Interview: Khaled Said, of CapGen - and the challengers for a 2nd gen

Khaled Said: "The second generation can often be stunned into inaction..."

Khaled Said: "The second generation can often be stunned into inaction..."

When you are the child of a self-made billionaire who has one of the world’s leading business schools named after him you aren’t going to grow up like your average high school teenager.

Pretty soon you will realise how much richer your family is compared with almost everyone else. Later you are probably going to develop anxieties about what career path to take. Obviously, money is never going to be a problem, but choosing a career when you’re the offspring of a parent that has been out of this world successful doesn’t come without challenges.

Ask Khaled Said about these challengers and you’ll get some insightful responses. Because Khaled is the son of famed businessman, financier and philanthropist Wafic Saïd, whose donations to Oxford University helped set up the Saïd Business School.

A confidant of the later Margaret Thatcher and many leaders in the Middle East as well, Wafic was the deal maker par excellence during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Those deals made him a lot of money - to such an extent that, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, he’s the 59th wealthiest person in the UK, with a fortune estimated at £1.5 billion.  

“The second generation can often be stunned into inaction given the incredible success of the first,” says the 40 year-old Khaled. “And unlike the third or the fourth generation, the second generation watch the wealth being made in real time.”

Khaled, who runs a private investment office in London called Capital Generation Partners, reckons his family did a pretty good job at bringing him up. You get the feeling while talking to him that there was never any shortage of love in the Saïd household. His mother is English and he was brought up in the UK. But there are the telltale signs of privilege like living in arguably London’s most exclusive residential address - Eaton Square - and a huge country estate in Oxfordshire.

“You can’t pretend not living the way you’re living,” he says. “Your parents can tell you how fortunate you’re and what are the responsibilities that come with that, but that’s very different than fostering a burning desire for entrepreneurship.”

Sometimes those responsibilities can be stifling for kids from Khaled’s background. “Families can tell you about the importance of education, specialisation and focus, but they can also say I’d really like you to sit on the board of a charity,” he says.

One of the ways the second generation can prove themselves, or at least start to prove themselves to the wider world is to gain a stellar education. Khaled did exactly that - gaining a first degree from Oxford University, a master's from Harvard and an MBA from INSEAD.

But that’s just one part of the process. “If I have one regret it’s that I did too much of the learning, rather than the doing,” he says. “You think you can learn success, whereas success is just about doing it.”

These days Khaled is more than making up for the doing bit. After a stint at the management consultancy Bain & Company, he, along with two other Oxford colleagues -  ex-diplomats Charlotte Thorne and Ian Barnard - managed the family’s money through a single-family office called Saïd Holdings. This subsequently morphed into the investment office Capital Generation Partners, or CapGen, which along with a sizeable chunk of the Saïd fortune also managers the money of a number of other families of substantial wealth. The median level of assets for each client is a hefty $200 million.

CapGen prides itself on its no nonsense approach to investing. None of the principals come from an investment management background, so there was no baggage, which enabled them the freedom to create their own culture. Without working at the firm, it’s difficult to know exactly what that culture is, but a tentative view from a client’s point of view might be one of conservative annual returns, but constant, and trustworthiness, helped by skin-in-the-game risk control. The type of culture that sits well with families running businesses that want their spare cash managed securely so they don’t have to worry too much about it.

Success, as Khaled says, isn’t easy. But it’s also knowing what you want and being dedicated to achieving it. Having been schooled in the English self-deprecating tradition Khaled isn’t someone who’s going to tell the world about how well he’s doing, but from the point of view of the pressures on the second generation he’s made a pretty good start of things.  

Who knows, maybe one day his experiences will be taught as a case study of a second generation’s path to success at INSEAD, or even the Saïd Business School.