Whereas debate about sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) often focuses upon the global significance of their investment strategies, these institutions are also emblematic of the new global order of financial capitalism. SWFs are a mechanism for states to advance their interests through global financial markets and are a switch point for the translation of resource assets into financial assets in global markets. Yet, realising the promise of SWFs is not easy. The form and functions of these institutions are typically conceived in Western terms, so the necessary infrastructure for their effective performance may not exist in non-Western jurisdictions. Nonetheless, these funds have grown increasingly popular throughout the world. As such, this paper examines the process of SWF adoption in non-Western jurisdictions, and, in particular, SWFs' recent rise in popularity amongst the Gulf States. These countries are particularly interesting as they face a variety of challenges due to institutional contradictions between the norms of Western finance and the inherited traditions of the Gulf. While Gulf SWFs may be limited in their effectiveness, these funds still serve as an important symbol for the region, representing a formal gesture towards ‘modernity’ in the context of nation-states' inherited traditions.