One of superannuation’s longest-serving fund secretaries, Ashby Utting, is retiring from AustSafe Super after 20 years, among a whirlwind of change at the $820 million fund.

Utting will be replaced from June 30 by Craig Stevens, a former Queensland manager for Superpartners who joined AustSafe last October in the role of chief executive. AustSafe is striving to become public offer by the end of 2007, Stevens said, because many of the employers of its rural membership base are restricted from joining the scheme. In a bid to lift its profile, several additions have recently been made to the fund’s secretariat, including Simon Fielder as regional manager for North Queensland, Simone Charters as communications executive and Paul Meredith as operations manager. A restructure of the Australian equities line-up was advised by JANA and completed in February. Maple-Brown Abbott and Perennial had pooled investments transitioned to mandates, while new mandates with Alliance Bernstein, IAG, Macquarie Funds Management and the Orbis/SM Australian Equity Fund were introduced. Paradice Investment Management was retained for a small cap mandate but Wallara Asset Management was dropped. Meanwhile, AustSafe appointed National Custodian Services as its first-ever external custodian last December, after previously having the function handled by its administrator. Stevens said the custodian would improve flexibility around asset and tax management in the lead-up to gaining public offer status. A new group life insurer was also installed from January 1, with CommInsure pipping MetLife after a full tender process. Its bid involved reduced premiums and the addition of ‘white collar’ scales for the first time, reflective of AustSafe’s ambitions to attract farm business owners as well as workers.

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