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Pension Funds

S. Korea’s NPS facing 2 more senior departures even as it announces hiring spree

A National Pension Service van outside the company’s headquarters.

South Korea's National Pension Service could be poised to lose two more senior investment professionals even as the pension fund announced a drive to fill 34 positions on its investment team.

A spokesman for the Jeonju-based 632.9 trillion won ($560.3 billion) pension fund confirmed that Kim Jae-Bum, the fund's head of domestic alternative investments, and Ko Sungwon, the head of NPS' New York office, have offered to resign.

The spokesman said in an email it is his understanding that the resignations have yet to be accepted.

The latest moves come on top of the July 4 announcement by Cho In-sik, acting chief investment officer, that he would be leaving the fund. A search for a permanent replacement is underway.

The fund is likewise seeking permanent replacements for a number of senior positions with interim leadership now, including heads of global public markets, domestic equities and global alternatives.

The latest resignations highlight the continued challenges NPS has faced since its investment team moved three hours south of Seoul in February 2017. The move was part of a broader government effort to address the overconcentration in Seoul of the country's economic and administrative activities.

While any high-level departure now would likely be unwelcome, the resignation of Mr. Ko, after more than four years in New York, could affect the fund's prospects of achieving greater stability anytime soon.

Choi Kwang, NPS' then-chairman and CEO, on a visit to Singapore in September 2015 to open an NPS office there, predicted foreign postings to New York, London and Singapore would increasingly be a lure, attracting investment talent to the fund. The choice between Jeonju and Seoul would become less and less important, he said.

On July 30, NPS announced a two-week period through Aug. 13 for investment professionals to apply for 34 positions on the pension fund's Jeonju-based team.

The list of openings — for investment professionals with three to seven years of portfolio management experience — include six for domestic stocks and bonds, seven for overseas stocks and bonds, four each for domestic and overseas alternatives, and the rest for operations, risk management and responsible investing-related positions.

The NPS spokesman said some of those 34 positions are to fill existing openings and some are new positions at the fund.

NPS' shout out to prospective applicants said working on a national pension fund whose portfolio will soon exceed 1 quadrillion won will allow them to "take your skills to the next level" in Jeonju, a "city of history and tradition." But successful applications will have opportunities to work in global financial centers such as New York, London and Singapore as well, the announcement said.