Genii Capital Korea spearheads Genii Capital’s Asia operations with a focus on emerging markets
At Genii Capital Korea, an office isn’t just an office. In fact, it barely looks like one.
There are no cubicles or offices or even conference rooms. In an artfully cluttered space framed by French doors that let the light in, a couple desks give way to a coffee bar and a scaled-down replica of a Formula 1 race car emblazoned with “Genii Business Exchange” on the side. Pablo Cassal’s Bach cello suites waft through the air.
Meetings are had in the lounge - a round coffee table near the car - or, in warmer weather, on the patio. And the jungle gym on the other patio? That’s for the kids of Jin Choi, president of Genii Capital Korea.
Choi decided a few years ago that he needed to work in a space he liked, a space that reflected his company’s collaborative way of doing business. Part of the Luxembourg-based Genii Capital, an investment management and financial advisory firm, the Korea office oversees the company’s Asia operations and works closely with Genii’s other bureaus (London, Geneva and Luxembourg) to connect investors with global opportunities. Genii Capital is represented through financial partners everywhere from Sao Paulo to Shanghai.
“Our strength is in bringing together deals and capital on a global basis,” said Choi, rocking a pocket square in his blazer and mustard-colored Pumas.
A boutique merchant company, Genii Capital offers investment management services in the technology, automotive, energy and real estate segments. It offers independent financial advice to companies and governments in the fields of mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and business development & strategic partnerships. The company has invested in Zink Imaging, the main offshoot of Polaroid and one that offers an eco-friendly and paper alternative to traditional photos and printing, and in 2009 acquired the Lotus F1 Team (hence the car in the middle of the office).
“It’s a very very good platform to meet anyone you like,” said Choi, of owning the Lotus F1 Team. “I think that that’s an investment which has allowed us to really increase our profile but also build out our business... in a very proactive way.”
Genii Capital Korea focuses on emerging markets including Mongolia, China and, recently, Myanmar, in addition to finding opportunities for domestic capital. It started in 2005 as the domestic arm of Ikogest, a major Luxembourg real estate developer specializing in real estate funds and advisory. Today, Choi and his staff work with institutional investors including life insurance firms and local pension funds, many of whom are looking to invest globally.
“It’s not just the chaebols that are going abroad, it’s the institutions that are going abroad,” said Choi. “The big new wave is Korean money going abroad. Not Korean products, but Korean money.”
Genii Capital Korea is currently looking at financing opportunities in Mongolia, a fast-growing country with a shortage of capital. Last year, the company executed two real estate deals - one in London with a major Korean life insurance firm and the other in Gimhae, in the southern part of Korea.
“What we really like to do is, we don’t just look at Korea as a vacuum,” said Choi. “Increasingly, we’re based in Korea but we like to think on a regional and actually global basis.” This penchant to think beyond parameters is glimpsed even in the fact of Genii Capital Korea’s location - on furniture row in Seoul’s Nonhyun-dong, above a furniture shop. Though a boutique firm in size and strategy, the company sticks to a cross-border approach to bringing deals to investors and tailoring solutions for Korean capital. “It’s not really your typical sort of Korean operation, but that is the trend,” said Choi.