There haven’t been too many, but one manager once said to me, “Although we don’t have a track record, we need to have the same fees of 2 and 20 for investors to take us seriously.”

What asset class or investment troubles you most right now—and why?

Due to very divergent market conditions there are a few to name, but the most troubling is private opportunities in emerging-market local currency. Any devaluation on major currencies would have a contagion effect.

Name your favorite food and drink.

My wife’s Indian cooking goes great with virgin ginger mojitos.

What’s the wildest institutional portfolio you’ve seen?

A major, concentrated regional real estate exposure—more than 50% of total assets—without having a proper understanding of the underlying risks.

Name a cultural aspect of asset management that gets under your skin.

Short-sightedness that misses the whole picture of prudent long-term investing.

Donald Trump is ________.


Name your four-member investment dream team for your own family office.

Dean Takahashi (Yale) for asset allocation, Salim Shariff (Federal Way Asset Management) for hedge funds and liquid strategies, Réal Desrochers (California Public Employees’ Retirement System) for illiquid strategies, and Jonathan Gray (Blackstone) for real estate.

What’s the biggest investment or career misstep you’ve made?

Fortunately none yet...

What should be an investment trend, but isn’t (yet)?

We have seen how the investment universe has changed in last three to four decades, and I believe the next change will be very rapid as markets are getting more efficient and not many avenues are left for consistent source of alpha. I see new asset classes emerging for well-diversified portfolios, including allocations to rarities such as art, antiquities, and fine wine. Due to inefficiencies in the market, you can really find alpha in these investments—my personal portfolio is 50% in art and antiquities.