Alternative AUM Nears $6.5 Tln


The world’s largest 100 alternative asset managers saw assets under management increase by 10% in 2016, rising to $4 trillion , according to the 2017 edition of the Willis Towers Watson’s Global Alternatives Survey.

The survey, which captures long-term institutional investment trends by seven main investor groups  across 10 investment classes, showed that of the top 100 alternative investment managers, real estate managers have the largest share of assets (35% and over $1.4 trillion), followed by private equity (18% and $695 billion), hedge funds (17% and $675 billion), private equity funds of funds (12% and $16 billion), illiquid credit (9% and $360 billion), funds of hedge funds (6% and $228 billion), infrastructure (4% and $161 billion), infrastructure (4% and $161 billion) and commodities (1%).

In terms of the growth in asset classes among the top 100 asset managers, illiquid credit saw the largest percentage increase over the 12-month period, with assets under management rising from $178 billion to $360 billion. Conversely, assets allocated to direct hedge fund strategies among the top 100 asset managers fell over the period, from $755 billion to $675 billion.

“As capital supply and competition have increased in some segments of the illiquid credit universe, yields are not always offering sufficient compensation for illiquidity and risk,” said Brad Morrow, head of manager research, North America, Willis Towers Watson. “At the same time, we have seen some withdrawal of capital from hedge funds in the face of high fees, skewed alignment of interests and performance headwinds. It appears the growing groundswell of negative sentiment that has arisen due to the aforementioned issues is now showing up in the decisions of asset allocators. We have been surprised it has taken this long to observe the trend turn; however, this is aligned with our long-held view that the hedge fund industry needs to change, with those willing to offer greater transparency and display value for money likely to prosper going forward.”

Data for the total alternative investment universe show that overall alternative assets under management now stand at just under $6.5 trillion, across 562 entries. North America continues to be the largest destination for alternative asset manager allocations (54%). Overall, 33% of alternative assets are invested in Europe and 8% in Asia Pacific, with 6% invested in the rest of the world.

The research also highlights that when looking at the distribution of assets within the top 100 alternative asset managers by investor type, pension fund assets represent a third (33%) of assets, followed by wealth managers (15%), sovereign wealth funds (5%), endowments and foundations (2%), banks (2%) and funds of funds (2%). Notably, insurance companies’ proportion among the top 100 alternative asset managers grew from 10% to 12% of total manager assets.

“Although the alternative asset manager universe continues to be dominated by pension fund assets, as solutions have continued to evolve that are better aligned to investor needs and incorporate lower cost structures, we have seen growing interest from other investor groups, such as insurers looking to lock in alpha opportunities presented by continued volatility,” said Morrow.

Pension fund assets managed by the top 100 alternative asset managers now stand at $1.6 trillion, up 9% compared to last year’s study, and represent 51% of their total assets under management. Real estate managers continue to have the largest share of pension fund assets with 41%, followed by private equity funds of funds (18%), hedge funds (12%), infrastructure (8%), illiquid credit (8%), private equity (7%) and funds of hedge funds (5%).

According to the latest data in the research, Bridgewater Associates is the largest manager in terms of overall assets under management, with over $116 billion invested in direct hedge funds. TH Real Estate — an affiliate of Nuveen, the investment management arm of TIAA — is the largest real estate manager globally, overseeing more than $105 billion in assets, while Blackstone continues to look after the highest volume of private equity and fund of hedge funds assets at just over $100 billion and $71 billion respectively. Prudential Private Placement Investors is the most significant illiquid credit manager with nearly $81 billion under management.

The top 25 ranking of alternative asset managers


Name of parent organization


AUM (USD millions)

Asset class


Bridgewater Associates

United States


Direct hedge funds


TH Real Estate (1)

United States


Real estate strategies



United States


Real estate strategies



United States


Direct private equity


Macquarie Group



Direct infrastructure funds


PGIM (2)

United States


Real estate strategies


Prudential Private Placement Investors

United States


Illiquid credit


CBRE Global Investors

United States


Real estate strategies


UBS Asset Management



Real estate strategies


TPG Capital**

United States


Direct private equity funds



United States


Funds of hedge funds


AQR Capital Management

United States


Direct hedge funds


J.P. Morgan Asset Management

United States


Real estate strategies


Principal Global Investors

United States


Real estate strategies


Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

United States


Direct private equity funds


AXA Investment Managers



Real estate strategies


Man Group

United Kingdom


Direct hedge funds


Brookfield Asset Management



Real estate strategies



United States


Real estate strategies


LaSalle Investment Management

United States


Real estate strategies


Goldman Sachs Asset Management

United States


Private equity fund of funds


AEW (3)

United States


Real estate strategies


The Carlyle Group**

United States


Direct private equity funds


Providence Equity Partners**

United States


Direct private equity funds


Advent International

United Kingdom


Direct private equity funds

*Data is derived from the Global Billion Dollar Club, published by Hedge Fund Intelligence.

**Figures show total assets under management, obtained from publicly available sources.

(1) TH Real Estate is an affiliate of Nuveen (the investment management arm of TIAA).

(2) The assets reported here reflect those of the PGIM Real Estate and PGIM Real Estate Finance divisions.

(3) AEW Capital Management is an affiliated investment management firm of Natixis Global Asset Management, thus contributing to the illustration of Natixis’ overall capabilities in global alternative offerings.

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