Quantitative easing and minimal interest rates in many leading markets are having a negative impact on the performance of Asia’s leading asset owners, our latest AI300 survey reveals.

For the first time since AsianInvestor began compiling the data in 2003, the total collective assets under management (AUM) of the region’s largest investors declined. Their cumulative assets dropped from $36.6 trillion in 2015’s survey to $34.4 trillion this year, a fall of 6% (all our AUM numbers are expressed in US dollars).

It’s a notable drop. Even in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, Asian assets continued to grow year-on-year, but they failed to do so in 2015.

With economic stimulus and quantitative easing still very much on the agenda in 2015 and 2016, it is not surprising that these numbers are in retreat. The UK’s move to cut its benchmark interest rate to a historic low of 25 basis points on Friday extends the rate-cutting trend among many leading western economies, which has driven many benchmark bond yields into outright negative territory.

The shifting sands of asset returns have had an impact on the organisations represented in the top 300, particularly among the lower 100 asset owners. Of particular note is the number of Korean players and the negative growth of the Australian funds.

Several new Korean names have been added to the list, including insurance companies. The list below, of numbers 201-300, contains 20 Korean asset owners. On average they have seen their assets grow by on average of 9.5% in dollar terms since last year's survey.

Hanwha General is one of the Korean insurers featuring in the list for the first time this year. Its assets grew by 13.3% in the year to February 2016. Chief investment officer Sim Myung-joon suggests the healthy growth figures for Korean insurers, which he said averaged 10% last year in Korean won terms, is at least partly attributable to a strong year in net income terms.

The Korean Insurance Research Institute estimates the net income of Korean non-life insurers increased by 15.6% over the course of 2015. These companies enjoyed a particularly strong end to the year, putting on 30% in the last quarter of 2015 alone, compared to the previous year. The return on equity for Korea's non-life insurers was 9.6% over the whole of 2015.

Additionally, the net income of Korean life insurers at the end of 2015 had increased by 11% from the previous year, while the insurers’ total premium income increased by 6%. Sim says the strong showing for life insurers was partly due to Korean individuals shifting assets from pure investment to pension and insurance products.

Aussie asset drops

While Korean insurers enjoyed strong asset performance, Australian funds have had a contrasting experience. Several firms from the country that made the cut last year dropped off the bottom of the list this year, while the average AUM for the 24 Australian institutions represented in the lower third of the list is down 14.67%.

This is, in part, a stark reflection of the tougher times Aussie funds are experiencing as they struggle to maintain the level of assets seen during the recent commodity boom years. However, these negative numbers should also be considered in the context of the Australian dollar’s fall against the US dollar over the last two years.

The Australian dollar has been trending down from parity with the US dollar in mid-2013 to today’s A$1.31 level. Since many of the Australian funds report to a financial year ending in June, the fall of the currency in the 12 months to June 2015 was a major contributor to the Aussie asset owners' negative numbers.

Chart: Asian currency FX rates -  AUD-USD (orange line), KRW-USD (blue line), MYR-USD (red line)

Source: Bloomberg

Elsewhere in the region, the decline in the AUM of the included asset owners reflect difficult trading conditions, especially in the second half of 2015, when many institutions raised their cash levels. In the case of Malaysia, funds were generally in decline owing to poor local market sentiment and a weak currency.

As in previous years, asset numbers for sovereign funds and some official institutions are based on accepted industry estimates, confirmed by input from a number of industry experts.

The AI300 is the result of detailed research by AI’s team, supported by input from our sponsor firms Willis Towers Watson, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Nomura Research Institute (NRI). Shin Kwangho and the WTW team in Seoul helped us with the Korean numbers, while Sadayuki Horie of NRI provide the data on Japanese institutions. Bernice Cornforth, AsianInvestor's head of polls, compiled the listing and produced the spin-out tables.

