Asset servicing transition hurdles after two key departures

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The two most important people involved in the transitions of the two largest asset servicing contracts currently on the move have, coincidentally, departed their respective firms. Next year is going to be a little more difficult than several fund operations people had expected.

At Suncorp, which is transitioning about $20-25 billion from NAB Asset Servicing to BNP Paribas Securities Services, aiming for a delivery date within the first half of the year, Caroline Marull, who oversaw the recent tender, has resigned and is set to depart for a new job at Macquarie Bank. She was head of investment operations and control at Suncorp.

And at QSuper, which has not yet announced but is known to have appointed Northern Trust as its new asset servicing provider to replace State Street, Matthew Heeney, who similarly oversaw the recent review, has left the fund. He was also head of investment operations. About $72 billion of assets are involved.

QSuper is expected to transition in the second half of next year. In a statement to Investor Strategy News, a spokesperson said last Friday: “We can confirm that Matt Heeney has left QSuper. We are currently going through the normal business and recruitment processes we follow when any role is vacant within the group.”

A lot of people in the funds management industry underestimate the amount of work involved in transitioning asset servicing providers. Some funds, such as those managed by Suncorp, are very complex, involving potentially hundreds of ‘products’, such as investment options. QSuper should be a little easier, notwithstanding its greater level of funds under management. However, it does have the most sophisticated and administratively complex default (MySuper) option in the industry.

Ironically, Marull was previously at T-Corp, reporting to a former CIO and a former head of investment operations, Jonathan Green. She left in December 2016 to take up the role at Suncorp. Meantime, Green has recently joined NAB Asset Servicing on a contract, with one of his responsibilities to ensure the orderly transition of the Suncorp business to BNP Paribas.

One of the possible considerations in the Suncorp transition is the sale by Suncorp of its life insurance arm to TAL. Some of the insurance assets are embedded in the total to be moved from NAB to BNP Paribas.

– G.B.

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