Fowler leaves a proud legacy at HESTA

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HESTA executive, investment execution, Rob Fowler, will retire from the fund in July, after about 15 years, resulting in a new role to be created to lead investment operations. When he joined the fund in 2004 he was only its second investment professional.

Debby Blakey, HESTA chief executive, paid tribute to Fowler’s contribution for members over that time, first as CIO and then heading up the investment operations and execution capability. But it was ESG that was his passion.

Blakey said: “Over many years he has made an amazing difference to the financial future of our members through delivering strong, long-term investment performance. Rob has shown incredible leadership and strategic foresight, spearheading the establishment of HESTA as a global leader in responsible investment.”

“As CIO, he pioneered the integration of ESG into mainstream investment mandates across all asset classes domestically and was a leader in global ESG integration by investment managers. Rob also led the implementation of total portfolio screens for tobacco and thermal coal at HESTA.”

Blakey said Fowler was looking to move into ‘semi-retirement’. She thanked him for helping develop and deliver a comprehensive transition plan for an area of the business undergoing significant change.

The new head of investment execution will report to Sonya Sawtell-Rickson, HESTA CIO. She said the newly created role would oversee middle and back-office functions of the investment team and facilitate closer partnerships between the execution and investment management arms of HESTA’s internal team.

“A key focus of the role is on designing and implementing investment operating models, particularly as we look closely at our internal asset management capability,” Sawtell-Rickson said.

“We are looking at significant systems implementations in the coming years to support the development of our investment approach and supporting innovation with world-class execution is vital… It really is an amazing legacy Rob leaves, having built an investment team from the ground up at HESTA.”

Fowler said it had been a wonderful experience working with the HESTA team, particularly with the executive team led by Debby Blakey, and previously Anne-Marie Corboy. More importantly, though, it had been a privilege to have been able to support HESTA members to achieve strong and secure financial futures after they had spent their careers caring for others, he said.

“It’s been an incredible honour to have been entrusted with growing and protecting our members’ hard-earned savings and ensuring that they have the best possible retirement. After more than 30 years in the investment industry, I am looking forward to stepping back from a full-time role and exploring different types of opportunities.”

Fowler was a key supporter of the re-launch of the BT Governance Advisory Service (now Regnan) as engagement advisor representing HESTA on the board for eight years and had been on the management committee of the Investor Group on Climate Change for more than a decade.

He is also the founding and current chair of ESG Research Australia, a collaboration of super funds, fund managers and asset consultants aimed at increasing stockbroker research that includes consideration of ESG issues.

– G.B.

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