Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC has announced that Lim Chow-Kiat is being promoted to group chief investment officer, effective from February 1.

Previously group deputy CIO, he succeeds Ng Kok-Song, who retires after 42 years in management of the city-state’s foreign reserves. Ng will become an adviser to GIC in the role of chair of global investments.

Ng Kok-Song

In a published letter, GIC chairman and prime minister Lee Hsien Loong took the opportunity to thank Ng for his long service, which predates the establishment of GIC in 1981.

On Ng’s contributions to GIC, Lee writes: “You strengthened its professional capabilities through your deep grasp of finance and investments. You established high standards of professional excellence in your departments, and expanded GIC’s remit into new investment areas, more markets and a wider range of instruments.”

He praises Ng for providing “steady leadership during successive financial booms and crises, including the October 1987 ‘Black Monday’ crash, the Asian financial crisis, the dot.com bubble and the recent global financial crisis”.

Lee acknowledges that GIC’s board accepted Ng’s recommendation to fundamentally review its investment policy and strategy in 2002, and that Ng liaised between the board and an external consultant, “resulting in impactful recommendations”.

“Through this process, GIC clarified its investment objectives and risk tolerance, diversified into new asset classes and established a board investment strategies committee for better governance,” adds Lee.

In August last year AsianInvestor reported that GIC looked set to take some calculated risks in what it sees as a challenging medium-term environment, having raised its cash allocation to 11%, from 3%, in the year to March 31, 2012.

It pointed to an increased allocation to alternatives, including private equity and real estate. Its exposure to equities fell from 49% to 45% over the period, with the drop accounted for by developed market holdings, which stood at 30%. Its exposure to emerging markets remained at 15%.

AUM numbers were absent from the state fund’s annual report. Publicly it states only that it manages in excess of $100 billion. But according to AsianInvestor’s annual ranking of Asian institutional investors by assets, GIC saw an 11% year-on-year decline in AUM to $220 billion as at July 2011 (the latest figure we were able to source). That ranked it 34th on our regional list.

In recognition of his achievements, Ng has been awarded the Knight of The Legion of Honour and Officer of the National Order of Merit by the French government for his contributions as an adviser to the French Treasury. He was also handed the Meritorious Service Medal last year in Singapore’s National Day Honours List.

Ng started as an investment analyst at Singapore’s finance ministry in 1970. He moved to MAS when it was formed in 1971 and took over the function of managing Singapore’s foreign exchange reserves.

He joined GIC in 1986 as its first non-expatriate director, and headed the equities and bonds department. Subsequently he served as deputy managing director and managing director of public markets, expanding GIC’s investment capability.

He was appointed GIC’s first group CIO in 2007, and integrated its investment strategy at the total portfolio level across public and private markets.

Ng will remain a member of GIC’s international advisory board and adviser to the investment strategies committee and group executive committee. He will also continue as director on the boards of GIC Asset Management (GAM), GIC Real Estate and GIC Special Investments.

For his part, Lim joined GIC in 1993 and was appointed head of fixed income, currencies and commodities as well as deputy president of GAM in 2008. He was its president for Europe from 2009 to 2011, overseeing GIC’s investments and relationships in Europe, the Middle East and Africa out of London.

He became president of GAM in July 2011 and deputy group CIO in April last year. GIC notes that Lim will continue as president of GAM “for the time being”.