Korean pension fund hires pro-global CIO

The Government Employees Pension Service appoints Yoo Seung Rok, who speaks about overseas opportunities. He joins after his predecessor’s contract was not renewed.
Korean pension fund hires pro-global CIO

South Korea’s $7 billion Government Employees Pension Service (GEPS) has appointed a new chief investment officer with a pro-global view, just months after naming a new chairman.

Effective from March 7, Yoo Seung Rok joins as CIO from Hi Asset Management Company, a subsidiary of Hyundai Heavy Industries where he was president and chief executive.

He takes over from Kevin Kwon, whose two-year term was not renewed and who left at the end of January to take up a role leading the private equity funds division of KTB Securities, which has $1.4 billion under management.

Founded in 1960, GEPS provides annuities and other benefits to civil servants. It saw its AUM rise almost 26% to around $7.3 billion in the year to last July, according to figures published in AsianInvestor’s list of Asia ex-Japan’s top 200 institutional investors.

At the start of last year it was managing about $4 billion in financial assets. In terms of financial asset performance, it saw an 8% return in 2010 and just 0.8% last year – in line with the broader industry.

Of the $4 billion figure, around 60% was invested into domestic fixed income securities, 19% into local stocks, 16% into alternative investments and 5% in reserve accounts.

However, GEPS has already announced plans to increase its equity exposure to up to 23.2% of total AUM this year, and reduce its allocation to bonds. It also plans to invest a further $160 million into alternative investments.

Speaking to AsianInvestor, Yoo confirms he is open to global investment opportunities and says he is willing to take appropriate risks to achieve long-term stable returns, including investing into hedge funds and private equity funds overseas. However, he suggests that finding good, return-generating investments is getting harder.

Kee Hyuk-Do, head of GEPS’s alternative investment team, adds that the fund is especially interested in real estate assets that generate stable cashflows, including seeking value in developed markets.

Yoo started his career with Hanwha Securities in 1987 and worked as a fund manager for Hanwha Asset Management until 2005. Thereafter he served as head of the equity management division at Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) for three years and was CEO of Hi Asset Management until last year.

GEPS is one of four Korean public pension entities along with NPS, Korea Teachers Pension Fund and the Military Mutual Aid Association.

Just last September, GEPS appointed veteran government official Ahn Yang Ho as chairman for a three-year term. He succeeded Jin Man, who retired.

In 2010 GEPS announced it was seeking foreign partners to collaborate on asset management and trading for its fund management professionals. It also declared it was seeking to expand its foreign investment portfolio.

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