Transparency: a double edged sword for SWFs

Sovereign wealth funds, facing criticism from Western regulators and politicians for their opaqueness, are keen to open up their books.

While Norway is a leader in the SWF league of transparency, other countries like China have started publishing annual reports.

But is transparency all good for SWFs?

Gary Smith, head of  central banks, supranational institutions and sovereign wealth funds at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, says the pressure to open up has raised unseen consequences of having to face domestic pressures.

In his analysis, the relationship between the level of assets under management and the level of public comfort is assymetric. As shown in this chart, when their AUM rise, the public is happy. However, if AUM fall at all, they become extremely unhappy.

His recent trip to Singapore has confirmed this. A taxidriver complained to him about the poor performance of the country’s SWF, GIC.

Sovereign wealth tie-ups

Sovereign wealth funds are increasingly working in concert to make joint strategic investments.

China, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait are among those which have recently formed investment partnerships with each other.

Why are they doing this? First of all, by linking up capital and resouces, SWFs can leverage up, optimise local knowledge, spread risks and maximise returns.