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Assets of top 100 alternative investment managers hit USD3trn, says Towers Watson

Total assets managed by the top 100 alternative investment managers globally reached USD3.1trn in 2012, according to research produced by Towers Watson and published in conjunction with the Financial Times.

The Global Alternatives Survey, which covers seven asset classes and seven investor types, shows that of the top 100 alternative investment managers, real estate managers have the largest share of assets (34 per cent and over USD1.0trn) followed by direct private equity fund managers (23 per cent and USD717bn), direct hedge funds (20 per cent and USD612bn), private equity funds of funds (10 per cent and USD315bn), funds of hedge funds (six per cent and USD176bn), infrastructure (four per cent) and commodities (four per cent).
The research also includes the top ranked managers, by assets under management (AuM), in each area. Data from the broader survey shows that total global alternative AuM is now USD5.1trn and is split between the asset classes in similar proportions to the top 100 alternative investment managers, with the exception of real estate which falls to 26 per cent and direct hedge funds which increases to 26 per cent of the total.
Craig Baker (pictured), global head of investment research at Towers Watson, says: “For almost all of the past ten years of this research we have seen increasing allocations to alternative assets by a wide range of investors. Not only has the appeal of alternative assets broadened to include insurers and sovereign wealth funds, but the range of alternative assets has also increased beyond the likes of real estate and private equity to include direct hedge funds, infrastructure and commodities. It is therefore not surprising that allocations to alternative assets by pension funds, for example, now account for around 19 per cent of all pension fund assets globally, up from five per cent 15 years ago.”
The research – which includes a diverse range of institutional investors – shows that pension fund assets represent over a third (36 per cent) of the top 100 alternative managers’ assets, followed by wealth managers (19 per cent), insurance companies (nine per cent), sovereign wealth funds (six per cent), banks (five per cent), funds of funds (three per cent) and endowments and foundations (two per cent).
Baker says: “Pension funds have always been and will remain a very large investor group for top alternatives managers, but the demand from non-pension fund investors, such as insurers, endowments & foundations and sovereign wealth funds, is only going to increase in the future.”
The research shows that for the top 100 managers, North America continues to be the largest destination for alternative capital (46 per cent), with infrastructure as the only exception where more capital is invested in Europe.  Overall, 37 per cent of alternative assets are invested in Europe, 10 per cent in Asia Pacific with seven per cent being investing in the rest of the world.
In a ranking of top 100 asset managers by pension funds, these assets increased by around eight per cent from the year before to reach USD1.3trn. Real estate managers continue to have the largest share of pension fund assets with 39 per cent, followed by private equity funds of funds (20 per cent), private equity (14 per cent), hedge funds (nine per cent), infrastructure (nine per cent), FoHFs (seven per cent) and commodities (one per cent). Comparing on a like-for-like basis, pension fund assets managed by infrastructure managers, private equity managers and PEFoFs managers increased by 14 per cent, 12 per cent and seven per cent respectively. During the same period, pension fund assets managed by the top FoHFs and hedge fund managers grew by 13 per cent and 12 per cent respectively during 2012. Pension fund assets managed by real estate managers declined by three per cent during 2012.
Baker says: “We continue to see pension funds globally putting their faith in alternatives assets to help deliver more reliable risk-adjusted returns at the total fund level, as evidenced by the growth, significant in some instances, in all but one of the asset classes.  Further to the increased acceptance of alternative assets in their portfolios, we expect pension funds to continue making larger allocations, and to access these assets differently. In particular we expect a continuing shift towards investing via individual managers rather than funds of funds – particularly in hedge funds and private equity – as these managers improve their structures and are seen as a more efficient implementation route than fund of funds vehicles.”
Data from the wider survey shows that at the end of 2012 the top 25 managers of wealth management assets managed USD426bn, followed by the top 25 managers of insurance company assets (USD244bn); the top 25 managers of bank assets (USD160bn); the top 25 managers of sovereign wealth assets (USD154bn); the top 25 managers of fund of fund assets (USD118bn); and the top 25 managers of endowment and foundation assets (USD72bn).
Baker says: “The ongoing economic uncertainty is likely to encourage investors away from simply holding equities as their main growth asset and towards a greater use of alternative assets. We think the effort to diversify in this way is worthwhile, but investors need to be cautious about choosing the best and most efficient vehicles, not forgetting the increasing number of cheaper and lower governance routes for improving investment efficiency, such as using Smart Beta.”
According to the research, Macquarie Group is the largest infrastructure manager with around USD95bn and tops the overall rankings, while CBRE Global Investors (USD80bn) is still the largest real estate manager. Goldman Sachs is the largest private equity manager in the ranking on USD68bn, with AlpInvest Partners as the top PEFoF with USD44bn. Blackstone Alternative Asset Management is the largest FoHF with USD45bn, while Bridgewater Associates is the largest hedge fund with USD84bn. BlackRock is the largest commodities manager with USD74bn.

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