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Introduction

Welcome to our sixth annual study of sovereign investors, which gathers unique perspectives from senior investment professionals managing the assets and reserves of sovereign wealth funds, state pension funds and central banks globally. This is a unique undertaking, being an evidence-based study with insights drawn together from face-to-face interviews which seek to capture the depth, colour and context of the thinking of these investors.

It is also unique in terms of its scale. Our 2018 study includes a broadened-out central bank sample, reflecting their growing importance and maturity as investors. As a result, some 126 sovereign investors are now represented in the study. The increase in sample size, together with the strong investment returns achieved in 2017, means these investors now manage assets of over US$17 trillion. This is a store of financial value of exceptional scale, comparable
in size to the world’s top 300 pension funds. This is true investing at scale, and it influences each of the themes of this year’s study.

Our first theme looks at the equities asset class for the first time. Broader adoption has led to equities surpassing bonds as the leading asset class within sovereign portfolios. The use of active, passive, and factor management is fluid, with factor management the clearest near-term beneficiary.

We return to look at private markets in our second theme. Private markets are favoured by many sovereign investors thanks to the long-term and illiquid nature of many of the private markets asset classes. We found the role of private markets changing in portfolios as a broader set of benefits has emerged and investments are seen as a distinct, uncorrelated set of risk premia.

We have embraced an important commercial issue in theme three, which examines the thinking of sovereign investors in relation to fees and expenses. We found that sovereigns have well-formed views of fees, the incentives they create, and the alignment of those incentives to objectives. Sovereign investors are clear-headed about their objectives and prepared to pay for results.

Central banks are at the heart of the fourth theme. Our expanded coverage provides a more complete view of this segment and finds it in transition as reserve portfolios expand beyond what is needed for traditional purposes. Smaller central banks are moving down a relatively well-defined path for investing surplus reserves, while larger and more experienced central banks are now adopting more institutional portfolio characteristics.

Finally we conclude this year’s study with a more conceptual theme in the shape of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies as an asset class are unlikely to make an early appearance in sovereign portfolios, but there is considerable interest in the practical applications of cryptocurrencies, especially amongst central banks, and the broader application and investment potential of the underlying technologies.

As always I hope you find the key themes in this year’s report to be both highly relevant and informative. If you would like to discuss any of the findings or indeed have any questions, please do get in touch.

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Alexander Millar

Head of EMEA sovereigns & Head of UK Institutional Business

Email

+44 1491 416180