Press Release

Total value of world’s largest 300 pension funds rises by 15.1% in 2017

Willis Towers Watson Global 300 Research 2017

October 23, 2018
| Switzerland

ZURICH, 23 October 2018 – Assets under management (AUM) at the world’s largest pension funds increased in value by 15.1% in 2017 to reach a total of USD 18.1 trillion, a significant increase from the 6.1% growth achieved in 2016, according to the latest global 300 research from Willis Towers Watson’s Thinking Ahead Institute. The assets of Swiss pension funds also grew by an impressive 12.2%, although this was slightly below the average rate for the study. Emerging market pension funds grew in prominence on the world stage.

The Global 300 Research captures the performance each year of the world’s largest pension funds. The study shows that the top 20 funds account for 41.1% of the Assets Under Management in the ranking, marking a slight increase from 40.3% in the previous year. Emerging markets have become more prominent in the rankings in recent years, with the Employees’ Provident Fund (India) a new entrant into the top 20 in 2017. A total of four new entrants from emerging market countries have entered the top 20 over the last ten years, three from Asia and one from Africa.

Michael Valentine, senior investment consultant, at Willis Towers Watson in Zurich said: “The increased number of the largest funds originating from emerging market regions is reflective of a longer-term trend, with a great deal of progress being made in terms of governance structures and resiliency. These countries are especially interesting to monitor as they are typically in the earlier stages of maturity and can continue to adapt and develop their investment models."

Commenting on the findings, Bob Collie, head of research for the Thinking Ahead Group, added: “This is a period of extraordinary change for large pension plans, driven by a confluence of factors. It’s not just demographic change and the changing global economic balance; it’s not just changes in social expectations, politics, sustainability, or regulation; it’s not just technology. It’s all of these, and it’s the way the changes compound one another. Many of these organisations are fairly young and have grown rapidly. This puts a spotlight on their governance and how they operate.”

Swiss pension funds now with 12.2% more assets

According to the study, US funds make up the lion's share with 133 funds in the top 300. This is followed by the UK with 25 funds, Canada (18) and Japan and Australia with 17 funds each. Switzerland, together with Germany, came seventh, with 9 funds in the top 300, ahead of Denmark (8) and Sweden (7). The total assets of the nine Swiss pension funds surveyed increased by 12.2% in 2017, slightly below the average for the Top 300 in this study. This can largely be explained by the somewhat lower proportion of equities in Swiss pension funds compared with the rest of the world.

Swiss pension fund assets (at each year-end in USDm)

Willis Towers Watson‘s Thinking Ahead Institute Global 300 Swiss pension funds Assets 2017 Assets 2016 Assets 2015
PUBLICA, Swiss Federal Pension Fund 40,815 37,129 36,471
Zurich Employee Pension Fund (BVK) 33,913 29,993 28,659
UBS 26,662 24,159 23,926
Nestlé (group assets) 25,300 22,587 22,360
Migros Cooperative Fund 24,417 21,791 21,129
SBB 18,256 16,903 16,257
City of Zurich 17,763 15,726 15,455
Credit Suisse 17,492 15,697 15,473
Swiss Post Pension Fund 19,298 15,526 15,654
Total 223,916 199,511 195,384

Ranking of Swiss pension funds (at each year-end)

Willis Towers Watson Global 300 Swiss pension funds Rank 2017 Rank 2016 Rank 2015
PUBLICA, Swiss Federal Pension Fund 106 99 100
Zurich Employee Pension Fund (BVK) 139 134 134
UBS 176 170 163
Nestlé (group assets) 183 181 180
Migros Cooperative Fund 190 187 188
SBB 249 235 238
City of Zurich 257 258 257
Credit Suisse 261 259 255
Swiss Post Pension Fund 264 261 251

Top 10 pension funds 2017, globally (at year-end in USDm)

Rank Fund Market Total assets  
1. Government Pension Investment Japan 1,443,554  
2. Government Pension Fund Norway 1,063,456  
3. National Pension South Korea 582,938  
4. Federal Retirement Thrift USA 531,489  
5. ABP Netherlands 494,796  
6. National Social Security China 456,853  
7. California Public Employees USA 336,684  
8. Canada Pension Canada 283,454 1
9. Central Provident Fund Singapore 269,133  
10. PFZW Netherlands 235,955 1
1 as at 31.03.2018

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 USD 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.

In Switzerland Willis Towers Watson is based with offices in Zurich, Geneva and Lausanne.