Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are state-owned and are characterized by a heavy focus on long-term investments on foreign assets like bonds, stocks, precious metals, and even real estate. Most of these funds are created by export-oriented countries rich in natural resources. As of 2017, the world’s total sovereign wealth fund has reached over $7 trillion in assets.
While objectives of creating a sovereign wealth fund may vary among nations, almost all of them focus and have these general goals in common: diversification of their revenue base, protection from market volatility, and accumulation of savings for their country’s future generations.
Currently, the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund is owned by Norway, followed by oil-rich countries in the Middle East like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the primary reason why these nations always make it to the top of the rankings has something to do with their access to the most important capital sources of a sovereign wealth funds: commodities, in the form of oil and gas-related funds.
Primarily financed by exporting commodities, commodity sovereign wealth funds rely on the growth of both gas and oil prices – and these resources fund a majority of funds, accounting for more than 50% in 2015 alone.
Sovereign funds can also be financed by non-commodity assets, and usually created from an excess of the country’s current account surpluses’ currency reserves, privatization proceeds, resource exports as well as fiscal surpluses. These make up the over 40% of the world’s sovereign wealth funds.
On a smaller scale, private investment portfolios function almost on the same way as SWFs—except that they are personal accounts. Wealth management firms and offshore portfolio management companies like LOM Financial work with clients to build customized investment accounts that are powerful enough tap into the world’s biggest and newly emerging markets.