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The best of 2023

In 2023, readers embraced our in-depth analysis and Investor Profiles as we continue our quest for a deeper understanding of institutional investment best practice and driving the industry to produce better outcomes for stakeholders. Thank you to all our interview subjects, readers and supporters over the last year. Below is a look at the most popular stories of 2023.

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. Our access to senior investment professionals globally and our understanding of the context of their decisions is unequalled.

In 2023 we continued to deliver in-depth Investor Profiles showcasing the thinking of global CIOs, and we focused in on some new initiatives including our Asset Owner Directory and the Global Pension Transparency Benchmark.

We now have readers at asset owners from 95 countries, with combined assets of $48 trillion, and we are also pleased to say that in 2023 we significantly increased our pageviews and our user base with our readers spending more time on our site.

ESG remained a key focus for institutional investor readers this year, a subject we have been writing about since 2009. But as investors in the US in particular came under greater political scrutiny for their decisions around ESG we explored the topic from a number of new angles.

A candid interview with Utah Retirement Systems’ CIO John Skjervem was the most read story of 2023, Utah Retirement Systems: Why ESG is a waste of time. In the interview Skjervem said the only way to solve the climate emergency is to keep investing in fossil fuels. He said divestment doesn’t work, Scope 3 reporting will tie companies in regulatory knots and ESG integration threatens pension funds’ long-term returns and their ability to finance the transition.

Our deep dive into The politicisation of investments at US public funds revealed the complexity of the impact of partisan politics on the ability of CIOs to do their jobs. The analysis highlights the need for improved governance practices particularly around delegated authority to prevent the undue political influence over investment decisions.

“From an investment perspective I’m trying to use every tool I can to make better investment decisions – any other CIO will say the same thing,” says Andrew Palmer, CIO of the $63 billion Maryland State Retirement and Pension System. “Politicians are taking the ESG bat and hitting each other with it. And that has made the life of people trying to make investment decisions more difficult.”

On a more practical level the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme has produced new climate scenarios that are more informative for investors by focusing on shorter-term scenarios and switching the focus from temperature pathways to the complex interplay of physical and human factors. See How to rewrite Modern Portfolio Theory to integrate climate risk. After a University of Exeter commissioned report, the £75.5 billion fund aims to develop a long-term investment outlook informed by the scenarios and draw out investment implications for capital markets expectations, top-down portfolio construction, and country/sector preferences.

Other stories that readers were most interested in this year included the search for CalPERS’ next CIO, which at the time of writing had still not been resolved; celebrating the successes and evolution of the CFA institute; and the results from our CIO Sentiment Survey which is released every February with our partner Deloitte/Casey Quirk.

From an investment perspective the work of CPP Investments’ active equities team; and the new team structure at CalSTRS were of most interest as investors around the world grapple with the tough macro economic conditions and organisational pressures.

Last year we launched the Asset Owner Directory which is an interactive tool to give readers an insight into the world of global asset owners. It includes key information for the largest asset owners around the world such as key personnel, asset allocation and performance. Importantly, for context and depth, the Asset Owner Directory also includes an archive of all the stories that have been written by Top1000funds.com about these investors over a period of more than 12 years, allowing readers to better understand the strategy, governance and investment decisions of these important asset owners. This initiative was very well received by the industry and is now the most visited part of our site.

The third edition of the Global Pension Transparency Benchmark , a collaboration between Top1000funds.com and Toronto-based CEM Benchmarking, revealed that increased scrutiny on public disclosures is driving measurable improvements. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of the reviewed organisations improved their total transparency scores in this year’s iteration of the results which 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.

In 2023 we hosted three in person events in Singapore, Stanford and Oxford, bringing together asset owners from all over the world to discuss investment risks and opportunities.

One of the defining aspects of our event programs is the integration of academia alongside our industry thought-leaders and next year we will introduce our Research Hub which will be a curated resource showcasing the work of all the academics we partner with across our event programs.

All of our initiatives are aimed at providing a deeper understanding of best practice and driving the industry to produce better outcomes for stakeholders. Thankyou to all our speakers, spsonsors and delegates that made those events such a massive success. We’re going to do it all again next year and kick off our event calendar with the Fiduciary Investors Symposium in Singapore from March 12-14. Hope to see you there.

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