Largest asset owners reach record $26trn; pension funds remain biggest group

The world’s 100 largest asset owners are responsible for a record US$25.7trn of assets, as of year-end 2021, according to a study by the Thinking Ahead Institute (TAI).

As reported by our sister publication, European Pensions, this represents an increase of 9 per cent on the previous year, although a decline in growth after the largest asset owners reported an increase of 16 per cent from 2019 to 2020.

Pension funds remained the single biggest group of asset owners in the global study, controlling 56 per cent of the total assets.

However, this represented a 2 percentage point fall from the end of 2020, when they held 58 per cent of assets.

By comparison, sovereign wealth funds saw their share rise from 35 per cent to 37 per cent over the same period.

The Government Pension Investment Fund of Japan was the largest asset owner in the world, with US$1.7trn in assets.

Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management, which is responsible for the investments of the Government Pension Fund Global, was the second largest asset owner at US$1.4trn.

The top 20 asset owners were responsible for US$14.1trn, or 55 per cent, of the top 100.

National Pension in South Korea was ranked sixth, with US$798bn in assets, while Federal Retirement Thrift in the US was seventh with US$774bn.

Dutch pension investment company APG was in 10th with US$630bn in assets and Canada Pension was ranked 15h with US$427bn.

“These big asset owners control the world’s most influential capital and hold great responsibility and growing influence in relation to their beneficiaries, and to a widening group of stakeholders,” said TAI co-founder, Roger Urwin.

“The research highlights that many of these asset owners act as universal owners – long-term, leadership minded holders of portfolios that are exposed to the entire market and economy – and have a distinctive opportunity to contribute to real-world systemic change by contributing to a Paris-aligned future, consistent with net-zero emissions by 2050.”

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