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UK pension fund assets hit record high

UK institutional pension fund assets hit an all-time high of GBP1.7trn in 2012, having grown five per cent during the year and more than doubling in the past decade.

Global institutional pension fund assets in the 13 major markets grew by nine per cent, also to reach a new high of USD30trn, according to Towers Watson’s Global Pension Assets Study.

The growth is the continuation of a trend which started in 2009 when global assets grew 17 per cent, and in sharp contrast to a 21 per cent fall during 2008 which took assets back to 2006 levels. Global pension fund assets have now grown at over seven per cent on average per annum (in USD) since 2002, when they were under half their current level.
The study reveals that the growth in assets helped to strengthen pension fund balance sheets globally during 2012. Furthermore, the ratio of global assets to GDP is just below the level reached in 2007. According to the study, pension assets now amount to 78 per cent of global GDP, which is significantly higher than the 72 per cent recorded in 2011 and substantially higher than the 61 per cent recorded in 2008.
Chris Ford, EMEA head of investment at Towers Watson, says: “Given the extreme economic and market volatility we have experienced during the past five years it was a relief for many pension funds to finish the year in better shape than when it started, for a change. While volatile markets are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, pension funds are now generally better equipped to deal with them. During the past five years we have seen many funds deal with their governance shortfalls and as a result a growing number of funds have either more qualified people working on their investments or they have outsourced the running of all or part of their portfolios to third parties. In addition, pension funds are implementing investment strategies that are more flexible and adaptable and which contain a broader view of risk so as to make greater allowance for extreme events.”

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