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Institutions turn to active management and illiquid assets

By Andrew Rickard | January 29 2016 09:32AM

A survey conducted by BlackRock has found that large institutional investors are looking to active management and illiquid, alternative investments to boost returns.

Last month, Blackrock polled 170 of its largest institutional clients about changes they may make to their asset allocations this year. The respondents, who combined have about $6.6 trillion in assets, expect to rely on more active management in 2016. They also plan to use illiquid assets, including private credit and real assets, as a way to meet their long-term liabilities.

Equities and fixed income investments both appear to be falling out of favour. Globally 33% of the respondents indicated that they plan to decrease the amount they allocate to stocks, while only 18% intend to increase this amount. For fixed income, 30% of institutions say they expect modest reductions while 24% plan to increase the amount of fixed income investments they hold.

In terms of active versus passive management, 25% of the companies surveyed said they intend to increase their allocations to active managers compared to 16% who plan to increase their index-based allocations.

Blackrock points out that, as managers reduce their allocations to other investments, they are replacing them with more illiquid assets in the hopes of earning higher returns. More than half of the respondents are increasing their allocation to private credit, and this was closely followed by real assets (53% plan to increase), real estate (47% plan to increase), and private equity (39% plan increase).

“Recent market volatility is driving a repricing of assets globally. The ripple effect from recent events is causing investors to actively manage risk and seek alternative sources of returns. Investors are attempting to look past the current market environment and find alpha generating opportunities that match their liabilities,” comments Mark McCombe, senior managing director and global head of BlackRock’s institutional client business.  “Many investors are looking to illiquid assets to insulate themselves from market volatility and reap the rewards of illiquidity premia.”

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