A: Great question and one that CIOs are debating constantly today because when I went to school there was no such thing as zero interest rates — that wasn't in the textbooks, was never supposed to be able to happen — yet it's happened twice in the last two decades.
The Fed has used that as a tool to, in my view, socialize recessions and push them off. Whenever you go to zero, then risk assets like public markets take off and that really has put a strain on the returns of private markets.
It should help them long term, but it's actually caused this wave and cycle.
I think right now when we look at the real estate market, and obviously COVID-19 has changed the way we use offices, and the way we look at private equity, people are absolutely debating what is that premium that we'll see — that illiquidity premium we'll see going forward.
Now, there's no question half of the companies in the USA are now private, so it's here to stay. It's a huge part of the marketplace, but what kind of a return differential will you see? I think they're going to be a big part of people's portfolios. I think they're hitting the natural limit on illiquidity as pensions continue to mature. So at least in the USA, we're at, I think, getting close to our top of how much private equity we want in our allocations.
We're still going to see an appetite out of the non-U.S. investors, the sovereign wealth funds, and keep in mind those sovereign wealth funds are five to as much as 10 times our size.
So even a little allocation to private equity is going to keep the appetite in that market, but it's an active debate in the asset allocation of what kind of return you're going to see going forward.
I think all the early industry gains that could be arbitraged, have been arbitraged away, and now in private equity they've got to buy and build a company, grow it organically. They can do better by being private than being public.
I think the arbitrage between short-term thinking that I see so often in the public markets — there's a value and a gain to being a long-term vision CEO and thinking longer term. I think that's the margin of gain we will see out of private equity, people who are able to make changes and for the better of the long term, so not the wide spreads we saw, certainly not the 500 basis points, maybe not even the 300 basis points, maybe closer to 150 basis points, which means you have to be really picky in private equity and the cost and that two and 20 (fee) structure really does matter.
And the same thing in real estate. I think we're going to see lots of challenges in real estate infrastructure ... because of that energy transition.But again, infrastructure is going to have slow steady returns, so again, it has to have a much more stable and lower fee structure. We can't see the private equity model in infrastructure and still get the returns.