The Fund Executives Association Ltd (FEAL) will hold its national conference in Sydney, at the Four Seasons Hotel on August 27, exploring the theme ‘Making Better Decisions’.

A panel discussion chaired by David Knox, partner at Mercer, proposes to challenge the traditional decision-making processes that are part of all aspects of governance for most superannuation funds today. Paul Costello, general manger of the $61 billion Future Fund and one of the panellists, said that the conference would provide a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges of good decision making. “People in a fiduciary role have an acute responsibility, and it is a real challenge to strike the balance between timeliness, accountability, authority, and probity,” he said. “These are issues not unique to super funds.”

In light of the increasing complexity and sophistication of the investment industry, the panel will consider whether the standard trustee/committee/management model is the most efficient way to make decisions going forward. Indeed, several of the participating panellists are with organisations that have moved beyond the trustee model to structures with increased delegation.

Another topic for discussion by this panel is ‘theory versus reality – how decisions are really made and by whom’. The other panellists are Syd Bone, director and chief executive of Victorian Funds Management, Scott Donald, director of fiduciary research at Russell Investment Group, Lynn Ralph, managing director at Cameron Ralph, and Carol Royal, senior lecturer at the School of Organisation & Management within the Australian School of Business.

The FEAL annual conference is the only FEAL event in the year which is open to all industry participants. It usually attracts about 250 attendees. Other FEAL events are open only to members, their invited trustee guests, and the sponsors of individual events.

Jack Gray, adjunct professor of finance at the University of Technology Sydney, will open the conference with a discussion of how certain decisions were made at crucial times in history, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis for the Kennedy Administration in the US.

Gray’s theory is that for good decision making, an organisation or group needs to have a ‘designated bastard’ to critically analyse whatever is being proposed. Information and bookings: wwwfeal.asn.au