At a time when Asia Pacific’s pension funds need to modernise, expand and improve, having high calibre professionals in key roles will be vitally important. 

For that reason, AsianInvestor has consulted leading pension fund experts, consultants, custodians and fund managers to put together a list of 20 pension executives who stand out in their field. The list which is being rolled out online over the next week and a half, is not ranked. Nor is it intended to be exhaustive. But hopefully it highlights why these particular executives in the region have so impressed their peers, business partners and colleagues.

You can also find out more about the rationale for our list. Today, we move on to executives from Japan and Taiwan.

HISASHI HATTA

Managing director, Aisin Employees' Pension Fund, Japan

Aisin Employees’ Pension Fund, which collects and invests the pensions of employees of automobile parts maker Aisin Group, had reasonably modest assets under management of about $700 million as of 2016. But don’t underestimate it; the pension fund is praised for employing a detailed investment policy, placing assets into a broad variety of different classes through the help of external fund managers.

This active approach is down to the actions of its vigorous head: Hisashi Hatta (pictured). Consultants and fund managers credit him with creating a very diversified portfolio since joining in 2010. Data research provider Preqin estimates that Aisin has about 10% of its AUM in fixed income and long/short hedge funds, while in 2015 Aisin had invested over $20 million into several unlisted infrastructure vehicles.

One consultant told AsianInvestor that Hatta’s approach is to engage in broad fund manager and product searches when seeking a new investment.

“Hisashi Hatta has invested into quite a wide range of private assets, especially infrastructure and real estate,” said the Tokyo-based consultant. “He is one of the knowledgeable persons on these asset areas and has great insight when it comes to making decisions in manager selection/structure.”

Both Hatta and his senior portfolio manager, Takeshi Ito, also explain their views of investing at conferences. 

LIU LI-JU

Deputy director general, Bureau of Labor Funds, Taiwan

Taiwan's Bureau of Labor Funds isn’t a typical pension fund. The island’s main state pension fund is viewed as one of the more sophisticated institutional investors in Asia, with an asset base that has expanded to $114 billion in 2017 from $83 billion in 2014. Liu Li-Ju, who has a post-graduate degree in labour science, has been highly instrumental in making that happen, according to industry experts.

She joined BLF when it was established in 2007 after almost two decades devising policies at the Ministry of Labor. The switch was tough, but Liu said it offered her a different perspective: “I don’t look at investments purely for their returns; I also consider issues such as worker rights.”

Her understanding of labour affairs makes Liu intimately familiar with the importance of corporate social responsibility, particularly through environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations. “When we were creating BLF’s investment framework and principles a decade ago, I knew that it was important to incorporate ESG factors. At the time, it did not get the attention it deserved among other investors,” she told AsianInvestor.

The fund has invested assertively, weighing into equity and debt smart beta products since 2011. But Liu says BLF weighs new investments carefully. “It’s only when you know where the risk lies [that] you can think about how much you can bear or how you can lower that risk.”