AvSuper appoints new growth manager in portfolio shift

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AvSuper has appointed a new global manager, US-Based Hardman Johnston, in a mandate which shifts its portfolio towards the growth end of the spectrum. Hardman Johnston Global Advisors has been one of the best-performing managers in its category for more than 10 years.

The $2 billion aviation industry fund, which speaks for about 6,500 members, reviewed its global equities line-up from last year and decided to terminate AQR, a quant-oriented value manager, to make way for the new fundamental growth manager. Frontier Advisors is the asset consultant to the fund.

Michelle Wade, AvSuper’s chief executive, said that the appointment followed a change in the fund’s view in terms of the opportunities being presented going forward and the economic outlook. Members of the fund’s investment committee, including chair Denise Allen, and non-executive Steve Merliceck, as well as inhouse investment manager Sue Field, visited Hardman Johnston in Stamford, Connecticut, last year as part of the review process.

Hardman Johnston is a staff-owned firm founded by Richard Johnston, who is still in charge of US strategies, in 1985. The chief executive and CIO of global and international is Cassandra Hardman, who joined the firm in 1997 and has earned an annualised 11.16 per cent a year in the firm’s flagship concentrated (about 30 stocks) global equities strategy since inception in January 2006. This compares with the benchmark return of 5.87 per cent. Last year was especially good, with a return of 20.47 per cent, against the index’s 2.11 per cent. The past five years have seen an annualised 16.07 per cent return, against the index’s 6.46 per cent.

In its current portfolio, according to the manager’s latest client note, for the period to June 30, the strategy is overweight information technology, healthcare, communication services and consumer discretionary stocks. Geographically, it tends to be slightly overweight North America and emerging markets. The manager has been represented in Australia by John Schaffer, a former asset consultant who is the principal of Catallyst Advisors, for nearly 10 years.

Michelle Wade said the employment among most of AvSuper’s membership had held up “OK, so far” and because of the relatively high average member account balance, of about $500,000, the early release system had not had a major impact on cashflows. Most of the fund’s members are involved in the airline industry’s infrastructure, such as air traffic controllers and engineers, so they are not as badly impacted as pilots, other air crew and baggage handlers by the COVID restrictions causing havoc in the travel industry.

– G.B.

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