Large Asset Owners confident of portfolio resilience despite market uncertainty as they target higher infrastructure and private debt and equity allocations 

  • Over 60 Large Asset Owners (LAOs), with combined AUM of over $2 trillion, surveyed
  • LAOs continue to proactively evolve their governance arrangements and asset allocations leaving them confident portfolios can withstand a range of shocks over coming years
  • LAOs intend to further diversify their portfolios via investments in infrastructure, private debt, private equity and sustainability strategies at the expense of real estate and developed market equities. 

London, 12 October 2023

Mercer, a global leader in redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being, and a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), today released its inaugural 2024 Large Asset Owner Barometer.

The 2024 Large Asset Owner Barometer surveyed 61 organisations across the globe, each with global assets under management (AUM) of more than $5 billion as of July 30, 2023, about their views on the key risks and opportunities in the coming year.

The report reveals that over two thirds of Large Asset Owners, managing more than $2 trillion combined, plan to increase their allocation to private markets over the coming year, with half pivoting to infrastructure and sustainable strategies despite concerns in some countries around ESG investing and overvaluation of certain private market asset classes.

The LAOs surveyed continue to invest for the long term and feel confident their portfolios are well positioned to withstand shocks over the coming year, remaining resilient to a range of issues such as stagflation, geopolitics and volatility in public markets.

“Despite an uncertain market outlook, this category of investor is confident in the resilience of their portfolios, which has positive implications in relation to demand for risk assets,” said Eimear Walsh, Head of Investments, Europe, Mercer.

While LAOs expressed an interest in increasing their allocations to private markets, how to navigate them is a chief concern. LAOs who do not have exposure to such asset classes cited complexity and illiquidity around the asset class for their apprehension. Additionally, only 18% of LAOs manage private market investments in-house, with the majority opting to outsource management of this resource intensive asset class.

“Large Asset Owners have a clear understanding of what they do well in-house and where they benefit from external expertise,” said Rich Nuzum, Executive Director, Investments & Global Chief Investment Strategist, Mercer. “Nearly half (41%) of Large Asset Owners surveyed say they prefer to outsource investment management entirely. With LAOs planning to add to their positions in private equity, private debt and infrastructure in the next year, the trend towards outsourcing could accelerate. According to the survey, back and middle-office risks, such as those relating to governance, operations, talent and regulation, are also in significant focus.”

The survey data suggests the world’s biggest pools of capital are cautious that the outlook may be challenging for US equities, UK equities and real estate – and are planning to decrease their exposure in the coming year. Whilst some pension funds may be moving out of equities generally as part of a de-risking pathway, this trend also indicates concerns around valuations in these asset classes.

Despite some negative headlines around ESG investing, the report also highlighted that half (50%) of LAOs surveyed are set to increase their allocation to sustainable investment strategies, with 8% set to ‘significantly increase’ allocations.

Large Asset Owners are still in the relatively early stages of setting climate targets, but momentum is building. While 55% of LAOs have set climate transition targets, only 29% have actually implemented them. Organisations are also more likely to take a long-term approach to their climate objectives; 47% of the LAOs surveyed have set a 2050 science-based Net Zero target, versus 5% that have set a 2030 target.

“Large Asset Owners are an influential category of investors,” said Ms. Walsh. “By understanding their management and governance decisions, our clients can be better informed to make decisions about their own portfolios.”

About the 2024 Large Asset Owner Barometer

The 2024 Large Asset Owner Barometer seeks to advance discussion and collaboration around the asset allocation decisions, risk management and governance practices of Large Asset Owners. Research was conducted via an online survey between May 2 and July 30, 2023. Of the organisations surveyed, 61 responded to this year’s survey. Large Asset Owner respondents are defined as having ~$5 billion or more under ownership and include pension funds, insurers, Not-for-Profits (endowments, foundations, charities), wealth managers, and sovereign wealth funds. The research includes the views of respondents from over 16 countries.

The results discussed herein, and within the report reflect the views of the respondents at a point in time, and the questions were designed to understand the respondents’ future investment intentions. Mercer does not independently follow up with respondents to understand if their views have changed and/or whether they have carried through with their stated intentions.  These are some of the inherent limitations of this information. This information should not be relied upon in making any investment decision. Furthermore, this information is not intended to be a recommendation or investment advice in any way.  

About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 85,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over $20 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including MarshGuy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer and LinkedIn.