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Sovereign wealth funds – KIC: Korea keeps sovereign wealth fund on a light rein

Korea Investment Corporation is unusual in having no liabilities that it has to provide for in its investment strategies. So chief investment officer Scott Kalb has relative freedom to explore alternative and longer-term investments. Chris Wright reports

CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICERS of sovereign wealth funds are, by definition, a rare breed. Despite the $3 trillion to $4 trillion of global capital they manage between them, there are only about 40 such funds. Scott Kalb is something even rarer: a CIO who is not a national of the fund’s country. Kalb works at one of the newest sovereign funds, the Korea Investment Corporation, which was founded in July 2005 and only started putting money to work in November 2006. Kalb was not there at the start – he replaced Guan Ong, another non-Korean, as CIO in April 2009. Nevertheless he has been instrumental in shaping one of the sovereign funds that is most animatedly discussed by the fund managers that pitch them for business.

KIC is one of a cluster of sovereign funds that come with a somewhat nebulous mandate. Unlike the sovereign funds of Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar or Norway, it does not have to invest the proceeds of a depleting single commodity asset such as oil and gas. Unlike the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, it does not have overall responsibility for a country’s foreign exchange assets. Unlike Australia’s Future Fund, it does not set out to meet a clearly defined need such as an unfunded pension liability.

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