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Manulife Asset Management prepares for its South Korean debut

Towering buildings in seoul, south korea

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Manulife Asset Management will expand its operations in South Korea now that it has a cross-border investment advisory license in the East Asian country.

Michael Dommermuth, president of Manulife Asset Management Asia, said in a statement on Thursday that the company has seen institutional investors indicate that they would favour an opportunity to diversify their portfolios and outsource their investments through investment managers or advisers.

Add to that the increasing interest in outsourcing from the "retirement segment" -- which holds roughly 30 per cent of all assets invested institutionally – and Korea becomes even more important to the firm. "Korea is the second largest institutional asset management market in Asia, growing at 14 per cent and forecast to reach 320-trillion (KRW) by 2015," Mr. Dommermuth noted. That's about $287.4-billion Canadian dollars.

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Manulife also said that it hired Peter Kim as head of institutional sales to work on a strategy for the Korean business. He recently joined the company and is based in Hong Kong.

While introducing Sarah Lu as the head of asset allocation in Asia in May, Mr. Dommermuth noted that by 2050 Asia is expected to surpass Europe and the U.S. in the number of pensioners who will require financial support.

This is another step in Manulife's aggressive Asian growth strategy -- the region represented roughly half of the company's insurance sales in 2011–and earlier in the spring, reports surfaced that the firm was making a play for at least some of ING's multi-billion-dollar Asian life insurance business. Company CFO Steve Roder commented on a recent conference call that "while we continue to see Asia as a very attractive area to invest in, any deal must be positive for shareholders."

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