It had already been a difficult couple of years for South Korea’s National Pension Service, when its chief investment officer offered to step down on Monday. Market speculation was that he had felt pressured by criticism of his management of human resources and recent appointments he had made.
The W578.2 trillion ($513.6 billion) fund announced that Kang Myoung-wook had submitted his resignation, well before his two-year term was due to end on February 15, 2018. According to local media, NPS said he had made the decision for personal reasons, without further elaboration.
But Kang has reportedly been criticised for what have been by some as unsuitable choices as heads of the local equity investment and global private market investment teams, respectively.
In fact, Kang withdrew his appointment in June of Kim Jae-Sang as head of global private markets after only a month. NPS reportedly said it had found a discrepancy between his CV and his actual work history during verification checks.
The fund is now expected to accept Kang’s resignation and subsequently move to hire a new CIO.
The new government, which took office in May, is conducting a hearing process to appoint the new Minister of Health and Welfare, who will in turn appoint the president and chief executive of NPS in due course. Once that done, the new CEO is expected to appoint a new CIO.
The CEO post has been vacant since February, following the arrest of Moon Hyung-po in connection with the scandal that brought down Korean president Park Geun-hye.
Some industry observers said Kang’s resignation may not have a significant negative impact on NPS’s operation, arguing that such a big global investment entity could not be affected solely by one person. Moreover, the general feeling is that his resignation should accelerate the appointments of a new CEO and CIO.
The fund will certainly hope to draw a line under recent events.
Since late 2015, NPS has seen several senior staff changes, including the departure of its former chairman and CIO after a spat between the two; the arrest of Moon; and the controversial relocation of its headquarters to Jeonju, a city three hours’ drive from Seoul.
Still, outside South Korea, the fund has this year moved to strengthen its investment teams by adding a raft of alternative asset specialists across London, New York and Singapore.