Davos WEF
Davos WEF

'Where do we put our money?' is biggest issue for the Davos crowd, top fund manager says

Key Points
  • The Davos crowd doesn't know where to allocate capital, says the vice chairman of British investment company Standard Life Aberdeen.
  • The current trend is to leave public markets and look to private investments.
  • Real estate, student accommodation and airports are all examples of what is in favor.
Investors don't know where to put money: Standard Life Aberdeen vice chairman

Finding a place to invest capital is the biggest problem for wealthy investors and fund managers attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week, according to one prominent U.K. finance player.

The investment world has been beset by sluggish growth and ultra-low interest rates. Bond yields have dipped while many feel the strongest gains in equities have already been made. On Monday, the International Monetary Fund forecast a global growth rate of 2.9% for 2019 and of 3.3% for 2020 — trimming previous estimates.

Martin Gilbert, the outgoing vice chair of British investment company Standard Life Aberdeen, told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick Monday that despite growth concerns, markets look stable. He said that for large investors, deciding where to allocate capital is now the primary concern.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive officer of Aberdeen Asset Management.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"The biggest problem that the people I meet here have — the investors who give money to us — is 'where do we put our money?' And that is the big issue they all have," claimed Gilbert.

He said the only asset class he was "slightly worried about" in terms of lofty valuations were government bonds. Property, stocks and high-yield credit all looked "reasonable," he said.

The current trend for large funds and high-net worth investors, said Gilbert, was to move out of public markets and into private markets, with a global capital swing of about 5% already underway.

"So they are buying infrastructure — be it real estate, student accommodation, airports — all of these asset classes are where the money is going," said the top fund manager.

After many decades with Aberdeen Asset Management, Gilbert's last big project was to help fulfill the firm's merger with Standard Life in 2018. He is now to step down from his role and assume a new position at U.K. financial technology company Revolut.

Gilbert said his passion was growth companies but forecast that a tipping point would only come for the "neobanks" and "fintechs" once people felt safe to pay their regular salary into the firm's account.