Two white papers released at the end of December by State Street Corp. and the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds reported that over the past three to five years, sovereign wealth funds have significantly increased allocations to private and emerging markets.
They have also reduced their exposure to listed and developed-market investments.
The research also looked at SWFs’ motivations for entering private markets (private equity, real estate and infrastructure), the approaches they had to develop to be successful and what they had learned.
One paper examines how SWFs are keeping up with financial markets in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It includes findings from a survey of eight IFSWF members, representing a wide range of SWFs.
“Much like all investors in today’s economic climate, SWFs are balancing traditional financial theory with the complexities presented by today’s real-world circumstances,” Will Kinlaw, senior managing director and global head of State Street’s academic affiliate, State Street Associates, said in a statement.
“They recognize that, in many cases, their long investment horizons represent an advantage, and they are seeking investments that will provide attractive long-term return, risk and diversification properties. What looks appealing based on monthly returns may look much less so when the horizon is measured over multiple years.”
The survey found that none of the funds had increased their allocation to foreign government bonds, but half of them had reduced their exposure to these securities.
In addition, half had added to their investment emerging markets, with none reporting reductions.
As a group, some 30% of the funds in the research had substantially expanded their alternative, unlisted and private investment portfolios, and none said they had reduced their exposure.
“One of the biggest findings from this research is the growing focus on private markets,” Kinlaw said. “Despite the allure of these investments, SWFs are aware of the potential risks, with illiquidity topping the list.