Robeco, the asset manager wholly owned by Rabobank, plans to officially open a representative office in Seoul on August 1, and is in the process of hiring a person in the Korean market to help with client servicing and business development.

Ken Park, a Korean native, will run the office, located in the Seoul Finance Center. He recently joined the asset manager after building a career in consulting at Watson Wyatt, both in the United States and in South Korea.

Joining him is Jeroen van Wilgenburg, who joined Robeco in 2007 in Tokyo, and has been spending much of his time helping develop business in Korea. They will make three, including the new hire, whom the firm declined to name. If all goes to plan, the Korea office staff should increase to five over the next 12 months.

Japan has been the firm's centre of operations regionally since a Tokyo office was opened in 2005 by Eric van der Maarel, general manager of Japan and Korea.

The initiative is the latest in a string of office expansions for Robeco, which also has recently set up shop in Mumbai, Shanghai and Singapore, and intends to follow suit in Taipei, probably in 2010. Van der Maarel runs Japan and Korea, while Frances Chang in Hong Kong oversees the rest of Asia.

Van Wilgenburg explains the firm has been running mandates for Korean institutional investors since 2006, but is keen to not only enhance its client servicing, but to expand its wholesale channels.

In particular, Robeco is keen to partner with domestic asset management companies to sub-advise on global products, as it does in, for example, Japan, where it advises on investment products for Nomura Asset Management. Robeco would also consider opportunistic partnerships or joint ventures such as one it has with Industrial Bank of Korea and a local asset manager aimed at private equity, with Robeco advising on overseas investments and M&A.