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Vanguard’s super man hits the road

Vanguard Australia head of superannuation Michael Lovett will leave the firm following the launch of its super product.

While questions initially swirled about whether he jumped or was pushed, Vanguard later clarified that Lovett’s decision to leave was all his own. His departure comes just three months after the product’s launch. He’s been with Vanguard for 11 years, including as head of distribution for Vanguard Australia, and returned to Australia from the United States in 2020 to establish Vanguard Super.

“With the fund now up and running, Michael plans to take some time out before moving on to the next chapter in his career, and he leaves Vanguard with our thanks and best wishes for the future,” said Daniel Shrimski, managing director of Vanguard Australia.

“As we move from an establishment to growth phase of Vanguard Super’s journey, we will continue to evolve, responding to the changing needs of our members, embracing innovation and personalisation, and driving cost efficiencies that deliver better member outcomes. We will continue to build teams and foster leadership that supports our ambitious strategy in Australia. Plans for the succession of this role are well progressed and we look forward to sharing more details soon.”

Though the rumour mill spun into overdrive every time Vanguard announced a new delay (one of the more credible rumours is that the delay was mostly down to APRA), there was apparently nothing unusual going on behind the scenes; at launch, Shrimski tamped down on speculation that building a super product had been harder than Vanguard thought.

“We’re here for the long-term,” Shrimski told ISN in November 2022. “I’m not concerned about three months earlier or three months later. What’s been important for us over the past two years has been to get every I dotted and every T crossed. It’s a massive responsibility that we take on to manage Australia’s retirement savings, and therefore we wanted to make sure that we were ready to push that button.”

Whichever way you look at it, Vanguard now faces an even longer road to superannuation domination. Its organic growth plans currently hinge on 20,000 “word of mouth” prospects that expressed interest in its product in the 12 months leading up to its launch, as well as leveraging its 90,000 Australian personal investor clients and working with financial advisers, 65 per cent of whom “have at least a dollar with Vanguard”. As is their wont, super fund executives have privately questioned Vanguard’s organic growth plans, and believe a merger to (relatively) rapidly build scale is the more likely option.

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