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Largest asset owners are critical to aiding society’s biggest issues

The world’s largest asset owners are too important to fail, carrying the potential to positively impact wealth and wellbeing for billions of people

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 13, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Asset Owner 100 (AO100) — the world’s 100 biggest asset owners — account for $19 trillion, up 1.7% from last year, according to research from the Thinking Ahead Institute. In its second study of the AO100, the Thinking Ahead Institute highlights the unique position universal owners have to direct capital in a sustainable way, making a significantly positive impact on issues, including climate change.

“The major investment markets failed to make progress in 2018 around their equity and bond returns, but these funds, in many cases, were able to avoid losing ground against their longer-term targets by sensible diversification — in particular, into private markets,” said Roger Urwin, global head of content at the Thinking Ahead Institute.

“The 100 largest asset owners are responsible for over 35% of all global asset owner capital. Of these, there are a number of self-declared universal owners that are large-scale, long-term and leadership-minded funds that own a slice of the whole world economy. This makes them pursue an influential role in safeguarding the financial system and contributing positively to certain big societal issues without compromising on their financial responsibilities. They have no choice but to take seriously their responsibilities and lead from the front,” Urwin adds.

The Thinking Ahead Institute’s analysis found that 59.1% of AO100 assets are held by pension funds, decreasing by 1.7% in 2018; 33.5% are held by sovereign wealth funds (SWF), increasing by 1.5% during the year; and 7.4% by outsourced chief investment officers and master trusts, increasing by 0.2%. Asia Pacific remains the largest region in terms of AUM, accounting for 36.1% of assets in the ranking. EMEA and North American assets represent 32.3% and 31.6%, respectively.

“During 2018 there were a number of sustainability initiatives by universal owner funds that involved ‘doing good while doing well.’ This marks the start of a movement in which funds support societally beneficial initiatives consistent with financially sound fiduciary principles. GPIF, the Japanese fund and largest asset owner in the world, is at the center of a number of these initiatives,” said Urwin.

“Asset owners face lower expected returns in the future, and the success with which they meet their targeted returns will be dependent on how well they adapt their investment model to integrate sustainability considerations such as environmental, social and governance-related investment opportunities,” said Marisa Hall, director at the Thinking Ahead Institute. “Global best practice on sustainability for asset owners is on an upward trajectory, but it still has a long way to go.”

The top 20 funds total US$10.55 trillion and represent 55.5% of AO100 assets.

Top 20 asset owners (in US$ million)

Rank Organization Country Total Assets Category
1 Government Pension Investment Japan $1,374,499 Pension Fund
2 Government Pension Fund Norway $982,293 Pension Fund
3 China Investment Corporation1 China $941,420 SWF
4 Abu Dhabi Investment Authority1 UAE $696,660 SWF
5 Kuwait Investment Authority2 Kuwait $592,000 SWF
6 Federal Retirement Thrift U.S. $578,755 Pension Fund
7 National Pension South Korea $573,259 Pension Fund
8 Hong Kong Monetary Authority Investment Portfolio2 Hong Kong $509,353 SWF
9 SAMA Foreign Holdings2 Saudi Arabia $505,755 SWF
10 ABP Netherlands $461,682 Pension Fund
11 SAFE Investment Company2 China $439,837 SWF
12 GIC Private Limited2 Singapore $390,000 SWF
13 California Public Employees U.S. $376,859 Pension Fund
14 Temasek Holdings2 Singapore $374,896 SWF
15 National Social Security China $325,002 Pension Fund
16 Qatar Investment Authority2 Qatar $320,000 SWF
17 Public Investment Fund/ Sanabil Investments2 Saudi Arabia $290,000 SWF
18 Canada Pension2 Canada $287,410 Pension Fund
19 Central Provident Fund Singapore $286,963 Pension Fund
20 PFZW2 Netherlands $248,326 Pension Fund

1 As of May 31, 2019
2 As of December 1, 2018

About the Thinking Ahead Institute

The Thinking Ahead Institute was established in January 2015 and is a global not-for-profit investment research and innovation member group made up of institutional asset owners and service providers committed to changing and improving the investment industry for the benefit of the end saver. It has over 40 members around the world and is an outgrowth of Willis Towers Watson Investments’ Thinking Ahead Group which was set up in 2002.

Media contact

Ed Emerman: +1 609 275 5162
eemerman@eaglepr.com

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