* Morita to become president of Nomura Securities
* Joint head of wholesale Okuda to become head of Americas
* Both have been tipped as future chief executive
* Group CEO Nagai will remain in charge of Nomura Holdings (Adds details on Morita and Okuda, other appointments, analyst comment)
By Thomas Wilson
TOKYO, March 7 (Reuters) - Nomura Holdings Inc is promoting company veterans Toshio Morita and Kentaro Okuda, strengthening their positions as contenders to become the future chief executive of Japan's top brokerage.
Morita, who has been with Nomura since 1985, will become president of the key Nomura Securities subsidiary. He will take the reins from Nomura's Group Chief Executive Officer Koji Nagai, who will remain in charge of the holding company.
Okuda, current joint head of Nomura's wholesale arm and head of investment banking, will become head of Americas, as Nomura shifts its U.S. focus to client-oriented services from market-based trading.
The move is seen in company circles as Nagai looking to leverage in the Americas Okuda's investment banking experience and giving him the opportunity to compete against Morita as future CEO, people familiar with the matter said.
Nomura announced the changes on Tuesday as part of its annual management reshuffle. Nagai, 58, himself has given no hint of leaving his post anytime soon.
The reshuffle is unlikely to lead to any major strategic changes at Nomura, said Mari Kumagai, an analyst with Morningstar.
Morita, 55, was promoted last year to deputy president of Nomura Securities, a move sources said was a sign that Nagai regards Morita as a future successor.
His career with Nomura has spanned roles in the retail division and chief executive office. He has orchestrated with Nagai major changes in Nomura's retail arm, moving to providing customers with long-term consulting on issues such as inheritance.
Nomura Securities is the brokerage's core securities business, providing individual and institutional investors with, among others, investment advisory and securities underwriting services.
Okuda, 53, moves to the Unites States as Nomura stands on the cusp of posting an annual profit in its international operations for the first time in seven years. It is a long-cherished goal for the brokerage, which first gained international prominence when it bought Lehman Brothers' equities and investment banking business in Europe and Asia in 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis.
The Americas are now a crucial region for Nomura, generating over half of its April-September overseas pretax profit. Its Americas strategy under Nagai has been to focus on advising clients in areas such as mergers and acquisitions - something the brokerage hopes Okuda will bolster.
In the first overseas posting in his three-decade career with Nomura, Okuda will be based in New York instead of Tokyo. Okuda's career has focused on investment banking and M&A, with nearly 10 years as a telecoms and media banker. He has also overseen the development of Nomura's strategy.
Both Morita's and Okuda's new roles are effective from April 1.
In other moves, London-based Steve Ashley, who is currently joint head of wholesale with Okuda, will become sole head of wholesale and global markets in a move designed to speed up decision making. Vikas Sharma will become Nomura's new head for Asia ex-Japan. (Reporting by Thomas Wilson and Emi Emoto; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)