Alumna's experience in the Middle East inspires her to study at Wharton, Harvard

October 30, 2019
A few years after graduating from the Robins School, Brittany Kneidinger, '12, got an opportunity that changed her life.

A few years after graduating from the Robins School, Brittany Kneidinger, ’12, got an opportunity that changed her life: to move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and work at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

“I had always wanted to experience living abroad and I was compelled by the opportunity to help diversify the UAE economy away from oil” Kneidinger said.

Immediately after graduation, she spent three years working in real estate investment banking at Deutsche Bank in New York.

Once arriving in Abu Dhabi, she worked on real estate acquisitions, focusing on the US and Canada. “By having all of the regionally focused teams sitting under one roof in Abu Dhabi, you have an incredible opportunity to truly understand global relative value.”

The three years she spent in the region gave her context regarding the history of the country and how quickly it has developed.

“Once they found oil in the region, they were prudent investors and created the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to invest in their nation and diversify their economy. They were prudent stewards of that capital, and turned the entire nation into the commerce hub of the Middle East,” Kneidinger said. “It’s incredibly stable, has great access to education and healthcare, is progressive on women’s rights, and it sparked my interest in how investing can be a stabilizing force and source of growth in developing countries.”

Seeing how investing can be a powerful force for good inspired her to apply to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, to understand how to use investing as a tool for development through public-private partnerships. She is currently in a dual program studying to get her MBA from the Wharton School and her MPA in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

“My goal is to use my time at HKS and Wharton, and the relationships I’ve built to leverage the impact of investing when the public and private sectors partner together,” Kneidinger said.

She hopes to bring her private investing skills to drive international development in the region and globally.

“I think the broader Middle East is such a compelling place, there’s so much hope there, I would love to move back there and bring what I’ve learned on both sides of the table,” Kneidinger said.

She credits her time in the Robins School for sparking her passion for finance, particularly her courses with John Earl, associate professor of finance.

“Dr. Earl was the reason I studied finance. He started me down that path,” Kneidinger said. “The Robins School gave me networking and relationship building opportunities, which I use all the time, whether it’s in the Middle East or at the Kennedy School, it’s all about relationships.”

Earl remembers her as an excellent student, and knew she would have a bright future.

“She was motivated, mature, and focused. She knew what she wanted to accomplish and had a plan to attain that goal,” Earl said. “She has had a very successful Wall Street career during which she became interested in using her skill set to improve conditions in the Middle East. Returning to Wharton and the Kennedy School to further her education and apply that knowledge to her new mission will ensure she will be successful at whatever she sets her mind to.”

Kneidinger is in her second of three years at the Wharton/Kennedy program, which she knows will give her the tools to make a difference in the region about which she has become so passionate about and, and make a difference globally.

“I have this amazing opportunity to be  surrounded by the smartest minds, talking about the most compelling issues of today,” Kneidinger said. “Just to experience those dialogues will make me a more informed investor, and better able to understand the world that we’re living in. The people in the UAE are passionate, forward thinking, and have accomplished more in 40 years than a lot of countries do in centuries. That hunger for progress and use of investing to drive development is what inspires my studies, my work, and my interest in continuing to pursue investment as a tool for progress.”