Alberta Investment Management Corporation’s (AIMCo) appointment of head of Singapore reinforces the city’s appeal as a springboard to invest in the rest of Asia for global pension and sovereign wealth funds, even as political tensions between Canada and China rise.
The Canadian pension fund announced it had appointed Kevin Bong as senior managing director, chief investment strategist and head of Singapore.
Bong will take on the role on August 14.
Bong joins from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, where he was director of the economics and investment strategy department and a global leadership group managing director.
At AIMCo, he will be responsible for setting overall investment strategy and a pan-asset class strategy with a focus on geographic diversification and thematic investing.
He will also set the strategic direction for AIMCo’s team in Singapore.
AIMCo, which has about US$118 billion in assets under management, is responsible for the investments of pension, endowment and government funds in Alberta, Canada.
It’s an interesting development since it is rare to find former GIC employees in other sovereign wealth funds and pension funds, especially in leadership positions, a May 31 note by research organisation GlobalSWF noted.
“Historically, most senior professionals leaving the Singaporean fund have done so to start their own fund or to semi-retire with non-executive directorships.”
GIC did not respond to an AsianInvestor enquiry on whether a replacement had been named for Bong.
The hire suggests AIMCo is gearing up for a strong investment push in Asia.
“Having on-the-ground presence in Asia/Singapore enables investors to access faster and more accurate local insights, such as upcoming policies and emerging trends in communities,” said Janet Li, wealth business leader for Asia at Mercer.
“Particularly with issues like ageing and longevity, diversifying the pension investment portfolio is critical to mitigating any negative impact to the domestic market. Faced with global economic headwinds that have been complicated by geopolitics, we observe that there are sound investment and growth opportunities in the region which can balance out the risks in investors’ portfolios,” she told AsianInvestor.
AIMCo joins several of its institutional peers with a Singapore office.
Entities that have a Singapore office include Norway’ Norges Bank Investment Management, Qatar Investment Authority, Korea Investment Corporation and China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange as well as Korea’s National Pension Service, Canada’s CDPQ, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP).
Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, or HOOPP, may join them soon, according to the GlobalSWF note.
“The Monetary Authority of Singapore, through its Financial Markets Development team, has patiently but deliberately built a globally enviable reputation of attracting investors, notably asset owners and real money investors,” Kevin Hardy, head of Singapore and Southeast Asia at State Street, told AsianInvestor.
“Singapore's great physical and investment infrastructure, geographical location, strong and proactive regulator and critically, the talented investment and technology professionals makes for a great environment to thrive.”
Asia, home to the world’s two largest populous nations – India and China – continues to attract investments from asset owners around the world.
Canadian pension funds, in particular, have been quite active in the region, led by Canada Pension Plan Investor Board, the country’s largest pension fund, and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ).
CPP Investments, for example, had invested about 26% of its total assets in the Asia-Pacific at the end of March 2023.
However, escalating tensions between the US and China as well as Canada and China have put investments by these funds increasingly under the political scanner.
These funds are instead looking at other regional markets to diversify risks. India has shot up on the radar for several of these funds, AsianInvestor reported recently.