Towers Watson Sees Clients’ Smart Beta Assets Double in a Year

  Towers Watson Sees Clients’Smart Beta Assets Double in a Year

Business Wire

NEW YORK -- February 19, 2014

Global professional services company Towers Watson’s (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW)
institutional investor clients made over twice as many new investments in
smart beta strategies during 2013, approximately $11 billion across over 180
portfolios, compared to the year before (approximately $5 billion across
almost 130 portfolios), according to company data. Towers Watson’s clients
globally have now allocated over $32 billion to smart beta strategies to
almost 500 portfolios, across a range of asset classes.

“It is no surprise that smart beta strategies are being implemented at this
rate, given their inherent relevance for most institutional investors,” said
Craig Baker, global head of investment research at Towers Watson.
“Interestingly, it has taken some time to get to this point, given that we
started developing the concept in 2000 as part of our work on structured
alpha, then in more detail in 2002, as beta prime. While it’s satisfying that
our clients have been able to benefit first from a range of smart beta
strategies, we are somewhat concerned about the proliferation of products now
on the market that claim to be smart beta, particularly in the equity area.”

The data also show that, last year, Towers Watson’s clients — which include
pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and insurance companies — carried out
alternative asset class selections worth more than four times as much (over
$12.5 billion) as they did five years ago. Among alternatives, real estate
attracted the most interest (over $4 billion), where one-quarter is in smart
beta, followed by direct hedge funds (over $3 billion) and infrastructure
(over $2 billion), where one-third was in smart beta strategies. In the same
period, direct private equity attracted approximately $1.5 billion, while
illiquid credit (distressed debt and lending) attracted roughly $1 billion in

“Throughout the past five years, the alternative fund managers that we have
put into client portfolios have shown their ability to adapt to the changing
environment to generate good net-of-fees performances,” said Baker. “Larger
institutional funds are likely to continue investing in funds directly for
most alternative asset classes rather than via funds of funds, as investors
continue to focus on better fee structures, greater transparency and smart
beta options. Indeed, there were only three fund of hedge funds mandate
selections in 2013, which demonstrates this point.”

According to the data, bond selections by Towers Watson’s clients in 2013
totaled $22 billion, of which the majority were invested in global
(approximately $11 billion) and U.S. (roughly $5 billion) mandates, followed
by emerging-market mandates (approximately $3 billion). In 2013, the total
number of multi-region bond selections exceeded the combined total of all
single-region bond mandates.

“These figures confirm a longer-term trend of investors seeking greater
efficiency, diversification and diversity in bond mandates, for example,
favoring global solutions over a home-market bias, and an increasing
acceptance of alternative credit asset classes into the strategic asset mix,”
said Baker.

In equities, global mandates (totaling approximately $10 billion) continued to
be the most popular with Towers Watson's clients in 2013, followed by U.S.
equity (roughly $3 billion), global ex-U.S. equity and U.S. small/mid-cap
equity mandates (each approximately $2 billion). In total, equity mandate
selections last year accounted for approximately $24 billion in assets.

“These figures confirm an established trend of investors investing away from
local markets as they seek to diversify their portfolios more globally.
Interestingly, the number of equity smart beta mandates doubled in 2013, and
tripled in size of assets, compared to the year before,” said Baker.

Manager selection activity globally at Towers Watson exceeded 920 selections
in 2013, reflecting around US$79 billion of assets moved for approximately 300
clients. This compares to assets moved of roughly US$68 billion, for
approximately 690 selections, five years ago.

Towers Watson Investment

Towers Watson Investment is focused on creating financial value for the
world’s leading institutional investors through its expertise in risk
assessment, strategic asset allocation, fiduciary management and investment
manager selection. Towers Watson’s Investment business has around 800
associates worldwide, assets under advisory of over US$2 trillion and over
US$60 billion of assets under management.

About Towers Watson

Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services
company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people,
risk and financial management. The company offers consulting, technology and
solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and
capital management. Towers Watson has more than 14,000 associates around the
world and is located on the web at


Towers Watson
Ed Emerman, +1 609-275-5162
Binoli Savani, +1 703-258-7648
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