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NBIM sovereign wealth fund: Norway’s supertanker maximizes its impact

The country’s sovereign wealth fund is probably the largest in the world, and certainly the most transparent – a double act that creates challenges for the 450 people who run it. How does one run a fund twice the size of the national economy it supports, one so big that markets move at the mere thought of what it might do next? Two of NBIM’s CIOs explain.

Norway tanker-600

There are big sovereign wealth funds and there are transparent sovereign wealth funds, but only Norway’s is inarguably both. The Government Pension Fund Global, run by Norges Bank Investment Management, has, at the time of writing, NKr7,076,982,100,419 ($860.48 billion) under management. Update: 10 minutes later, the figure is NKr7,072,104,116,491. You see our point.

The flickering, constantly changing market value figure that appears on the fund’s home page, disclosing the AUM figure not annually or quarterly or daily but so often that the last six digits can barely even be read before they change again, is emblematic of a commitment to transparency that comes from an almost unique set of circumstances. 

Norway’s is one of the only truly vast sovereign wealth funds that happens to be in a democracy, and its funds and management are wholly accountable to the country’s parliament and citizens (with particular vigour when, as happened in the second quarter, the fund lost NKr73 billion in its first decline for three years). 

You can argue the same is true in Kuwait and Singapore, but neither is quite a democracy in the western style, with anything like the same level of accountability; Korea, Australia, Alberta and Alaska are true democracies, but their sovereign funds are considerably smaller.

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