Banking

Retail investors set to drive next wave of alternatives AUM growth

Despite a challenging macroeconomic outlook, total global AUM for private markets is expected to grow to $18.3trn by the end of 2027, from $9.3trn at the end of 2021, according to the report, titled The Future of Alternatives in 2027.

When hedge funds are included, alternative assets AUM are expected to reach $23.3trn in the next five years, up from $13.7trn at the end of 2021.

The portion of retail investor involvement in private markets is likely to remain in the low single digits, Preqin said, although the firm expects it to increase significantly. 

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“Private capital fund managers have long tried to tap the retail market, having recognised the potential for a fresh source of capital,” wrote Cameron Joyce, deputy head of research insights at Preqin.

“However, they have often been left frustrated, but not through a lack of demand. The paucity of regulatory approved products tailored for retail participation has been one of the barriers, but a positive regulatory stance is beginning to change that.”

Barriers to entry

Institutional investors in the US and Europe are approaching their asset allocation targets, leaving relatively few fundraising opportunities for private markets asset managers. As institutional fundraising slows, fund managers are pivoting to retail given their much lower existing allocations. 

However, they may remain more risk-averse, given the tighter liquidity conditions and slowing growth, while a lack of transparency in, and knowledge of, private markets has often held some investors back, the report reads. The risks associated with investing in private markets may also be less well understood by retail investors. 

Retail investors hungry for alternative investment trusts

“One particular concern may be the emergence of solutions that over-promise when it comes to providing liquidity in the secondary market,” Joyce wrote. 

“The ability for individual investors to sell fund stakes on a secondary platform may appear attractive, and even help to induce flows into funds. However, providing liquidity for what are ultimately illiquid underlying assets can lead to obvious challenges should market conditions take a turn for the worse.”

Buildout of private markets platforms

To facilitate capital raising from retail investors, private capital fund managers have sought to leverage the distribution networks of banks’ wealth management and private banking platforms. 

For instance, BlackRock has partnered with Credit Suisse to provide a series of private equity vehicles tailored to retail investors. However, the report noted that one of the key drawbacks to these platforms is that they lack the distribution networks of established bank networks. 

“As a result, the amount of funds that they have been able to help allocate remains low compared with the wealth management industry. Nevertheless, they have been able to persuade several prominent fund managers to accept investment flows from their platforms,” wrote Joyce. 

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Over the longer term, sustained growth in retail investment flows may weigh on private equity returns, Preqin said. This would be due to the flow of additional funds increasing competition for deals and eroding the illiquidity premium inherent in private markets.

Joyce argued that the infusion of retail investor flows into the asset class would bring “more transparency, liquidity and competition for deals”. 

“This is noteworthy, as these factors have the potential to erode returns over the long term, and ultimately confuse the distinction between public and private markets,” he said.

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