Twenty years ago the only contribution Australian Greeks made to superannuation was for their employees in their fish and chip corner stores, so says Greek-Australian Peter Lambos from BT Investment Management.
Now Greeks are everywhere in the industry – just look at the membership list of Greeks In Super. Australian Council of Superannuation Investors’ Phil Spathis, Australian Super private equity chief Terry Charalambous, Credit Agricole’s John Marigiannis, Martin Currie’s new Australian head Kimon Kouryalis, PIMCO’s John Wilson (obviously, his mum is Greek), Telstra Super’s Chris Artis, Vision Super’s Adam Karaelis – to name just a few.
Lambos started Greeks In Super last year upon reflecting that the number of his compatriots working in the industry was only rising. Aristotle aside, it’s not entirely clear what philosophy Greeks in Super might push, other than “having a bit of fun”, which includes in-house north/south Greek jokes, and Charalambous the butt of some jibes for his Cypriot ancestry.
But one thing is clear. Greeks In Super is exclusive: Greek blood is a must. “We are very careful as to who we invite,” Lambos says. “There are no token memberships.” Lambos has been approached to open the doors. Telstra Super chief investment officer Steve Merlicek has apparently been agitating for a guernsey with claims of a grandmother with Greek roots, but Lambos won’t have a bar of it.
The Italian-blooded have mooted a suggestion to expand the boundaries to create Wogs In Super, but Lambos cannot be moved. He says the Greeks are keen to grow the ranks, but is committed to keeping it in the family. New members undergo a highly secretive initiation, which Lambos refused to elaborate on other than to hint it involved at least half a bottle of Ouzo and a few home truths.
The quarterly get-together of the dozen or so (mostly) Australian-born Greeks hasn’t yet involved the proverbial plate smashing. “Don’t stereotype us like that,” Lambos says, adding the group hasn’t yet discovered a Melbourne fine-dining place that will let them smash the crockery.
He is quick to point out that another stereotype of Greeks – “testosterone-driven” – doesn’t apply either, given that the elite group has a few women in its ranks, such as KPMG’s Joanne Tsintzos and JP Morgan’s Suzie Sarlas. Lambos is hopeful the group will survive longer than another sovereign-minded group, Jews in Super.
The brainchild of industry doyen Jack Diamond, it unfortunately only lasted about a year.