Credit Suisse has agreed to form a joint venture with Woori Asset Management to tap into the fast growing demand for asset management services in South Korea from both institutions and private individuals.

Credit Suisse will pay W54 billion ($57.32 million) for a 30% stake in the asset management subsidiary of Woori Financial Group, which is KoreaÆs third largest financial services group, the two partners said in a joint release.

Woori Financial Group also operates the countryÆs second largest network of retail and brokerage outlets, which makes it an attractive partner for a global asset management firm looking to boost its presence in this market.

The two banks already have a well-established relationship in other areas, including capital markets.

The money and wealth management industry in South Korea has seen rapid growth in the past couple of years û partly thanks to the emergence of retail-focused mutual funds and unit trusts - and with more than $200 billion in total assets under management the country is now considered one of the most significant markets for asset managers in Asia.

Woori Asset Management is the fourth largest asset manager in Korea with about W14 trillion ($14.9 billion) of assets under management.

Analysts say Credit Suisse will bring an international management style and expertise on investments in overseas markets to the joint venture, in particular with regard to alternative investment products which is something of a specialty for the Zurich-based investment bank globally. It will also add experience within risk management and marketing and sales.

ôOur ambition is to grow the joint venture into the largest asset manager in providing clients with world class products and services through the combination of WooriÆs onshore strength of a distribution network and Credit SuisseÆs knowledge of global markets and expertise,ö Woori Financial Group Chairman and CEO Young-key Hwang said in a written statement.

Credit Suisse has been seeking to expand its asset management business in Asia ex-Japan for some time and in July 2005 formed an asset management joint venture with ChinaÆs largest lender Industrial & Commercial Bank of China. It also operates stand-alone asset management businesses in Hong Kong and Singapore; although in the latter market it focuses on offshore management of client funds.

Credit Suisse also has a standalone offshore asset management business for institutional Korean clients, which it will continue to operate independently from the joint venture.

The joint venture also fits in with WooriÆs earlier moves to strengthen its asset management capabilities. In December 2004, the group bought LG Investment Trust Management and merged it with its own asset management business to form Woori Asset Management. Since its launch in June 2005, the merged company has advanced from being the sixth largest asset management firm in Korea to its current position as number four.

Credit Suisse will get one seat on the board of directors at the joint venture, which will be named Woori Credit Suisse Asset Management Co. and is expected to be officially launched in May.