Press Release

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

The largest asset owners in the world are too important to fail in their mission, carrying a massive burden for the wealth and well-being of billions of people.
They have no choice but to take seriously their financial stakes and responsibilities and lead from the front.
They are increasingly aiming to contribute positively to big societal issues without compromising on their financial responsibilities.

November 13, 2019

GLOBAL, 13 November 2019. The Asset Owner 100 (AO100) – the world’s 100 largest asset owners – account for US$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 that ‘Universal Owners’ have to direct capital in a sustainable way, making a significantly positive impact on issues including climate change. 

Roger Urwin, Global Head of Content at the Thinking Ahead Institute, said: “The major investment markets failed to make progress in 2018, 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.

“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 such as climate change.

“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 that are consistent with financially sound fiduciary principles. GPIF, the Japanese fund that is the largest asset owner in the world, is at the centre of a number of these initiatives”.

Marisa Hall, Director at the Thinking Ahead Institute, said: “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 ESG-related  investment opportunities. Global best practice on sustainability for asset owners is on an upward trajectory, but it still has a long way to go.” 

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%. APAC 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. 

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

Top 20 asset owners (in US$ million)

 Rank Fund Market Total Assets   Category
1. Government Pension Investment Japan  $1,374,499  Pension Fund 
2.  Government Pension Fund Norway $982,293  China Investment
3.  Pension Fund Corporation
China  $941,420  SWF
4.  Abu Dhabi Investment Authority* UAE
$696,660  SWF
5.  Kuwait Investment Authority 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 Portfolio** Hong Kong $509,353  SWF
9.  SAMA Foreign Holdings** Saudi Arabia $505,755  SWF
10.  ABP Netherlands $461,682  Pension Fund
11.  SAFE Investment Company** China $439,837  SWF
12.  GIC Private Limited** Singapore $390,000  SWF
13.  California Public Employees
U.S.  $376,859  Pension Fund
14.  Temasek Holdings**
Singapore
$374,896  SWF
15.  National Social Security 
China $325,002  Pension Fund
16.  Qatar Investment Authority** Qatar  $320,000  SWF
17.  Public Investment Fund/ Sanabil Investments** Saudi Arabia $290,000  SWF
18.  Canada Pension**
Canada $287,410  Pension Fund 
19.  Central Provident Fund
Singapore
$286,963  Pension Fund
20.  PFZW2 Netherlands  $248,326  Pension Fund

* As of May 31, 2019
** 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 engaged 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.