GPIF names industry doyen as real estate head

Former Mitsui Fudosan managing director Hideto Yamada has today joined the world’s largest pension fund as director of real estate.

The Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) has today appointed Hideto Yamada as director of real estate, a move indicating that the pension fund is committed to expanding its property investing outside of Japan.

Yamada, described as “the most successful and experienced Japanese player in the overseas real estate investment and development” by Japanese real estate placement agency, Asterisk Realty & Placement Agency was most recently a managing director of Mitsui Fudosan UK where he led the company’s large-scale urban redevelopment projects. This included the redevelopment of BBC Television Centre and White City Place in London, one of the largest ever overseas building developments undertaken by a Japanese real estate company.

“Despite other Japanese investors withdrawing from the global real estate market for decades ever since Japan’s bubble crash in 1990’s, Mitsui Fudosan has achieved success in global real estate markets and remains as the most successful Japanese real estate player,” said a memo from Asterisk.

“Since GPIF remains as one of the world’s largest investor, most of the Japanese institutional investors are expected to follow its approach and strategy to step into overseas real estate. Therefore, Yamada leading GPIF’s real estate with his successful experience will create standardized approach and risk management for Japanese institutional investors to enter overseas real estate markets.”

GPIF had been searching for in-house investment managers for alternatives having listed a job posting published on the fund’s website back in August 2015 as part of a broader shift in the investment framework which is part of the fund’s overall plans of diversifying its bond-heavy portfolio.

Peer pension funds in Japan have already made their first steps to making an overseas property investment push having mandated external managers. The $185 billion Pension Fund Association for Local Government Officials selected UBS Asset Management as its first manager of overseas real estate in July last year.

The move was expected to trigger debut overseas real estate investments by the Japanese public pension groups, according to Asterisk’s managing director Yukihiko Ito.

“This first step by Chikyoren has significant influence to other Japanese investors especially pensions, regional banks, credit unions who are relatively conservative in real estate. This also encourages major institutional investors to invest more in overseas real estate.”