The AI300 - numbers 201-300
2016 2015 Institution Figures to Country 2016 AUM ($m) $ change % change
201 194 Labor Retirement Fund Dec-15 Taiwan 20,061 100 0.50%
202 200 Bank Mandiri Dec-15 Indonesia 20,054 -3,117 -13.45%
203 196 Labour Insurance Fund Dec-15 Taiwan 19,998 305 1.55%
204 198 China Reinsurance Dec-15 China 19,846 2,497 14.39%
205 263 Kasikorn Bank Mar-16 Thailand 19,527 530 2.79%
206 166 QBE Insurance Group Dec-15 Australia 19,495 -4,790 -19.73%
207 211 Wealth Personal Superannuation and Pension Fund Jun-15 Australia 19,287 -1,328 -6.44%
208 207 Monetary Authority of Macau Dec-15 Macau 18,890 1,490 8.56%
209 199 Union Bank of India Mar-16 India 18,162 769 4.42%
210 203 Reserve Bank of New Zealand Apr-16 New Zealand 17,748 -8 -0.04%
211 206 Korea Teacher's Credit Union Dec-15 South Korea 17,479 491 2.89%
212 189 IDBI Bank Mar-16 India 17,393 -572 -3.19%
213 257 Land Bank of the Philippines Mar-16 Philippines 17,310 2,905 20.17%
214 - Social Insurance Funds Dec-14 Vietnam 17,283 - -
215 214 RHB Capital Mar-16 Malaysia 17,100 736 4.50%
216   Sunshine Life Insurance Dec-15 China 16,737 5,775 52.68%
217 260 KB Insurance Sep-15 South Korea 16,701 6,553 64.57%
218 248 New Pension System Dec-15 India 16,314 4,919 43.17%
219 210 Petroleum Fund of Timor-Leste Dec-15 East Timor 16,211 -612 -3.64%
220 225 Metropolitan Bank and Trust Sep-15 Philippines 16,179 1,899 13.30%
221 217 Chang Hwa Bank Dec-15 Taiwan 16,017 351 2.24%
222 204 Central Bank of India Mar-16 India 15,778 -995 -5.93%
223 228 Korea Public Fund Investment Pool Dec-15 South Korea 15,729 1,693 12.07%
224 202 Public Service Pension Fund Dec-14 Taiwan 15,472 -68 -0.44%
225 193 ESS Super Jun-15 Australia 15,380 -4,076 -20.95%
226 209 Indian Overseas Bank Mar-16 India 15,328 -1,387 -8.30%
227 212 Asgard Independence Plan Division Two Jun-15 Australia 15,274 -2,866 -15.80%
228 213 Tabung Haji (Pilgrim's Fund) Jan-16 Malaysia 15,270 -1,110 -6.78%
229 218 ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Dec-15 India 15,257 368 2.47%
230 236 Bank Central Asia Mar-16 Indonesia 15,093 2,248 17.50%
231 238 BPJS Ketenagakerjaan Dec-15 Indonesia 14,962 -109 -0.72%
232 216 Hong Leong Bank Group Dec-15 Malaysia 14,813 -1,246 -7.76%
233 229 Taishin Bank Mar-16 Taiwan 14,641 1,034 7.60%
234 215 Mercer Super Trust Jun-15 Australia 14,336 -3,119 -17.87%
235 - Metlife Life Feb-16 South Korea 14,297 902 6.74%
236 222 Bank SinoPac Dec-15 Taiwan 14,270 -275 -1.89%
237 242 Citic Bank International Dec-15 Hong Kong 13,952 1,781 14.64%
238 251 Teachers’ Pension Dec-15 South Korea 13,890 2,768 24.89%
239   Allianz Life Feb-16 South Korea 13,587 499 3.81%
240 224 Government Employees Pension Fund Dec-15 South Korea 13,520 122 0.91%
241 231 IOOF Portfolio Service Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 13,159 -2,599 -16.49%
242 223 Hostplus Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 13,072 -1,381 -9.56%
243 227 Public Sector Superannuation Scheme Jun-15 Australia 13,016 -2,595 -16.62%
244 249 Government Service Insurance System Dec-15 Philippines 12,925 -558 -4.14%
245 252 Taiwan Business Bank Dec-15 Taiwan 12,900 1,863 16.88%
246 233 Suncorp Insurance Jun-15 Australia 12,781 -3,410 -21.06%
247 244 Plum Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 12,779 -2,612 -16.97%
248 234 China Pacific Property and Casualty Insurance Dec-15 China 12,685 2 0.02%
249 - Hexie Health Insurance Dec-15 China 12,628 8,283 190.64%
250 237 Telstra Superannuation Scheme Jun-15 Australia 12,509 -2,150 -14.66%
251 221 Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation Dec-15 South Korea 12,309 -2,797 -18.52%
