Index provider MSCI has hired Samsung Asset Management's public and pensions CIO Tae Jong Um to head its recently opened office in Korea.

Um joined as managing director on April 2 to drive MSCI’s Korea business out of Seoul, where it launched late last year. He reports to Deborah Yang, managing director and the firm’s head of Asia ex-Japan, who was responsible for the Seoul office out of Hong Kong in the interim.

Um had been CIO for public and pension investment and chief marketing officer for global business development at Samsung Asset Management, where he worked for a decade. He had also been CIO for global investment in traditional and alternative asset classes at Samsung.

Um quit Samsung AM in December last year. He has been replaced internally by Ken Lee, who joined Samsung AM in 2006 and had reported to Um since. Previously Lee ran his own hedge fund business in the US and has also worked for Goldman Sachs for six years as well as UBS.

Samsung AM manages some $100 billion, of which Samsung Life accounts for about 65%. Its fund-related AUM is around $30 billion, while it is understood to have about $2 billion in international business and $6 billion in exchange-traded funds.

Expansion of these two latter lines of business, international and ETFs, is a priority for Samsung Asset Management CEO Chun Hyeon Park.

Lee tells AsianInvestor that his focus is to expand Samsung AM’s Asian business, concentrating on Japan, China and the Middle East in terms of investments and funding

Meanwhile, in response to AsianInvestor questions on MSCI's growth plans for Korea, Yang says only that it intends to expand in future and will be supported by the firm's research and product development teams around Asia.

"We believe that institutional investors demand for index, portfolio construction, risk management, governance research, environment social governance (ESG) and other tools will continue to expand in Korea," she adds.

MSCI has been servicing South Korean clients from other offices in the region since the late 1990s. Henry Fernandez, MSCI chief executive, told AsianInvestor at the start of this year that the firm would be looking to tap the expanding $300 billion-plus pensions fund industry.

He noted that the National Pension Service and other pension funds and entities such as Korea Investment Corporation were seeking to redirect increasing amounts of investments overseas.

He also referred to the fact that the country’s asset managers had global ambitions with regard to ETFs, with Samsung Asset Management among the names mentioned.

Further, MSCI will seek to service broker-dealers in Korea as they migrate their transaction-based models to wealth management-focused ones. Moreover, Korea recently passed reforms to allow the creation of hedge funds, so MSCI will aim to provide risk management systems to them.

MSCI won best benchmark index provider and best tradeable index provider in AsianInvestor's 2011 Service Provider Awards.