Press Release

Thinking Ahead Institute reveals the “most influential capital on the planet”

Asia Pacific is the largest region in terms of assets being managed by asset owners

November 12, 2018

Asia, 12 November 2018 – Discretionary assets under management of the world’s 100 biggest asset owners (Asset Owner 100) totalled around US$19 trillion, and Asia Pacific’s assets represented the largest share (36%), according to a new report from Willis Towers Watson’s Thinking Ahead Institute. The research also reveals the emergence of Outsourced CIOs (OCIO) and Master Trusts as a new type of asset owners, representing 7% of the ranking’s assets.

In its first study of the Asset Owner 100 (AO100), the Thinking Ahead Institute describes this unique group as being responsible for investing the “most influential capital on the planet”, with the discretion to place their capital into any country and into any asset class. As such, the report argues, they have the ability to shape capital markets and to play a key role in the smooth running of the global economy.

Roger Urwin, Global Head of Investment Content at the Thinking Ahead Institute, said:

“With around US$55 trillion in assets - a sum that is more than $10,000 for every adult on the planet - asset owners globally are too important to fail in their mission. They have little choice but to take their financial and social responsibilities seriously, and not to shirk the big issues. These include the need to develop stronger leadership, respond effectively to regulation, manage agency issues and improve control over outcomes.

“There is also a more over-arching need for these large asset owners to understand the world in which they operate, and over which they potentially hold such influence. Over the next decade, this means doing more to institutionalise professionalism, streamline operating models, leverage culture and diversity more effectively and evolve the investment model into increasingly smart and sustainable arrangements. In Asia, some leading asset owner organisations had also experienced staff changes and team restructuring in recent months. They are now focusing more on attracting talent which better fits their business model and culture.”

According to the research, Asia Pacific was the largest region in terms of assets under management, which totalled US$6.7 trillion and represented 36% of the total assets in the AO100. Within the region, 17 asset owners are domiciled in Asia, accounting for US$6 trillion or 32.5% of the assets in the ranking.

The Thinking Ahead Institute’s analysis found that 61% of the assets of the AO100 are held by pension funds, with 32% held by sovereign wealth funds and 7% by outsourced CIOs and Master Trusts.

Urwin added, “Despite being small, the assets of OCIO and Master Trusts are present in Asia. Using OCIO is a bit like switching to broadband. Asian asset owners who require greater access to a broader opportunity in real-time are starting to adopt elements of OCIO to complement their traditional investment models.”

AO100 – World’s biggest asset owners domiciled in Asia (in US$ billion)

Global Rank Organisation Market Assets  
1 Government Pension Investment Japan $1,443,554 1
3 China Investment Corporation China $900,000 2
5 National Pension South Korea $582,938  
10 Hong Kong Monetary Authority Investment Portfolio Hong Kong $456,600 2
11 SAFE Investment Company China $441,000 2
12 GIC Private Limited Singapore $359,000 2
13 National Social Security China $341,361  
17 Central Provident Fund Singapore $269,133  
19 Temasek Holdings Singapore $230,310 1
24 Local Government Officials Japan $209,880  
26 Employees Provident Fund Malaysia $200,265  
34 Employees' Provident India $134,272  
35 Korea Investment Corporation South Korea $134,100  
47 National Federation of Mutual Aid Japan $106,629 1
49 Pension Fund Association Japan $105,204  
56 Labor Pension Fund Taiwan $96,539  
79 National Public Service Japan $71,662  

1. As of 31 March 2018
2. As of 31 August 2018

About the Thinking Ahead Institute

The Thinking Ahead Institute is a global not-for-profit member organisation whose aim is to influence change in the investment world for the benefit of savers. The Institute’s members comprise asset owners, investment managers and other groups that are motivated to influence the industry for the good of savers worldwide. It has 45 members with combined responsibility for over US$12 trillion and is an outgrowth of Willis Towers Watson Investments’ Thinking Ahead Group.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has over 40,000 employees serving more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.