International Investors Shoot for Equities and Alternative Assets

Mercer report explores key trends in international investor activity, including a reduction in fixed income in favor of equities.

Institutional investors representing almost $5 trillion in assets across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America are drifting somewhat in the same direction in different key aspects, a report by global consulting firm Mercer concluded.

Mercer found that investors are trading sizable amounts of their fixed income holdings in their asset allocations to make room for investments in the equities markets, with Japan and South Korea putting an emphasis on this strategy. The report found that of the total group they studied, there was an aggregate 8% increase towards their exposure in equities, resulting in portfolios with average weights of 46% to fixed income, 40% to equities, 10% to cash/other, and 4% to alternatives. The latter is gaining traction as well, especially in the likes of infrastructure and private equity.

“We believe the trend will become more pronounced in the future as many investors continue their education and decision-making process to move into these asset classes,” Mercer said in the report. South Korea and Taiwan collectively have the largest allocations towards alternative investments, with Argentina and Mexico following close behind.

These investors are facing a multitude of separate issues that require a keen eye on strategy and market movements. Mercer notes that one of the many market trends is an indication of overextension of credit, while at the same time, government policies that provide a boon to business practices and consumer optimism continue to increase. The two contrasting equity and bond markets meeting in this fashion provides the potential for turbulence going forward.

The study found that growth market economies in these regions are blossoming into global economic leaders, with almost 70% of growth now originating from these economies. This is due in part to more of the world’s population, especially in these markets, growing into middle class or wealthy societal rankings; 54% of the world’s middle class resides in Asia.

The countries do hold a bias towards investments in their own countries, however, a creeping sense of liberalization is pushing these investors past their traditional boundaries for the sake of portfolio diversification.

“In general, we are seeing trends toward more open markets, which enable investors to better diversify their portfolios across geography, sectors, asset classes, and currencies,” said Fiona Dunsirem, Wealth Leader, Growth Markets at Mercer. “They often face regulatory restrictions on investments outside their home countries, as well as needing to address political, economic, and demographic shifts.”

Mercer normally reports on pension trends both domestically and internationally.

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