Pension funds are large institutional investors, and yet very little is known about their investment behavior. Using a unique dataset that covers UK defined-benefit pension funds’ asset allocations over the past 25 years, we show that pension funds display strong herding behavior when moving in and out of different asset classes and they herd in subgroups (defined by size and sector type), consistent with the notion of ‘reputational’ herding. We also find that pension funds mechanically rebalance their portfolios in the short term in response to valuation changes, and they systemically switch from equities to bonds as their liabilities mature. Furthermore, the median fund is an index matcher, hence failing to earn a long-run liquidity premium. Thus pension funds do not play the stabilizing role one would expect from long-term investors.
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