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The best of 2021

One of our defining characteristics, and main objectives, at Top1000funds.com, is to provide behind-the-scenes insight into the strategy and implementation of the world’s largest investors. In 2021, as the impact of the COVID-induced pandemic continued to be felt, we were on our toes to innovate our media and event offerings in a bid to give you what you needed to navigate a changing world.

We delivered four outstanding digital events and wrote more than 300 investor profiles and other analytical and research-driven pieces on the global institutional investment universe.

We now have readers at asset owners from 95 countries, with combined assets of $48 trillion, and we are also pleased to say that our readers are spending more time on our site and there are more people visiting, so thank you to all our interview subjects, readers and supporters over the last year. Below is a look at the most popular stories of 2021.

In February 2021 we launched the Global Pension Transparency Benchmark, a collaboration between Top1000funds.com and Toronto-based CEM Benchmarking, which ranks 15 countries on public disclosures of key value generation elements for the five largest pension fund organisations within each country. The overall country benchmark scores look at four factors: governance and organisation; performance; costs; and responsible investing; which are measured by assessing hundreds of underlying components. We focused on transparency because we believe transparency and accountability go hand in hand and lead to better decision making, and ultimately better outcomes.

AIMCo, the C$118 billion Canadian fund appointed its first chief investment strategy officer splitting the investment function between the top down strategy and bottom up implementation responsibilities. We spoke to Amit Prakash, as part of our Investor Profile series, about how the new function will add valuable investment insights to clients.

ESG remained a key focus for institutional investors this year (a reminder that ESG is topic du jour for the industry but Top1000funds.com has been reporting on ESG since 2009). As more investors around the world look at how to invest with a diversity lens we examined how investors in Japan, Sweden, the US and Canada are addressing the diversity question as part of their internal organisation and in their investments and the managers they work with.

Bridgewater’s head of investment research Karen Karniol-Tambour explained how integrating impact alongside risk and return is a revolution that will see more diversification among investor allocations to asset classes such as commodities. Elsewhere, it requires using multiple data sets to analyse stocks and sovereign bond allocations to see the real-world impact of a company’s product or services, and which governments are heading to net-zero.

And interestingly, research conducted by Scientific Beta looks at the performance of ESG strategies and asks whether non-financial information in ESG scores offers additional performance benefits. The research finds that the effect of risk adjusting the performance of ESG strategies shrinks the apparent alpha to a level where none of the strategies delivers positive alpha.

Earlier in the year we hosted celebrated economist Joseph Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia Business School at one of our Sustainability events. He said that the slow pace around developing a comprehensive approach to debt in emerging markets and developing countries will result in a weaker global recovery. He urged for a restructuring of debt in a coordinated approach between the public and private sector.

More recently we looked at how the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the state-owned investor with an estimated $700 billion assets under management, is introducing more technology in its own internal processes and determined to become a more active – and reactive – investor. The fund’s decision to invest more in its own in-house technology came with the realisation that a slow down in its capacity to generate alpha was linked to a lack of investment in big data and AI.

Perhaps one of the most personal stories I have ever written is one remembering David Villa, the executive director and chief investment officer of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board who passed away this year.

David Villa was a unique thinker and generous with his ideas. It was hard not to be swept away by his passion for change. He had a deep thoughtfulness and desire to improve outcomes for his members and the many other pension fund members around the world for whom his peers managed money. This is worth remembering and anchoring ourselves in as we reflect on the year that was.

Thanks for reading.



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