Following the abrupt exit of ‘Hank’ Ahn Hong-chul as chairman and chief executive of Korea Investment Corporation (KIC), the sovereign wealth fund has appointed former World Bank executive Eun Sung-Soo to the role.
Ahn resigned in November with one year remaining of his three-year term, with the local press suggesting it was down to the imminent publication of a report alleging improper conduct, as reported.
Eun was chosen from among 20 applicants on the back of his international financial market expertise. His three-year term started yesterday.
Eun said he would make efforts to make KIC one of the top 10 sovereign funds in the world by achieving best performance in asset management and helping Korea’s financial industry towards more ‘globalisation’. Despite the current financial market turmoil locally and globally, he argued, there would be opportunities to boost financial assets and productively invest foreign reserves.
Local market observers said they did not expect abrupt changes in the internal structure or investment approach at KIC following the hire. They also predicted the fund would retain its focus on alternative investments, an area where it had been steadily building exposure.
Eun’s appointment was also seen as likely to help clarify KIC’s future investment direction and style. His first priority is to help the fund – and indeed the government itself – recover from recent negative press reports about his predecessor and high staff turnover at Korean state funds in general.
Ahn had reportedly come under fire for several reasons, including being paid a record-high salary for the head of a state-run enterprise, inappropriate involvement in hiring of fund firms, receiving room upgrades from hotels in which KIC was considering investing in, and speaking publicly about the planned purchase of a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
Concerns have also risen about the high turnover of management executives at state institutions in Korea, most notably at the National Pension Service. AsianInvestor recently argued for a change to government funds' current rigid adherence to management term limits. This followed a reported spat between the chairman and chief investment officer at the $450 billion retirement fund, after which both stepped down.
Eun had been a standing director at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (part of the World Bank) since 2014 and before that he served at Korea’s Ministry of Finance in various positions. In 2013, he worked with the election team for Park Geun-Hye, then candidate for the country’s presidency.