Greg Burrows, who has been running the shop since it was formed in January 2000, is moving home to the United States the first week of October and is handing the reins to Ron Shimoda.

Burrows came from Principal Insurance and is heading back to the company's headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa to oversee strategy for its retirement and investment services division. Shimoda, a Canadian national, is from ING Life Insurance, where he ran sales, marketing and distribution in Japan. He is familiar with the JV, as he has sat on its board of directors since its inception.

A change at the top comes at a delicate time. The JV was established to tackle the brand new defined-contribution business, which goes live in October. ING Principal Pensions is one of a handful of players with independent processing, recordkeeping and customer relations roles; most others have outsourced the businesses to either of two local consortia.

But Burrows says disruption will be minimal. "Principal had the initial key role of development and infrastructure," he says, noting that the JV is using a processing platform imported from Principal's US business. With that established, "Now it's time to drive distribution and growth, and that is where ING Life plays a role," he says.

He says he has already done a stint in Des Moines and has some friends there he is looking forward to seeing. But after two years in Tokyo, as well as more recent tours in other metropolises, he acknowledges that Iowa may be "a culture shock...a big culture shock."