Frontier Finance

Adam D. Dixon, Ashby H. B. Monk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


A growing community of long-time-horizon institutional investors that includes sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other beneficiary institutions located in cities outside of the major international financial centers (IFCs) is pushing back against the misaligned incentives and power asymmetries present in the for-profit asset management industry. This expanding group of beneficiary institutions, which we define as frontier investors, is retaking responsibility of the end-to-end management of assets through insourcing and direct investing, which allows them to bypass the markets and service providers in IFCs. This article elucidates this organizational cum geographical change, which we call frontier finance. In setting the theoretical context, this article presents a conceptual model of frontier places vis-à-vis the market for global financial services and the market for financial assets at the global scale. This is followed by a presentation of field studies of a significant cross section of large beneficiary institutions from around the world in their attempts to insource asset management. Notwithstanding the significance of change at the level of some individual organizations, there is an insufficient critical mass of organizations at this stage successfully implementing change such that the conventional functional and spatial structure of asset management faces an existential threat and that the dominance of IFCs in the allocation of global flows of capital is in doubt. This confirms the enduring forces of centralization in global financial markets and the importance of agglomeration economies in the market for financial services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-868
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2014


  • financial geography
  • international financial centers
  • investment management
  • pension funds
  • sovereign wealth funds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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