252 230 MLC Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 12,228 -2,645 -17.78%
253 250 Tongyang Life Insurance Feb-16 South Korea 12,187 1,018 9.11%
254 247 SBI Life Insurance Mar-16 India 12,159 623 5.40%
255 235 Bank of the Philippine Islands Mar-16 Philippines 12,054 -924 -7.12%
256 - Prudential Life Feb-16 South Korea 11,944 1,356 12.81%
257 241 Banco de Oro Dec-15 Philippines 11,939 -289 -2.37%
258 243 MiraeAsset Life Insurance Feb-16 South Korea 11,760 -420 -3.45%
259 253 HDFC Standard Life Insurance Mar-16 India 11,315 471 4.34%
260 269 Coal Miners Provident Fund Mar-15 India 11,230 2,107 23.09%
261 254 State Super Retirement Fund (NSW) Jun-15 Australia 11,158 -1,542 -12.14%
262 - AMP Retirement Trust Jun-15 Australia 11,157 -114 -1.01%
263 240 Victorian Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 11,089 -1,234 -10.01%
264 264 Export-Import Bank of Korea Dec-15 South Korea 11,069 2,092 23.31%
265 259 Shinhan Life Insurance Mar-16 South Korea 11,051 927 9.16%
266 261 Heungkuk Life Insurance Feb-16 South Korea 10,757 953 9.72%
267 220 Insurance Australia Group Dec-15 Australia 10,740 -2,423 -18.41%
268 256 Macquarie Superannuation Plan Jun-15 Australia 10,710 -1,609 -13.06%
269 239 Hour-Glass Investment Facilities Jun-15 Australia 10,635 -1,905 -15.19%
270 - Bank of Ayudhya Dec-15 Thailand 10,409 5,061 94.65%
271 282 Bank Negara Indonesia Dec-15 Indonesia 10,403 915 9.64%
272 258 Sun Life Mar-15 Regional 10,193 0 0.00%
273 274 Taspen Dec-14 Indonesia 10,122 1,726 20.56%
274 - Hanwha General Insurance Feb-16 South Korea 10,066 1,181 13.30%
275 - China-Africa Development Fund Dec-15 China 10,000 5,000 100.00%
276 265 KDB Life Feb-16 South Korea 9,397 40 0.43%
277 278 Thai Life Insurance Mar-16 Thailand 9,044 737 8.87%
278 268 Subsidised School Provident Funds Aug-15 Hong Kong 8,972 -240 -2.61%
279 262 The Kinki Osaka Bank Mar-15 Japan 8,566 -1,215 -12.42%
280 270 Housing Authority Mar-15 Hong Kong 8,531 -519 -5.73%
281 284 Guohua Life Insurance Dec-15 China 8,506 2,674 45.85%
282 292 Nepal Rastra Bank Jun-15 Nepal 7,920 1,130 16.64%
283 276 Military Mutual Aid Association Sep-15 South Korea 7,760 -740 -8.71%
284 287 HeungKuk Fire & Marine Insurance Dec-15 South Korea 7,665 518 7.24%
285 289 Hospital Authority Provident Fund Scheme Mar-15 Hong Kong 7,550 542 7.74%
286 275 Care Super Jun-15 Australia 7,540 -976 -11.47%
287 300 Thanachart Bank Mar-16 Thailand 7,402 1,226 19.85%
288 272 FWD Dec-15 Hong Kong 7,400 -1,481 -16.68%
289 280 Mine Wealth and Wellbeing Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 7,142 -883 -11.00%
290 291 Meritz Fire & Marine Insurance Mar-16 South Korea 7,086 160 2.31%
291 297 National Pension Insurance Fund Mar-16 Taiwan 7,058 669 10.46%
292 - KB Life Insurance Feb-16 South Korea 6,972 639 10.09%
293 279 Social Security System Nov-15 Philippines 6,920 -1,365 -16.48%
294 290 Commonwealth Bank Group Super Jun-15 Australia 6,859 -1,368 -16.62%
295 277 Suncorp-Metway  Jun-15 Australia 6,831 -1,548 -18.48%
296 - Mine Wealth and Wellbeing Superannuation Fund Jun-15 Australia 6,765 -1,260 -15.70%
297 285 TMB Bank Mar-16 Thailand 6,761 -698 -9.36%
298 283 Local Government Superannuation Scheme Jun-15 Australia 6,694 -1,187 -15.06%
299 293 Bangkok Life Assurance Dec-15 Thailand 6,586 -144 -2.14%
300 - Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Dec-15 India 6,511 -152 -2.29%

If you would like to see the full list of the 300 largest institutions in Asia, together with country and sector breakdowns, you can subscribe to AsianInvestor and receive the July edition by clicking here