Ahn Hyo-joon, chief investment officer of South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), traveled to major cities in the U.S. earlier this year, in a move to strengthen connections with foreign institutional investors.

Ahn met with leading foreign asset managers during his ten-day visit to the U.S. which began on February 13, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The pension fund CIO’s overseas trip – usually scheduled at a similar time of the year – is considered an annual event to build a network with institutional investors abroad. In February, Ahn traveled across four U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and New York, where he reportedly met with 15 institutional investors. In comparison, Toronto in Canada was included in the list of cities that he visited in early 2019 along with New York and San Francisco in the U.S.

On his latest trip, Ahn focused on strengthening relationship with foreign asset managers. In particular, a third of the 15 foreign institutional investors he met with were asset managers that manage real estate funds in which the NPS previously invested. Among them are Tishman Speyer, Blackstone, Invesco, LaSalle and SL Green. In New York, he had a meeting with infrastructure fund manager Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) too.

Ahn also met with officials from several PE firms including Silver Lake, Permira and Antares, as well as other key global players such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and BlackRock, to reinforce connections with them. Six of the 15 institutional investors were included in the list of managers that he met with a year ago, which shows the pension fund’s efforts in further strengthening relationship.

On the other hand, what was notable about his trip last year was that he met with officials from pension funds including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP). He then also visited Apple campus in San Francisco to discuss trends in the global tech industry.

The NPS – South Korea’s biggest pension fund – has made a strategic effort to increase investments in alternative assets in overseas markets, with a long-term aim to double down on overseas investments. The pension fund also made organizational changes earlier this year, to divide its alterative investment team into total nine groups based on asset type and geography. The move is seen as the latest attempt to increase investment returns by betting more on overseas alternative assets amid limited investment opportunities in the country.

“The purpose of his latest trip was to meet with the pension fund’s key external managers in North America region and discuss investment issues,” a representative from the NPS said. “He discussed with global asset managers opportunities for an expanded strategic partnership and for co-investments.” (By reporter Han Hee-yeon)