South Korean pension fund NPS appoints CIO, ending year-long hunt

Photo: Reuters

South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), the world’s third largest pension fund, has named Hyo-Joon Ahn as the new chief investment officer, filling a position that lay vacant for over a year, according to a statement on its website.

Ahn’s predecessor Myoun-Wook Kang had stepped down in July last year citing personal reasons, it was earlier reported.

Ahn, 55, a former president of Seoul-based financial services provider BNK Financial Group, will serve the organisation for a two-year term. According to a report in PEI, he will largely be overseeing the recruitment process in his new role.

This is Ahn’s second stint with NPS. He led the pension fund’s investment strategy team from 2011 to 2013, before joining Kyobo AXA Investment Managers as a CEO in November 2013.

NPS has been struggling to keep its senior investment team intact since it moved its investment office out of Seoul to Jeonju, a rural setting outside the capital, early last year. The move was aimed at adhering to the government’s directives to decentralise operations and boost the economy in other regions of the country. The relocation, however, resulted in a spate of top-level exits at NPS.

In-ski Cho, NPS’s former head of global public market, was acting as the CIO since Kang’s resignation.

“Challenges we are facing now include the higher impact of our increasingly growing fund on the domestic financial market and the prolonged trend of low interest rate and low growth. To overcome such challenges, we will continue to make our greatest effort to improve our investment returns down the road by proactively seeking new investment opportunities with more diversified portfolios,” said a statement by Ahn on the NPS website.

Overall, Ahn has served the asset management and financial services industry for over 18 years. Prior to joining BNK Financial, Ahn served as the CEO of BNK Securities for more than a year and a half. He graduated from Pusan National University’s business administration department, which is based in Busan.

The Korean Economic Daily reported on June 25 that the NPS’s initial search for a CIO in February was unsuccessful because top candidates, including Thae Khwarg, a former head of Barings’ South Korea asset management arm, failed to meet eligibility requirements. The report said the pension fund restarted the recruitment process in late June.

NPS managed 643 trillion won ($568.97 billion) worth of assets as at the end of July.