Japan Pension’s Portfolio Shift Makes Waves in Market


Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) is in the midst of a portfolio shake-up that involves doubling its domestic and foreign stock holdings and cutting its domestic bond allocation by nearly 50 percent.

The GPIF isn’t nicknamed “the whale” for nothing – when the world’s largest pension fund moves, it makes waves that can be felt throughout the market.

That’s the case now, according to Bloomberg:

“We can only guess from piecing together the data, but it would seem natural that GPIF, called ‘the whale’ by the market, is moving toward its new portfolio targets,” said Takafumi Yamawaki, the chief rates strategist in Tokyo at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “As the Bank of Japan’s massive bond purchases have reduced liquidity, small catalysts can cause fluctuations in the yield. GPIF’s selling could expedite swings.”

GPIF, the world’s largest pension, pledged in October to reduce its holdings of Japanese debt by about half and double foreign assets and domestic equities, just as the BOJ expanded its unprecedented bond-buying stimulus. The pension’s shift may have exacerbated the decline of local bonds, the second-worst performing government security in the past month, while accelerating the weakening yen and boosting stocks at home, Yamawaki said.


The impact on overseas equities and the yen is smaller as GPIF’s purchases pale in comparison to global market values, said Jonathan Garner, chief strategist for Asia and emerging markets at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong.

“The main importance is for the domestic equity market,” Garner said in a phone interview on Feb. 12. “It’s another reason to be quite bullish on Japanese stocks.”

Kazuhiko Ogata, an economist at Credit Agricole SA, said tight liquidity in the market is magnifying the effect of GPIF’s domestic bond reduction, causing sharp swings in yields.

The GPIF manages $1.1 trillion in assets.


Photo by Ville Miettinen via FLickr CC License

Japan Pension Isn’t Hedging Against Stronger Yen; Investment Committee Member Calls Strategy “Unbelievable”


A member of the investment committee of the world’s largest pension fund expressed shock this week upon learning that the fund wasn’t hedging against a stronger yen.

Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) overhauled its investment strategy in 2014, but hedging against the yen isn’t part of its plans.

From ai-cio.com:

Japan’s $1.1 trillion pension fund is refusing to hedge against a stronger yen despite the risks this poses to its growing pool of overseas assets.

The Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF)—the world’s biggest pension fund—overhauled its strategy last year, buying into Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic plan to boost inflation and weaken the yen. A weaker domestic currency would aid foreign holdings as well as some Japanese equities, asset classes to which the GPIF is increasing exposure.

However, Junko Shimizu, a professor at Gakushuin University and a member of the GPIF’s investment committee, told Bloomberg it was “unbelievable” that the pension had not moved to hedge the risk of the yen strengthening relative to other currencies. “My personal opinion is that they should look to hedge,” she added.

Shinichirou Mori, director of the planning department at the GPIF, said the pension did not make decisions “based on currency forecasts. We wouldn’t hedge based on a forecast.”

The GPIF manages $1.1 trillion in assets.


Photo by Ville Miettinen via FLickr CC License

Japan Pension Hires Four Managers to Oversee Equities in Wake of Portfolio Overhaul


Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund in 2014 decided to make major changes to its portfolio, including a doubling of its equity allocation from 25 to 50 percent.

The pension fund this week hired four external managers to oversee portions of the fund’s equity portfolio.

From Bloomberg:

The $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund picked Schroder Investment Management Ltd., Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. and Nomura Asset Management Co. to oversee Japanese traditional active investments, and UBS Global Asset Management for foreign active holdings, it said today. GPIF didn’t say how much money the funds would manage.


“Passive stock holdings had become extremely high, so it looks like they’re trying to adjust this,” said Kenji Shiomura, a Tokyo-based senior strategist at Daiwa Securities Group Inc. “Also, there are limits to how much some of their existing managers, like their engagement fund, can oversee. As they increase stocks, they’re trying to avoid a situation where their share of passive investments increases further.”

GPIF had 14 active Japanese equity funds managing a total 2.6 trillion yen as of March 31, compared with 10 passive funds with 18.3 trillion yen. For foreign stocks, 15 funds managed 2.1 trillion yen in active investments, compared with six funds overseeing 17.6 trillion yen in passive strategies.

GPIF manages $1.1 trillion in assets, and is the largest pension fund in the world.


Photo by Ville Miettinen via FLickr CC License

PE Executive To Become First CIO of Japan’s Largest Pension Fund


Japan will appoint a private equity executive, Hiromichi Mizuno, to the newly created Chief Investment Officer post at the Government Pension Investment Fund, the largest public pension fund in the world.

Hiromichi Mizuno is a partner at private equity firm Coller Capital.

More details from the Wall Street Journal:

The appointment would put the 49-year-old from central Japan in control of the world’s biggest fund of its kind as it tries to boost returns with more aggressive investments.

Mr. Mizuno would be a big catch for the fund, which has struggled to attract outside talent because of low salaries and a small budget. Despite its size, the GPIF’s roughly 80 employees are squeezed into one floor of a 1970s office building in downtown Tokyo and most of its investments are managed by outside asset management firms.

Mr. Mizuno was educated in the U.S. and speaks fluent English, which addresses concerns of foreign investment firms that had trouble working with GPIF.


