US fund management giant BlackRock has named Takeshi Fukushima as chief investment officer for Japan, to replace Shinichi Kawano, who is leaving to pursue other interests.

Fukushima was most recently CIO for Tokyo-based GI Capital Management’s investment advisory group, where he focused on global alternative products for pension clients. He is understood to have exited that firm in late April. GI Capital could not be reached by press time.

Having taken up the role yesterday, Fukushima reports functionally to Belinda Boa, Asia Pacific head of active investments, and locally to Yoshiyuki Izawa, Japan chairman and CEO.

With 28 years’ investment experience, Fukushima has also served as CIO at other firms in Japan, including Meiji Yasuda Asset Management and Deutsche Trust Bank, and as senior fund manager at Nikko Asset Management.

The switch in personnel at BlackRock comes at a tough time for the Japanese stock market, despite the introduction of negative interest rates earlier this year. Local equities saw record outflows last month, according to BlackRock research based on exchange-traded fund flows, and the Topix index is down 14.58% this year, by Bloomberg data.

Yet despite domestic stocks appearing cheap (around 13x forward earnings), BlackRock still holds a neutral view of the market, said Richard Turnill, global chief investment strategist, in a note early this month.

“We would need to see additional easing coupled with advances toward achieving [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe’s second and third arrows, for us to adopt a more bullish view of Japan,” he noted. “In the near term, we are awaiting credible fiscal stimulus aimed at paving the way for structural reforms.”

“Over the longer term, we want to see tangible progress in labour reform and in cutting red tape for local businesses,” he added.

BlackRock reportedly managed ¥15 trillion ($138 billion) of assets in Japan as of November 2014. A spokeswoman declined to provide a more up-to-date figure. As of March 31, the firm’s global AUM was $4.737 trillion.