GLOBAL - Interest in emerging market investments led to a worldwide increase in manager searches last year, according to a survey by Mercer.

Emerging market debt and equity were two asset classes bucking a downward trend in the UK, according to the consultancy's 2010 Global Manager Search Trends, which found a total of 940 searches conducted last year, up by 14%.

Germany accounted for more than half of mainland Europe's searches - many of those again being attributed to both bond and equity searches in EM countries.

The consultancy said there had been growing interest in alternative asset classes across the globe, with commodity searches more than doubling and real estate seeing a growing number of searches for the second consecutive year.

Andy Barber, global director of manager research at Mercer, said interest in non-traditional assets would continue to grow as institutional investors looked to diversify.

"The trend away from traditional investment began some time ago, and while events such as the global financial crisis led to a slowing of the trend, it is one we expect to continue," he said.

Barber added that, despite any trends witnessed, fixed income and equity would be likely to dominate searches for the foreseeable future.

Globally, the number of EM equity searches more than doubled to 51, while interest in the region's debt grew from four searches in 2009 to 45 only 12 months later.

The UK accounted for more than a third of all searches in both categories, with 36 launched by institutional investors in 2010, up from only one for EM equity the year before.

While searches in mainland Europe rose by 25% to 168, a number of countries, such as France, Ireland and the Netherlands, saw a decline. Mercer attributed the rise largely to German investors, which doubled searches in a year, as well as increased activity in Switzerland and Sweden.

Examining the US market, the region's director of consulting Terry Dennison noted a shift away from domestic equity to more broad international equity mandates, again with an emerging market element.

Dennison added: "On the DC side, sponsors showed a desire to both increase asset diversification for their members and provide some inflation protection.

"Hence, the most popular searches were global/international equity, emerging market equity, TIPS, REITs and real return-type options."