The head of Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) has embarked on a whistle-stop tour of Hong Kong and Singapore to build ties with strategically important institutions and authorities, AsianInvestor has learned.

Jun Kwang-Woo, chairman and chief executive of NPS, is understood to be engaging in the trip from February 16 to 21 not only to build relationships, but also to assess sentiment and better understand regional trends with a view to the $300 billion fund’s own investment plans.

Included in the meeting schedule are face-to-face talks with Hong Kong’s financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing chief executive Charles Li, and Singapore Stock Exchange chairman Chew Choon Seng.

Jun is also due to meet Temasek chief executive Ho Ching during his five-day excursion in an effort to enhance mutual cooperation. And he plans to discuss future investment plans in China’s securities market with CIC International chairman Laurence Lau, with the Korean pension fund having only recently received a qualified foreign institutional investor licence.

Market expectations are that NPS will begin investing in Chinese securities in the middle of this year on receipt of its allotted quota from China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

The NPS chairman is also due to meet DBS Group chairman Peter Seah Lim Huat, Goldman Sachs’ Asia-Pacific ex-Japan president David Ryan, JP Morgan’s Asia-Pacific CEO Gaby Abdelnour and Citigroup’s Asia-Pacific chairman Zhang Shengman, among others.

“In particular this trip is important because NPS plans to increase its direct investment into equities in the region this year, and as a part of these efforts NPS will see if it will open offices in this region, too,” says an inside source.

He adds that Jun also hopes to share insights on global alternative investments and strengthen bilateral investment relationships with a view to exploring potential joint-venture opportunities in the future.

At present 12.9% of the pension fund's AUM is invested in international assets, but that is slated to rise to 16% by 2016. By that point its total AUM is expected to have reached $500 billion, suggesting international exposures of $80 billion, double today’s level.