Garry Weaven takes his first bow


It’s difficult to imagine Garry Weaven in retirement. Even though he is in his late 60s, one suspects it will be a very active retirement. Last week he announced he was going to hand over the chairman role at IFM Investors to another former ACTU heavyweight, Greg Combet.

IFM Investors is Weaven’s last remaining major active role in the funds management part of the industry. It is the firm he started in 1990, as Industry Fund Services, and cultivated to spawn influential offspring, such as Frontier Advisors and ME Bank, through various mutations.

The thing is that when the industry funds were involved in big-picture strategies, either for their own growth or for the whole of their membership – that is, most working Australians – Garry Weaven has been at, or near, the centre of it all since the mid-1980s. A potted history of Weaven’s career includes:

  • As assistant secretary of the ACTU, helping his boss, Bill Kelty, to negotiate the ‘Accord’ with the Hawke/Keating Government in 1986, which was the unofficial start of the modern super system. This involved negotiations on both sides of the table.
  • Championing the cause for industry super funds, including helping negotiations with corporates which had taken legal action in various industries to try to maintain their dominance.
  • Within the industry, challenging the dominance of ASFA by establishing CMSF and then AIST, with the assistance of long-time friend and confidante the late Mavis Robertson, then secretary of what became Cbus.
  • Setting up IFS which subsequently split between the funds management side and the consulting side – IFM and Frontier Advisors. That split showed Weaven’s respect for the consulting clients.
  • Organising the purchase of the former Jacques Martin super admin business from Colonial Group, which became SuperPartners (which has merged with the Link Group).
  • Setting up Members Equity bank, initially with the old National Mutual. It was first to provide home loans for industry fund members and subsequently widened its brief and became wholly owned by the funds.
  • Helping to build IFM into a global manager with a particular expertise in infrastructure, now with more than $110 billion under management.

Weaven is a big-picture person. It is understood he is looking at various projects to occupy his mind as he extracts himself from his remaining board positions. Rest assured, they are probably not small projects.

Combet takes up the chair’s role in January. In the formal statement last week, IFM said: “The IFM Investors board now comprises eight members that command a broad range of skills and acumen. The board members, from 1 January 2019, are: The Hon Greg Combet AM (chair), Mr Michael Migro, Ms Carol Gray, Ms Deborah Kiers, Mr John Denton AO, Ms Alison Larsson, Mr Grant Dempsey and Ms. Cath Bowtell.

“Mr Weaven’s retirement closes a chapter on an exceptional career as a key architect behind the creation and growth of the industry superannuation fund movement and IFM Investors; which has benefitted the retirement income of everyday working people in Australia and across the globe.

“Mr Weaven said: ‘Under Greg’s leadership, IFM Investors will continue to retain our differentiated cultural heritage and investor-first approach, with the aim to deliver strong net returns to working people who benefit from our increasingly global institutional funds management business’.”

Combet is a former secretary of the ACTU and a Labor Government cabinet minister. He has been on the IFM board since 2014.

– G.B.