A survey of more than 200 delegates at the 2017 Cayman Alternative Investment Summit showed that 44 percent of industry professionals consider the Trump administration the biggest potential global risk in 2017. Other top risks include cybersecurity (25 percent), China (14 percent), European elections (13 percent) and Brexit (4 percent).

More than 500 people attended the event, which explored the theme of “Defying Gravity: The Future of Alternative Investments in Exceptional Times” and featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the keynote speakers.

“This next year will be unlike anything the alternative investment industry has ever faced,” said Chris Duggan, director of the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit and vice president of community development for event sponsor Dart Enterprises. “With rapid technological changes and major geopolitical shifts around every corner, the industry must show that it can chart a path through what promises to be choppy waters.”

Half of the survey respondents (51 percent) picked Marine Le Pen winning the French presidential election as the next event most likely to upset global markets, followed by Angela Merkel losing the German election (39 percent) and Geert Wilders winning the Dutch parliamentary election (9 percent).

The vast majority of survey respondents (85 percent) believe the alternative investment industry will grow assets over the next five years, with 46 percent predicting there will be fewer funds than there are today, and 39 percent expecting there will be more funds.

In contrast, only 8 percent believe the industry will shrink in terms of both assets and funds, with 7 percent foreseeing fewer assets but more funds in the future.

“Throughout this conference, leading thinkers discussed how to move the alternative investment industry forward in these uncertain times,” said Tony Cowell, chairman of the Editorial Committee for CAIS and partner, head of Alternative Investments at KPMG. “Although challenges abound, there is strong enthusiasm among both investors and fund managers that while still evolving, the industry will only continue to grow.”

The survey showed that investors favor nontraditional asset classes, as 40 percent of respondents are most bullish about 2017 returns from real estate and real assets, far outpacing commodities (28 percent), equities (18 percent) and credit (14 percent).

In terms of the disruptive potential of technology, nearly a third of attendees anticipate that artificial intelligence will have the most significant impact this year. Other popular choices included robotics/automation (19 percent), blockchain (18 percent), cybersecurity (16 percent), self-driving cars (10 percent) and wearable tech (5 percent).

The survey was conducted in February during the 2017 Cayman Alternative Investment Summit at the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa.

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