Research

The Asset Owner 100 2021

The most influential capital on the planet

AO100 2021 front cover

The Asset Owner 100 is a Thinking Ahead Institute study which gathers data on the total assets of the top 100 asset owners around the world. Though not included in the ranking, the study also presents total assets for the top 10 insurers and the top 10 foundations and endowments. 

Download full study

“This is a defining moment for asset owners and it’s decision time. They can stay in their narrow mandates or step up with a systems-leadership mindset to play a galvanising industry role, through collaboration and joined-up thinking that unleashes a torrent of capital aligned to the net-zero pathway.” – Roger Urwin

Assets under management (AUM) of the top 100 asset owners totalled US$ 23.5 trillion at the end of 2020, growing 16.4% from the previous year. The largest 100 asset owners represent the most influential capital on the planet. Their allocations, ownership muscle and trickle-down influence will be key to the investment community’s fight to become net zero. This is especially true for the top 20 asset owners, which own US$ 12.9 trillion in assets (55% of total AUM in the ranking).

To successfully manage the complexity and challenges of sustainable investment and net-zero pathways, asset owners will need to transcend their narrow mandates and work within the broader and more interconnected ecosystems in which they operate. By working together as part of this wider framework of collaborations, asset owners can drive change in the investments industry and produce better long-term outcomes for the whole system of which they are a part.

However, asset owners will need to face up to and overcome numerous impediments (including narrow interpretations of fiduciary standards that have pushed them to maintain established practices) in order to develop enhanced governance and investment sophistication. The report discusses these key obstacles which will require considerable resources and a clear-eyed strategy from asset owners. According to TAI’s research, there are only three net-zero committed organisations in the top 20 and 11 others in the top 100. But there are some asset owners that have overcome these impediments, and other asset owners should take note.

The new research also covers other key themes for asset owners to address, which include:

  • Lower future expected returns driving funds to adapt their investment model
  • Broader stakeholder management becoming a much bigger task to address
  • Diminishing reliance on external provider networks over time
  • A rise in regulatory requirements as a factor influencing their practices, particularly in ESG and stewardship
  • Building more robust technology platforms to transform over-abundant data into value-adding intellectual capital
AO100 2021_ nfographic

Click to enlarge
Source: Thinking Ahead Institute