EUROPE – European asset managers now manage more assets than their North American rivals, according to research by consulting firm Watson Wyatt.

“During the year, European-based managers continued to increase their presence and value of assets in the ranking and, for the first time since the inception of the survey, exceeded the total value of assets managed by North American-based firms,” said Kevin Carter, head of European investment consulting.

Total assets managed by the world’s largest 500 fund managers rose 13% in 2004to $48.8trn (€39trn) in 2004, compared to a 22% growth rate in 2003, the firm said.

The assets of the top 20 managers now totals $18.2trn, or 37% of total assets.

Carter added: “The survey shows that passive managers continued to gather substantial assets in 2004 with the total value of the assets at the leading five firms increasing 24 per cent. This is likely to have been driven in part by steadily increasing inflows into enhanced indexation products.”

Carter said that a “greater variety of managers” are winning mandates.

“In addition, specialist management is now well entrenched in institutional space as investors look for and find investment skill across many different strategies, increasingly with a focus on absolute return in both traditional and alternatives asset classes.”

Barclays Global Investors moved from fifth to third place while JP Morgan Chase moved up five places from 15 to 10. Merrill Lynch fell from 16 to 20 and Citigroup fell out of the top 20 from 13.

UBS and Allianz Group remained first and second spot respectively.