Japan pension investment chief in running for seat on board of Principles for Responsible Investment

Hiromichi Mizuno’s candidacy is supported by CalPERS

Hiromichi Mizuno, Executive Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer at Japan’s giant JPY135trn (€1trn) Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) looks virtually certain to take a seat on the board of the Principles for Responsible Investment.

An election for the post begins later this month and Mizuno is one of two candidates for two open asset owner board seats; the other is Eva Halvarsson, CEO at Sweden’s Andra AP-fonden (AP2).

The PRI says that the candidates are “not automatically deemed to be appointed as Directors”, given there are two candidates for two slots; their appointment requires the approval of a simple majority of asset owners voting for each candidate via an electronic poll.

Existing PRI board member Mark Chaloner of the West Midlands Pension Fund in the UK is stepping down from the board in December, two years into a three-year term.

The PRI said: “As a result, the PRI Board agreed, in August 2016, to add a further open asset owner position to the election process, in addition to the one open position originally announced.”

Mizuno’s candidacy is being seconded by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest US pension plan.

“Since I took the position of CIO at Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) in January 2015, I have been strongly advocating considering ESG issues internally and externally,” Mizuno says in his candidate statement.

He goes on: “GPIF — the largest pension fund in the world — is a perfect example of a ‘universal owner.’ We have about 8% of the Japanese stock market and close to 1% of the global equity market. Companies’ choices about sustainability will have significant effects on us directly and indirectly.”

GPIF signed up to the PRI last September and Mizuno – a former executive at private equity firm Coller Capital – said that the signing prompted a discussion about ESGamong Japanese asset owners and that four asset owners have joined the club since then.

The influential fund now requires all its external asset managers to either sign up to the PRI or explain why not.

Mizuno has been a member of the PRI Asset Owner Advisory Committee, and co-chairs the Milken Institute’s Global Capital Markets Advisory Council. He serves as a board member of the Japanese Government Strategic Funds Integrated Advisory Committee. “Hopefully,” he says, “my experience and network in Asia will help the UN-PRI to be further accepted by the Asian investor community.”
His candidate statement lists the ESG initiatives he has taken at GPIF since March 2015, including the creation of the fund’s investment principles which incorporate stewardship and the establishment of a dedicated ESG team. Most recently he has overseen a request for proposals for ESG indices for Japanese equities and the formation of a ‘Business and Asset Owners’ Forum’.

Halvarsson, whose candidacy is being seconded by Länsförsäkringar, the Swedish insurance mutual, cites her role in developing the Principles for Responsible Investments in Farmland and AP2’s work in promoting diversity.
“Since ESG is becoming much more of a “hygiene factor” in many parts of the world I believe it will be an important task for an organization as PRI to take active part in a discussion about how different stakeholders can contribute to a more sustainable world and I think that PRI can be a catalyst for good examples of implementation,” she notes.

There is one open service provider position and the candidates are James Pearson, CEO and Founder of Pacific Risk Advisors Ltd and Peter Webster, Director of International Affairs, VigeoEIRIS.

Voting runs from September 26 – November 11 with the results announced on the week of November 14.