National Pension Service (NPS) Chairman Jun Kwang-woo said Monday that the agency will focus more on overseas investments by diversifying funding channels and strengthening partnerships with industry leaders.
"We will keep expanding our global network. We will also increase strategic joint investments for greater synergy with leading global financial institutes as well as local ones," Jun told The Korea Times. "Given the fast growing assets in the National Pension Fund (NPF), it is now critical to work with global players."
In this regard, he attributed the recent success of the NPS to diversified investments in overseas markets.
The fund's return on investments stood at 6.99 percent last year, up from 2.31 percent the previous year, with 24.9 trillion won in profits, according to the NPF management committee.
The fund held total assets of 391.9 trillion won last year, up 12.4 percent from the previous year.
Local bonds account for 60.2 percent of the NPS's combined assets, followed by domestic shares with 18.7 percent. Overseas stocks and bonds take up 8 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
The NPF is the fourth-largest fund among major pension funds in the world, just behind ABP, the pension fund for government and education employees in the Netherlands with 395 trillion won.
As of the end of last year, the total for pension contributions stood at 30.1 trillion won while payments totaled 11.5 trillion won. The amount of debt stood at 956.7 billion won.
The former chairman of the Financial Services Commission described NPS as a whale that should leave its small pond.
"A big whale will die in a small pond, and the pond will be also destroyed due to the whale. Given the current pace at which the assets are accumulated, the NPS should seek a way for more overseas investments. The NPF is too big for the local financial market," he said.
In fact, he expects the NPF will soon rank third in the world in terms of total assets under management.
"After I took office, and the first time in the 25-year history of the NPS, we opened overseas offices, starting with one in New York in 2011 and another in London in 2012. This was a very important step. We have continuously expanded our foothold in overseas markets amid the global financial crisis, and it was a big chance for us, as the investments in fine assets came back with high returns after the crisis," he recalled.
Taking cognizance of the performance of the pension service achieved under Jun's watch over the past three years, the government last year decided to extend his term by one year. His initial three-year tenure was due to expire in December.
He said that his mission at the NPS is to achieve a paradigm shift toward diversified investments.
"We started largely with overseas bonds and some stocks, but we have expanded the portion of alternative investments such as in overseas social overhead capital, natural resources and real estate," Jun said. "Domestic-centric and bond-centric investments should be replaced by diversified investments through various channels to have a more balanced portfolio."
His emphasis on overseas markets comes from his wide range of expertise in international fields and insight on the local financial market.
Before taking office as the NPS chief in 2009, Jun served as chairman of the Financial Services Commission. He also worked for the IBRD for 15 years before becoming chairman of Deloitte Korea.