Masataka Miyazono has taken over as the president of the world’s largest pension fund, the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), last week – replacing Norihiro Takahashi – and one of his first tasks will be to appoint a new chief investment officer in the next few days.

In a statement announcing the appointment, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, said Miyazono was a long time executive of Norinchukin Bank, joining the bank in 1979 and rising through the ranks to become the bank’s deputy president.

Norinchukin Bank is the cooperative bank for the agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries and manages assets totalling ¥65trn (€540bn).

In 2011 Miyazono was appointed deputy chair of the board and executive committee member, the statement said.

He had been the president of Japan’s ¥11.5trn Pension Fund Association (PFA), one of the largest pension funds in Japan.

He takes over the role at the ¥162trn scheme at a turbulent time for global financial markets due to the coronovirus outbreak.

The new CIO will work with Miyazono in navigating the pensions giant through the current market turmoil in coming months, it added.

The current CIO, Hiro Mizuno, is expected to leave his post, although there is a possibility that he may yet extend his term, which was already extended once last year.

Both Mizuno and Takahashi are due to leave GPIF on 31 March.

Under Takahashi, who was appointed in 2016, the fund had moved to gradually reduce its Japanese equities and Japanese government bonds to increase its exposure to overseas markets.

Under the imprimatur of the government, GPIF was authorised to reweight portfolio construction to increase diversified into other assets and into overseas markets, Takahashi told IPE in an interview last year.

By the end of March 2019, GPIF’s allocation to domestic bonds had fallen to just over a quarter (¥43trn) of assets, while foreign bonds made up just under 20% (¥27.8trn).

One of GPIF’s most significant recent reforms has been the introduction of a new performance-based fee structure for its external active asset managers from April 2018.

Additionally, since 2017 the fund increased the diversification of its portfolio into alternative assets – namely real estate, infrastructure and private equities – after undertaking “careful examinations” in research projects on the efficiency of investing in these asset classes.

GPIF made its first allocation to alternatives in its bid to create a core portfolio of infrastructure, real estate and private equity.

 GPIF has also stepped up stewardship on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues with regular asset owners, that are among the world’s largest pension funds.