Singapore's Government Investment Corporation (GIC) has created two new roles -- president for Europe and president for the Americas -- to enhance its global perspectives and strategy development. The GIC is Singapore's biggest sovereign wealth fund (SWF) and is among the most influential in Asia.

Lim Chow Kiat has been named president for Europe, while Lim Weng Kin becomes president for the Americas. Lim Chow Kiat is based in London and covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while Lim Weng Kin is based in New York and covers North, Central and South America.

Both presidents serve as the most senior representatives in their respective geographies for the whole of GIC. They are expected to promote contacts with policymakers and thought leaders in the financial, governmental and non-governmental circles.

Lim Chow Kiat joined GIC in 1993 as a portfolio manager. He subsequently built up GIC's investment capability in corporate bonds, was appointed as head of the fixed income, currency and commodities department and deputy president of GIC Asset Management. In addition, he was responsible for several cross market efforts, including the Global Opportunity Portfolio and Credit Co-ordination Group.

Lim Weng Kin joined GIC as its president of the London office in 1998. Prior to joining GIC, he was a senior managing director at Bankers Trust, where he held various management and trading positions in the global markets division in Singapore and London from 1987 to 1998. Before Bankers Trust, he was with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), where he spent three years in their New York Office. His last position at the MAS was as head of the foreign exchange, gold, and liquidity division.

The appointments come at a time when critical changes will be made to the global financial system and there is a need for GIC to not only gather but also contribute deeper insights into investment opportunities and challenges in the coming years. In April last year, GIC deputy chairman and executive director Tony Tan already said the world could be facing the worst recession it has experienced in three decades due to the lingering effects of the subprime mortgage crisis on the US and global economies.

They also come at a time when SWFs are being closely monitored worldwide, and particularly by critics in the US.

SWFs attracted a lot of attention from late-2007 onwards when they embarked on a series of major cross-border equity investments. Their role has come under scrutiny mainly due to concerns over their growing size and their tendency in recent years to buy stakes in high-profile companies in other countries. In October last year, members of the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IWG) agreed on a set of 24 principles and practices and are planning to create a permanent SWF body.

SWFs have existed since the 1950s. Their asset size and clout in the investment community have grown dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years, however. Among the more prominent investments made by SWFs recently were those that involved the rescue of US banks that fell victim to the subprime crisis.

In a background paper, the IMF estimates the size of GIC's assets at between $100 billion to $330 billion. Based on the upper range of the IMF estimates, that places GIC as the third largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, next to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority that is on top with an estimated maximum asset size of around $875 billion, and Norway's Government Pension Fund that is estimated to have up to $380 billion in assets

GIC's investment operations are carried out through three subsidiaries: GIC Asset Management, which looks after public market assets; GIC Special Investments, which looks after private equity and infrastructure investments; and GIC Real Estate, which is responsible for real estate investments.