NPS in hunt for new global alternative investment head from outside

  • 2017-03-07

South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) has decided to select a new global alternative investment head from outside the $480 billion pension fund, after Sang-Hyun Yoo quit just before its Investment Management office moved last month to a small city, about 200 km south of Seoul.

The world’s No.3 pension scheme is looking for a seasoned asset manager in his late 40s or early 50s with plenty of experience in global alternative investments, according to the South Korean pension fund.

It will be the first time in six years for the NPS to fill an executive-level post with someone from the outside through a public competition. The current domestic equity head, In-Sik Cho, was selected from the outside as risk management head in 2011. Since then, NPS had promoted its employees to the eight executive positions, including heads of five investment divisions.

“After core investment managers in the executive positions left one after another, it becomes difficult to find a qualified candidate, who has plenty of investment experience, from the inside,” NPS’ CIO Myoun-Wook Kang told the Korea Economic Daily.

The job was posted on March 2 on its website, together with other positions opened in the Investment Management department. NPS plans to recruit about 30 investment managers, in its first hires after the office relocation. Including them, NPS’ Investment Management department will hire 50 new employees by the end of this year to replace senior employees who have resigned recently.

Meanwhile, NPS will replace its former head of global public market Kyung-Jik Lee, who also has recently quit, with an internally-promoted employee.

The global alternative investment head position at the NPS is the most coveted in its Investment Management department. Those who have served in the position may receive an offer for a CEO-level post from a private investment company in South Korea.

But there is doubt about whether the NPS will be able to find a qualified candidate, given a shallow pool of talents for global alternative investments in the country.

South Korea has kicked off global alternative investments just a decade ago. There seems to a very few investment experts in the country who had experience in managing as much as billions of dollars as the NPS does.

Further, considering that global alternative investment managers are in high demand in the current low rate and low growth era, there may not be many investment experts who are willing to move to Jeonju, which takes five to six hours in a round trip from Seoul, giving up a high-paying job in the private sector.  

While dozens of senior staff have left the NPS’s fund management department since last year, the competition rate for its senior investment manager jobs halved to 7:1 in the first half of last year, from 14:1 in the year-earlier period.

“The higher the position is, which requires investment experience, the harder it is to find a qualified person in the market,” said a source of the NPS’ Investment Management department.

In its latest measure to curb the outflow of experienced staff, NPS said last week it would nearly double the basic salary of its investment division heads in phases to 324 million won to narrow the pay gap with domestic asset management companies.

By Dongwook Jwa

<Edited by Yeonhee Kim>