The global alternatives sector accounted for US$6.3 trillion in assets under management (AUM) as at December 2014, according to new Towers Watson research.
The top 100 alternative investment managers controlled total assets of US3.5 trillion at the end of 2014, according to the Towers Watson Global Alternatives Survey.
The survey, which covers nine asset classes and seven investor types, found that real estate managers have the largest share of assets with fully one-third of alternative assets.
Hedge funds are next with 23 per cent of the pie, followed by private equity managers (22 per cent) and private equity funds of funds (10 per cent).
Funds of hedge funds account for five per cent, while infrastructure had four per cent of the market and illiquid credit three per cent.
Twenty-five Australia alternatives managers featured in the survey, collectively managing US$250 billion.
Macquarie Group was the biggest player (both in Australia and overall globally) with US$92 billion in AUM, with AMP Capital and IFM Investors taking up second and third spot (with US18.8 billion and US$18.7 billion, respectively).
Towers Watson senior investment consultant Dania Zinurova said Australian investors remain "very active" in alternative asset classes.
"Superannuation funds, in particular continue to have strong interest in asset classes like real estate, infrastructure, liquid alternatives (for example, hedge funds) both in Australia and overseas," Ms Zinurova said.
"'Real assets' is still a relatively new class and while there are many offerings in the Australian market (particularly in agriculture) investors remain somewhat cautious about opportunities in this sector.
"That said, there are some signs of increasing interest and a desire to better understand the investment opportunities," Ms Zinurova said.