The GPIF is headed by its president, Takahiro Mitani, who has ultimate decision making power under the current law, but Mr. Mizuno would be de facto in charge of overseeing important investment decisions. Rather than make investments himself, Mr. Mizuno will spend more time choosing professional fund managers to oversee portions of the fund’s investments.

Mr. Mizuno joined the GPIF as an adviser and a member of its investment committee, an eight-member group that advises the fund part-time, in July. At a news conference last month, Mr. Mitani said described Mr. Mizuno’s expertise in private equity as “invaluable.”

The Government Pension Investment Fund manages $1.1 trillion in assets.


Photo by Ville Miettinen via Flickr CC License

Japan Pension To Double Down on Local Stocks; Other Portfolio Shifts Expected


Analysts and economists are expecting Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) to double its allocation to domestic equities and reduce its bond holdings, according to a new Bloomberg poll.

The changes could come at any time in the next month or so; GPIF has been reviewing its portfolio since July and said the process would end sometime in the fall.

From Bloomberg:

Japan’s $1.2 trillion pension fund will double its allocation target for local stocks, according to analysts, who’ve ratcheted up expectations for equity buying while sticking with projections for a reduction in bonds.

The Government Pension Investment Fund will increase its domestic equity allocation to 24 percent of assets from 12 percent, according to the median estimate of 12 fund managers, strategists and economists polled by Bloomberg over the past two weeks. That’s up from 20 percent in a similar survey in May. The Topix index soared 4 percent on Oct. 20 on a Nikkei newspaper report that the fund would set a 25 percent local-share target.

Speculation about the behemoth’s new strategy has held Japan’s markets in sway since a government-picked panel said almost a year ago that GPIF was too reliant on domestic bonds. The fund will slash its local debt allocation to 40 percent from 60 percent, unchanged from May, the median survey prediction shows. Credit Agricole SA and Barclays Plc say anticipation for the shift is so high that equities are vulnerable to a sell-off on the announcement.

“I think investors will sell Japanese stocks on the fact after buying on the rumor,” said Kazuhiko Ogata, chief Japan economist at Credit Agricole. “Over the medium and longer term, the changes will buoy demand for shares and gradually support the market.”

The fund’s foreign holdings will likely undergo change as well, according to the analysts polled by Bloomberg:

The fund’s allocation to overseas equities will be 15 percent, up from the current 12 percent, while the goal for foreign debt will rise to 13.5 percent from 11 percent, according to the median projections in the Bloomberg survey, which was conducted Oct. 22 to Oct. 28.

“Back in May I thought they would allocate more to foreign assets to weaken the yen, but it seems they are more focused on Japanese stocks,” said Genji Tsukatani, a portfolio manager in Tokyo at JPMorgan Asset Management Inc. “They may want to keep the currency from falling too much with a weaker yen being criticized domestically.”


The fund had 17 percent of assets in domestic shares at the end of June, near the maximum 18 percent it can own under current rules. It also had 53 percent in domestic bonds, 16 percent in foreign equities, 11 percent in overseas debt and 2 percent in short-term assets.

GPIF is the world’s largest public pension fund. It manages $1.2 trillion in assets.


Photo by Ville Miettinen

Japan Pension Called “Stupid” By Top Advisor For Prematurely Announcing Target Allocations


Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) is in the process of increasing its domestic equity holdings from 12 percent of its portfolio to around 20 percent.

The pension fund announced the plan in June and the implementation is well underway – but one of the fund’s top advisors called the announcement “stupid”.

Why? Here’s his logic, explained by Chief Investment Officer magazine:

Takatoshi Ito, a vocal proponent of overhauling Japan’s $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), has been among those encouraging the giant fund to increase its allocation to domestic equities. But in an interview with Bloomberg this week, he warned against publishing target weightings before making asset allocation changes as the information could move markets before GPIF has a chance to access good prices.

Ito said: “Saying ‘we’re going to purchase as much as whatever percent’ before buying anything is a stupid idea. It’s tantamount to not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and not appropriately investing the money entrusted to them. It’s wrong, and I’m against it.”

Ayako Sera, a market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, also hit out at the idea of announcing the allocation changes before acting. He said: “The market will front-run it, and our pension money will be invested at highs. It makes it pointless to entrust our savings to experts, and we should ask for it back so we can manage it ourselves. It makes those experts meaningless.”

The GPIF is currently reviewing its asset allocation, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe having urged the fund to reach a decision this year. Ito said the fund has probably not started any shift yet, as it would become obvious through market data and filings when the trillions of yen expected to be reallocated start to move.

GPIF plans to slash its fixed-income holdings and shift more money towards domestic equities:

At the end of June the GPIF had 53.4% in domestic fixed income and 17.3% in Japanese equity. Ito’s personal recommendation, according to Bloomberg, was to slash the fixed income element to 35% of the portfolio and increase Japanese equities to 25%. This would involve the sale of roughly $220 billion in bonds and the purchase of roughly $96 billion in equities, based on the fund’s June 2014 valuation of ¥127 trillion ($1.2 trillion).

The GPIF manages $1.2 trillion of pension assets.


Photo by Ville Miettinen via Flickr CC License