Looking ahead, other emergent trends could keep consolidation going over at least the medium term. Money management firms are trying to figure out how to incorporate environmental, social and governance capabilities as well as digital assets into their platforms, and firms that have developed a specialty in either area are likely to be targeted for acquisition, industry sources said.
"A lot of organizations are trying to figure out how to bolt on ESG," Casey Quirk's Mr. Stakel said. "It's clear that ESG is here to stay but the industry as a whole is still working on standardization. If an asset manager can demonstrate that they have a consistent and valuable framework, that would be a differentiator."
PwC's Mr. McGahan said that the same is true for digital assets.
"Crypto and blockchain technologies are still emerging and require a bit of specialized knowledge," he said. "If you're a successful firm in that space, it's only a matter of time before large platforms are going to start looking at the winners and trying to figure out how to bring that capability onto their platforms."
PwC's 2021 data also showed increasing interest from private equity managers in insurance companies, which are flush with large portfolios and manage significant assets.
In March, for example, Apollo Global Management Inc. announced it would merge with insurance company Athene Holdings Ltd. in a deal valued at $11 billion. That same month, Blackstone Group Inc. announced it would buy Allstate Corp.'s life insurance business for $2.8 billion.
Money managers have said the moves produce a perfect match, adding a big influx of permanent capital to their assets under management and diversifying their limited partner base.
All of these trends in asset management can create a long-term opportunity set, Mr. McGahan said.
"My team has been looking at this space since the '90s and we don't think it's cyclical. There have been some fundamental shifts in the business of asset management and they are driving change. We don't see any reason why deal flow would slow down."