Korea’s NPS on global alternatives hiring spree

The $462 billion state pension fund has just hired two more private-market portfolio managers in Singapore and is looking to add three in London and two in New York.
Korea’s NPS on global alternatives hiring spree

Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) has embarked on a recruitment drive to build its offshore private-market exposure, as it moves to restructure its alternatives division with a view to more efficient decision-making.

The state retirement fund – the world’s third biggest, with $462 billion as of end-2016 – has hired Peter Lee and Yenfrino Gunadi as portfolio managers for real estate and infrastructure, respectively.

Both started in the newly created roles in Singapore this month, and the office may hire more investment professionals in future, said a spokesperson by email.

Lee was previously a fund manager at TIAA Henderson Real Estate in Singapore and before that worked for Henderson Global Investors. TIAA did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Gunadi was previously an investment associate for JP Morgan Asset Management’s Asian Infrastructure and Related Resources Fund. He left in early April, and the firm is still confirming its hiring plans, said a JP Morgan spokeswoman.

Global push

Meanwhile, NPS is seeking five private-market investment specialists across London and New York. On Monday it posted on its website vacancies for three portfolio managers in London, one each for infrastructure, private equity and real estate. The deadline for applications is June 1.

The new hires will cover acquisitions and asset management in Europe across those three asset classes, said the job descriptions. Candidates must have at least four years of experience in the relevant investment area.

The fund is also seeking two portfolio managers in New York, one for infrastructure and one for private equity. It posted the vacancies for those roles on May 11 with a submission deadline of May 22.

NPS said its recruitment plans were designed “to expand overseas asset allocation, enhance local market knowledge and boost investment capacity in the region”.

The fund had $48 billion, or 10.4%, of its portfolio in alternatives in August 2016, almost all in private markets. Of that $48 billion, about two-thirds ($30 billion) was invested overseas. The alternatives allocation target at that time was 11.9% by the end of 2017.

NPS had opened offices in New York, London and Singapore in 2011, 2012 and 2015, respectively, to manage its rising demand for overseas investments.

Domestic issues

The overseas hiring spree comes as NPS faces a challenge recruiting at home after a scandal involving its chairman and the transfer of its Fund Management Center to Jeolla province, a four-hour drive or train ride from Seoul. NPS’s Fund Management Center employs some 280 staff globally.

 Moon Hyung-po

NPS chairman Moon Hyung-po is due to be tried as part of Korean president Park Geun-hye’s trial for corruption, which started this week.

The fund has subsequently seen several senior departures in the past six months or so.

Lee Kyung-jik, former head of NPS’s public market division, has left to join Boston-based fund house Wellington Management in Hong Kong to run Korea sales.

Lee Yoon-Pyo, former head of investment strategy, left in mid-2016 to join Seoul-based Truston Asset Management as co-CEO.

Jade Ok Changsuk, former head of global infrastructure investment, left in November to become head of alternative investment at Truston AM.

Erika Oh Young-Soo, former head of NPS’s New York office, left to join the $7 billion Government Employees Pension Fund in late February as head of international investments.

Brian Yoo Sang-Hyun, head of the international alternatives division, resigned early this year and has joined Korean law firm Kim & Chang, said an NPS insider. Kim & Chang could not be reached for confirmation by press time.

Wesley Koo, former head of the fund’s London office, left in November, but the insider said he did not know where Koo had gone.

AsianInvestor will hold its annual Korea Institutional Investment Forum on June 20 at the Westin Chosun in Seoul. Please visit the website for details.

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