Total assets of the world’s largest 300 pension funds grew by over 3% in 2014 (compared to around 6% in 2013) to reach a new high of over US$15 trillion according to Pensions & Investments (P&I) and Towers Watson research. Ten years ago total assets at the world’s largest pension funds grew by 27% in that year to reach US$8.4 trillion and move above the previous high of US$6.6 trillion reached in 2003.

The P&I / Towers Watson global 300 research, conducted in conjunction with Pensions & Investments, a leading US investment newspaper, shows that by individual region North America had the highest five-year combined compound growth rate of around 8% compared to Europe (over 7%) and Asia Pacific (around 4%). The research also shows that the world’s top 300 pension funds now represent around 43% of global pension assets.

The world’s top 300 pension funds constitute around 43% of global pension assets*
Top 300 pension funds constitute around 43% of global pension assets
*The Global Pension Asset Study (GPAS) is a Towers Watson study which gathers yearly data on total assets, asset allocation, and plan structure for occupational pension plans in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, UK and US.

Defined benefit (DB) funds account for 67% of total assets, down from 75% five years ago. During 2014 defined contribution (DC) assets grew the most, by almost 5%, followed by defined benefit plans assets (almost 4%) and reserve funds (over 1%) while hybrid plan assets decreased by over 2%.

Sovereign pension funds continue to feature strongly in the ranking with 27 of them accounting for 28% of assets and totalling around US$4.2 trillion. The 114 public sector funds in the research had assets of US$6.0 trillion in 2014 and account for 39% of the total. Private sector industry funds (60) and corporate funds (99) account for 14% and 19% respectively of assets in the research.

Top 300 pension fund assets (2009 to 2014) Split by fund domicile
Top 300 pension fund assets (2009 to 2014) Split by fund domicile