by Greg Bright
The Fund Executives Association Ltd celebrated its 20th anniversary in Melbourne last week (August 7) with the launch of a new scholarship, named after the association’s inaugural chair and guiding light, Michael Dwyer. The evening left an indelible mark on the super industry’s history.
They came from far and wide for a dinner at the Hyatt on the Park, near Melbourne’s State Parliament House. Some of FEAL’s former leaders had already retired, while others, such as this correspondent, were not too far away from same. It was an evening like no other normal industry function. Everyone was way-too happy and genuinely eager to speak with old friends.
It was also an evening which looked to the future, as challenging as it may be, rather than the glory of our past. Jack Gray, the keynote speaker, threw out some thoughtful challenges. He had a welcome crack, for instance, at the regulator, APRA, for continued over-stepping of its mark with respect to fund mergers. Others who looked to the future included: Joanna Davison, the FEAL chief executive, Vanessa Stoykov, a FEAL co-founder, Richard Brandweiner, new sponsor and boss of Pendal Australia, Jane Perry, current FEAL chair, Michael Dwyer himself – no introduction needed – and winners Chris Davies, Telstra CEO’s ‘Fund Executive of the Year’, and, most importantly, Norlena Brouwer, the group executive for risk and compliance at Hostplus, as the first winner of the ‘Michael Dwyer Award’, sponsored by Pendal Group. The award aims to help foster someone with significant leadership potential. Norlena represents our future.
Not to labour the point, although this newsletter has made its views about ‘encouraged’ mergers clear over the past few years, Gray raised the question as only he could, with rare subtlety: “I think that small funds should be able to co-exist. And I think it is odd that a regulator should be determining policy as it seems to be doing.”
Gray, a former FEAL program committee member who remains an adjunct professor at University of Technology, Sydney, and director of fund manager Brookvine, said funds should look to their comparative advantages. Smaller funds, for instance, could structure themselves more like family offices, with greater specialisation and flexibility.
He said that people needed time to “think differently”. As an industry, we tended to be “quantitative and analytical”. “What if we were to bring together different people who are more sociological?” For instance, perhaps we should not use the term “human resources”, he said. “We are not a ‘resource’, we’re people.”
Brandweiner, the chief executive of Pendal Australia and a former CIO of First State Super, which Dwyer retired from late last year, said there was the idea of “universal ownership” which was becoming “intimidatingly real”. It was difficult to comprehend the responsibility this reflected on the unelected leadership of the pension system. “How should we live together?” he asked. “How can universal owners do their jobs without being mindful of these things?”
Over to Norlena Brouwer, who will hopefully be able answer such prickly questions for us all after she completes the award’s Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership program.
Davison thanked the numerous and loyal sponsors over the years, including:
- Conexus Financial and its predecessor company, InvestorInfo, as media partner
- AMP Capital, the sponsor of the ‘Fund Executive of the Year’ award for 18 years, thanks to Brian Delaney and Barbara Buttery
- Russell Investments, the annual conference sponsor for 14 years
- Link Group and CFS GAM as 11-year sponsors, and
- BNP Paribas as a 10-year sponsor, including the sponsorship of FEAL’s only international conference, held in New Zealand.