Sovereign Funds Indicate Shift in Strategies: State Street

Passive management, emerging market debt are new favorites

State Street Global Advisors announced Tuesday that many of the world's leading sovereign funds have been forced to reassess their investment strategies and risk management as a result of the recession.

“Official sector asset managers - central banks, governments and sovereign wealth funds – have not been immune to the difficult market conditions," John Nugée, senior managing director of SSgA’s Official Institutions Group, said in a statement. "Many have re-examined the performance of their funds, lessons they should draw from the market turmoil and the extra defenses they need in their approach. In many cases the review confirmed that their guiding principles were correct, but a number have decided to make some important changes.”

Among the changes implemented by those funds is a move away from active management to passive strategies. Given the difficulties fund managers suffered during the recession, some sovereign funds are turning toward a more diversified set of market betas, and away from managers seeking alpha, according to SSgA.

Additionally, there is greater focus on emerging market debt as yields from traditional assets classes have fallen. Aside from "attractive returns" associated with emerging market debt, the asset class is also seen as a long-term safe haven by some sovereign funds.

Land and infrastructure are also being examined as ways to help diversify portfolios, but, according to State Street, there is still "a lot of work" to make this into a workable strategy. While there is some renewed interest in disaster insurance, coverage is expensive and sovereign funds are recognizing that it may not be a viable option.

SSgA released these findings in a report, "Current Issues in Official Sector Asset Management."

“When losses occur, questions are not only asked about the scale of these, but also how they happened,” Nugée added. “The last few years have shaken many previously firmly held convictions and beliefs of sovereign asset holders about the markets, investment theory and the correct way to manage asset portfolios. However, despite this re-examination, they still look well placed to continue to develop and prosper.”

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