The National Pension Service of South Korea (NPS) plans to hire more investment professionals next year in response to an increase in assets under management and to address concerns about a long-running staff shortage.

The public pension fund said it will add 61 employees, taking the total number in 2021 to 7186. Forty of those hired, or more than 65%, will be allocated to job positions related to investment portfolios, raising the number in this category to 341.

NPS has suffered from a shortage of investment staff for years. While the number of roles for investment management has continued to increase, from 259 in 2016 to 301 in 2019, there have constantly been fewer investment staff than desired because more investment professionals left the fund than were hired. Less than 90% of all investment roles are filled this year, a large decline from the 2016 level of 98%.

This exodus, combined with continuous growth in the fund’s assets, increased the value of assets handled by each manager to about 3 trillion won ($2.77 million) in 2019, from 2.5 trillion won in 2018. That’s one of the reasons that the fund management committee last year decided not to change the target for the active return, which refers to a difference between the benchmark and the actual return, during 2020.

According to the minutes of the committee meeting in December 2019, NPS’s chief investment officer Ahn Hyo-joon stressed the need to hire additional investment professionals. He noted that the fund’s alternative investment, which demands more time and efforts to source deals and conduct due diligence, could be especially affected by the shortage of investment staff.

NPS had approximately 785.4 trillion won in assets under management at the end of September this year, a 6.6% increase from 736.6 trillion won at the end of 2019. It has allocated 91.7 trillion won, or 11.7% of total assets, to alternative investment, with nearly 70% of the amount invested abroad. The pension fund aims to increase its exposure to the asset class to 15% by 2024. (Reporting by Hee-yeon Han)