By the end of last year, assets under management in global alternative investments hit $6.5 trillion, having grown seven times faster than traditional asset classes over the previous five years. This is according to a new McKinsey & Co. study that predicts this growth represents only the beginning of a new wave of assets moving into alternatives.

"We actually see alternatives becoming the investing mainstream and becoming traditional investments," says Kurt MacAlpine, an associate principal at McKinsey and one of three co-authors of the three-year-long study titled, The Mainstreaming of Alternative Investments. "The accessibility of alternatives has increased considerably.. Virtually all alternative assets that used to be reserved for high-net-worth investors are now available for retail investors."

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