The amount of total alternative assets under management in the world cracked the $5 trillion threshold in 2012, according to consulting firm Towers Watson. The firm recently performed a survey on alternatives with the Financial Times, part of which focused on the top 100 managers in the space.

The firm found that, among those alternatives firms, real estate managers had the biggest chunk of assets (34%), followed by direct private equity fund managers (23%), direct hedge funds (20%), private equity funds of funds (10%), funds of hedge funds managers (6%), infrastructure managers (4%) and commodities managers (4%).

The survey also found that pension funds contribute more than one-third (36%) of the top 100 alternative managers’ assets, followed by wealth managers (19%), insurance companies (9%), sovereign wealth funds (6%), banks (5%), funds of funds (3%) and endowments and foundations (2%).

In all, the top 100 managers collectively held $3.1 trillion of the $5 trillion in the global alternative asset space.

“For almost all of the past 10 years of this research, we have seen increasing allocations to alternative assets by a wide range of investors,” said Craig Baker, the global head of research at Towers Watson Investment. “Pension funds have always been and will remain a very large investor group for top alternatives managers, but the demand from non-pension-fund investors, such as insurers, endowments and foundations and sovereign wealth funds, is only going to increase in the future.”

North America is the prime destination for alternative capital (46%), followed by Europe (37%) and the Asian-Pacific region (10%). The rest
is spread around the globe.