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Japan Post appoints first head of real estate

The banking arm of the Japanese postal giant has created a separate department for real estate investment and appointed its head of private equity to lead the operations.  

The Japan Post Bank, the country's largest bank by deposits, has established a new division for real estate investment and appointed Tokihiko Shimizu as its head, laying the groundwork for its maiden investment in the sector.

The Tokyo-headquartered bank, which holds a portfolio totaling ¥204 trillion  (1.5 trillion; $1.7 trillion)  as of September last year, has transferred Shimizu from the private equity investment department, according to an official statement published on the bank's Japanese web page. Shimizu joined Japan Post Bank as head of the private equity investment department in October last year. 

Shimizu spent over seven years as director in the general research department of the Government Pension Investment Fund of Japan (GPIF). He has also held senior positions in the government, including as director and head of research of the pension bureau in Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and before that as deputy director of the corporate pension division in the same ministry.

Japan Post Bank is part of Japan Post Holdings, which went public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange last year. It has already reduced its allocation to Japanese government bonds to 45.2 percent as of September last year from 51.8 percent in the beginning of 2015, and increased holdings of foreign securities from 15.9 percent to 19.9 percent in the same period.

The group has begun to invest in other alternative asset classes but there has been no word yet on its real estate investment strategy and whether it would branch into overseas markets.

The creation of a dedicated in-house department follows similar moves by many other Japanese institutions that are beginning to diversify away from their local bonds-heavy portfolio and plan their first alternative investments. In October last year, The $65 billion Federation of National Public Service Personnel Mutual Aid Associations, one of Japan's biggest pension funds, issued a request for proposals (RFPs) for external alternative investment managers, and others such as the Pension Fund Association for Local Government Officials and the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for the Private Schools of Japan are expected to follow suit.