IFM Investors has established an office in Seoul as the fund manager eyes the growth of alternative investments among Korean institutional investors.

The Melbourne-based company counts some of South Korea’s largest institutions as its co-investors in infrastructure assets and infrastructure debt funds.

IFM’s chief executive, Brett Himbury, who was in Seoul for the opening of the Korean office yesterday, said: “Our presence will ensure we remain well positioned to partner with Korean clients seeking to diversify their investments offshore across infrastructure debt and equity asset classes.”

In April this year, IFM formed a joint venture with Samsung Asset Management to create a US$480m (€402m) global infrastructure debt fund for Korean investors.

IFM Investors, which manages AUD98bn (€62bn) of assets, is increasingly focusing its resources on Asia.

“We are making a strategic shift to Asia”, Himbury said. “In terms of South Korea there are two specific main market themes. The South Korean population is ageing more rapidly than other countries and the pressures on its pension funds and insurance companies to provide financial security for the ageing.”

He noted that some Korean institutions have 80% of their assets in their home market and are looking diversify internationally.

“In a low interest-rate environment, they are looking to the global market to add to their risk-adjusted returns,” he said.

Himbury said IFM will focus on infrastructure equity and debt products for Korean investors.

He announced the appointment of Kelly Ki Jeong Lee, who has experience in life insurance, asset management and financial markets, as IFM’s client relationship director in Korea.

Seoul will be IFM Investors’ sixth office outside Australia.

Himbury said that, along with Hong Kong and Tokyo, the Seoul office will allow IFM Investors to broaden and deepen its relationships with Asian clients.

The offices will enable the pooling of mandates and open further investment opportunities, he said. “IFM will be able to negotiate better terms on behalf of our investors.”