The alternative investment industry, which includes hedge funds, private equity and real assets, is expected to grow fivefold to at least $13.6 trillion in the next half decade, professional services firm PwC said in a report released on Sunday.
Fueled largely by demand by sovereign funds, public pension funds and newly wealthy individual investors for steady and strong investment returns, the alternatives industry is poised for booming growth, PwC consultants wrote.
"Alternative asset management will undergo a transformation in the years to 2020 and beyond as it adjusts to a new operating and economic environment and moves toward center stage," PwC wrote.
PwC said a conservative forecast puts the industry size at $13.6 trillion in 2020 while a more aggressive forecast sees firms managing as much as $15.3 trillion globally, up from $2.5 trillion now.
Since most alternative asset managers such as hedge funds are private, they are not required to disclose their assets, leaving estimates for industry size to vary widely between firms that track these types of figures.
PwC said that it expects alternative asset managers to begin specializing more, with some firms tailoring their services to sovereign funds and pension funds and others eyeing individual investors including the mass affluent, who are now getting their first taste of alternatives through a new breed of mutual funds.
Pension funds want more made-to-order investments, and newly affluent investors want access to what had long been off limits, mainly because of multimillion-dollar investment minimums.
PwC said assets managed in liquid alternative funds will balloon to $664 billion by 2020 from $260 billion at the end of 2013.
Sovereign funds will be among the most aggressive investors in alternatives, the report said, forecasting that alternatives will make up 14 percent of their portfolios in 2020.
Real estate will play a dominant role, accounting for up to 41 percent of the alternative portion of their total portfolio,
up from 38 percent now, the report said. Meanwhile hedge fund investments are slated to decline, making up 6 percent of the alternative portion of the portfolio, down from 10 percent now.