EUROPE – Barclays Global Investments is still the largest manager of European pension fund assets, according to consulting firm Mercer.

And it found that the total European pension assets managed by the top 20 fund managers dropped by 10% in 2002 to 1.1 trillion euros. And the total universe of European pension assets was down 11% at 1.6 trillion euros.

BGI had 123.4 billion euros such assets under management at the end of 2002, down from 166.1 billion euros a year earlier, according to Mercer.

The top four, BGI, Deutsche Asset Management, Legal & General Investment Management and Credit Suisse, are unchanged from the prior year. State Street Global Advisors has replaced Merrill Lynch Investment Managers at number five.

MLIM has fallen to ninth, with assets declining to 53.4 billion euros from 93.2 billion euros.

The total European pension assets managed by the top 20 fund managers dropped by 10% in 2002, primarily due to the falls in equity markets.

"With the exception of Fidelity, index managers lead in the rankings once again,” said Julia Hobart, editor of the guide and a director at Mercer Oliver Wyman.

“This reflects the fact that indexation is all about size, but it is notable that the fastest growth area for a number of index managers has been in active products."

Equity mandates fell by seven percent over the year while bond mandates rose by more than four percent, Mercer found.

And it said that, in general, pension funds increased their exposure to euro zone bonds in 2002, with euro zone non-government bond mandates growing by 102%. Euro zone government bond briefs rose 77%.

Tactical asset allocation mandates grew by 361%. Hobart said: "Only a small minority of pension funds currently use standalone tactical asset allocators, but falling markets and lower expected returns have increasingly turned attention to TAA opportunities."

The data was compiled by Mercer Investment Consulting and Mercer Oliver Wyman from 168 fund managers from 21 countries.

It covers clients in 26 European countries and covering 1.6 trillion euros of European pension fund assets under management.

Mercer said the number of fund managers and analysts has decreased while client-servicing staff numbers have grown. It also found that tactical asset allocation mandates have increased more than three fold.

Just three percent of asset managers were involved in mergers and acquisitions in 2002 - compared to nine percent in 2001 and 25% in 2000.

Mike O’Brien, managing director of BGI’s European institutional business said clients responded to its risk-controlled approach. And it was partly fallout from managers “whose wheels have fallen off”.

He also cited mandate wins such as the UK’s coal scheme xx and the Netherlands and Sweden, where he said BGI has been “very successful”. He also said the firm had been winning fixed income mandates.

Liability-based benchmarks were taking off in the UK and the Netherlands, he said, due to solvency issues and accounting standards.