Korea’s NPS names new CIO

The world’s third-largest pension fund has named Kang Myun-wook as its chief investment officer after an intense power struggle prompted a management reshuffle last year.

Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) has appointed Kang Myun-wook as its chief investment officer (CIO) after the nomination was approved by the country’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Kang succeeds Hong Wan-sun, who resigned last November. Starting today, he will lead fund management operations at the world’s third-largest pension fund for a duration of two years. NPS currently has about $430 billion of assets under management, according to PEI Research & Analytics.

The pension service has committed to funds including EQT VII, that closed on €6.75 billion in 2015, Carlyle Europe Partners VI, a €3.75 billion 2014-vintage vehicle, Hamilton Lane Co-Investment Fund III, a $1.5bn, 2014-vintage fund, and Japan's Unison Capital Private Equity Fund (Korea) that raise KRW 307 billion ($252 million; €226 million), according to PEI Research & Analytics.

Kang, 56, previously served as chief executive of Meritz Asset Management from 2008 to 2013 and was most recently an adviser to it from 2013 to 2014. He started his career in 1985 with Kookmin Investment and Trust before working at UK firm Schroder Investment Management, Dutch bank ABN Amro and Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management. 

About 18 applicants went through the screening process, according to local press reports. It is understood that Lee Dong-ik, former CIO of sovereign wealth fund Korea Investment Corporation, Jeong Jae-ho, former CIO of the Korean Federation of Community Credit Cooperatives, and Kevin Kwon, former CIO of the Government Employees Pension Services, were also shortlisted alongside Kang. 

Last month, NPS appointed Moon Hyung-pyo, former Health and Welfare Minister of Korea, as its new chairman and chief executive officer. Moon’s predecessor, Choi Kwang, stepped down last October amid a power struggle with the health ministry over the reappointment of Hong. 

Choi and Hong, the two former heads of NPS, had been at odds over the management of the fund. The conflict deepened over the fund’s decision to support the controversial merger of Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, as well as a plan to separate the fund management office from NPS.