Korea’s $74 billion sovereign wealth fund has named Choo Heung-Sik as its fourth chief investment officer to replace Lee Dong-ik, who resigned in January.
Choo resigned as head of reserves management at the Bank of Korea last month to apply for the CIO position at Korea Investment Corporation (KIC). His term at the central bank had been due to end this coming November.
The appointment appears fitting, given that Choo’s term at BoK is viewed as a pioneering and progressive one. Under his leadership, the reserve management group, which manages $330 billion, has been expanding its asset-class composition, diversifying out of government bonds and into corporate fixed income and equities.
Choo has also told AsianInvestor the BoK would not rule out investing in alternative assets at some point in the future. Further, he has pointed to the growing importance of emerging markets exposure, both from a currency diversification perspective and in terms of returns relative to embedded risks.
The move to KIC will permit Choo an even wider investment scope, as the fund already allocates to alternatives such as hedge funds and real estate, and plans to further boost exposure to such assets.
His appointment continues a recent round of changes at the top of the SWF, with Ahn ‘Hank’ Hong-Chul named chief executive in December and Rhee Kee-Hong unveiled last month as head of KIC’s new research centre. Rhee had been serving as CIO since Lee Dong-ik stepped down.
Choo became head of BoK’s reserve management group in November 2011, before which he had been CIO since 2010. He in fact started his career at the central bank in 1982, and his career also included a stint at the World Bank from 2008 to 2010.
An extended interview with Choo appeared in the May 2013 issue of AsianInvestor magazine.
KIC was named institutional investor of the year at AsianInvestor’s 2013 Korea awards. The sovereign fund reported an 11.8% return on investment in what was a tough environment in 2012 (66 basis points over benchmark), primarily from global equity, fixed income and asset allocation.