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Press Release

Top 500 managers see assets hit record $119.5 trillion

Nearly half of names on list a decade ago have since disappeared

October 18, 2021


MELBOURNE, October 18, 2021 – Assets under management (AuM) at the world’s 500 largest asset managers have reached a new record of US$119.5 trillion, according to new research from the Thinking Ahead Institute. As of the end of 2020, this represents an increase of 14.5% on the previous year when total AuM was previously US$104.4 trillion.

The research, conducted in conjunction with Pensions & Investments, a leading U.S. investment newspaper, confirms growing concentration among the top 20 managers whose market share increased during the period to 44% of total assets.

Of the top 500 managers, 221 names which featured on the list a decade ago in 2011 are now absent in 2021, demonstrating a quickening pace of competition, consolidation and rebranding.

Blackrock has retained its position as the largest asset manager in the ranking, followed by Vanguard holding its second place position for the seventh consecutive year. Of the top 20, 14 are U.S. managers, accounting for 78.6% of the top 20 AUM. On the whole, passive investments represent 26%, an increase of 16.2% compared to a 15.4% growth in actively managed AUM.

Asset managers have also been addressing the growing demand from more sophisticated asset owners, for more complex and tailored investment solutions. Outsourced CIO, Total Portfolio Approach (TPA) and ETFs have all been popular sources of growth for the world’s top managers, to meet clients’ increasing requirements for returns.

Roger Urwin, co-founder of the Thinking Ahead Institute, comments: “We have witnessed unprecedented change within the investment industry – accelerated dramatically by the pandemic. In particular, sustainability is no longer just a luxury for some firms. Instead, during the pandemic, asset managers from all corners of the world have became even more aware of the interconnectedness of the financial system with society and the environment.”

According to the research, passively-managed assets under management among the largest firms grew to a total of US$8.3 trillion in 2020, up from US$4.8 trillion in 2016.

Roger Urwin adds: “Asset managers have always had the ambition to develop and innovate. We have seen this particularly with ESG mandates, which increased by 40% in 2020. The biggest contributor to this was the growth in ESG ETFs.”

Simon James, Head of Credit at Willis Towers Watson in Australia, adds: “We are seeing similar investment themes in the Australian market. Sustainability is undoubtedly the top priority for most asset owners. At the same time, we are also seeing a notable shift in thinking around diversity and inclusion (D&I) and more deliberate efforts to identify asset managers with positive D&I attributes. It is encouraging to see half of managers surveyed have increased the proportion of minorities and women in senior positions, though these groups are still significantly underrepresented in absolute terms.”

Additional research findings*:

  • Half of managers surveyed (50%) increased the proportion of minorities and women in top positions, over the course of the last year
  • Client interest in sustainable investing increased across 91% of the firms surveyed
  • 78% of managers increased resources deployed to technology and big data and 66% increased resources deployed to cyber security
  • The number of product offerings increased for more than two thirds (70%) of surveyed firms
  • Aggregate investment management fee levels decreased for a quarter (25%) of the surveyed managers – but fee levels increased for 21% of managers
  • A majority of managers (59%) experienced an increase in the level of regulatory oversight

The World’s largest money managers

Ranked by total assets under management, in U.S. millions, as of 31 Dec 2020
Rank Fund Market Total Assets
1 BlackRock U.S. $8,676,680
2 Vanguard Group U.S. $7,148,807
3 Fidelity Investments U.S. $3,609,098
4 State Street Group U.S. $3,467,467
5 Allianz Group Germany $2,934,265
6 J.P. Morgan Chase U.S. $2,716,000
7 Capital Group U.S. $2,383,707
8 BNY Mellon U.S. $2,210,574
9 Goldman Sachs Group U.S. $2,145,000
10 Amundi France $2,126,391
11 Legal & General Group U.K. $1,736,402
12 Prudential Financial U.S. $1,720,958
13 UBS Switzerland $1,641,000
14 Franklin Templeton U.S. $1,497,955
15 Morgan Stanley U.S. $1,474,627
16 T. Rowe Price U.S. $1,470,500
17 Wells Fargo U.S. $1,455,000
18 BNP Paribas France $1,430,900
19 Northern Trust U.S. $1,405,300
20 Natixis Investment Managers France $1,389,663

About the Thinking Ahead Institute

The Thinking Ahead Institute was established in January 2015 and is a global not-for-profit investment research and innovation member group made up of engaged institutional asset owners and service providers committed to changing and improving the investment industry for the benefit of the end saver. It has 45 members around the world and is an outgrowth of Willis Towers Watson Investments’ Thinking Ahead Group, which was set up in 2002.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas – the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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