The chair of one of Australia’s largest super funds, State Super NSW, said that investment expertise was a major criteria in the selection of its new chief executive.

Chris Durack, most recently the general manager of the internal investment teams at Challenger, started at the $30 billion-plus closed defined benefit fund for NSW public servants yesterday.

Durack has no direct experience running a super fund but is highly respected as an asset consultant to super funds, having had stints at Towers Perrin and Mercer, where he also ran retail product research.

Durack said he was looking forward to working with State Super CIO, Martin Drew, on maintaining the outperformance of the fund. The pair have worked together previously at Mercer.

State Super chair, Don Russell, said the board had sought out a CEO with investment experience, and lauded Durack as someone with "strong people management skills" who would complement Drew’s investment work.

"The notion of having a CEO who is purely a manager, and a CIO who’s some sort of larger than life character who operates completely outside the skill set of the CEO, I don’t think that’s a model that works at all," Russell said.

Lyn Collingridge of the SAS Trustee Corporation, the State Super secretariat, had been acting as CEO while the lengthy executive search (co-ordinated by Russell Reynolds) took place.

The State Government was forced to lift the $428,000-a-year salary cap on the CEO position late last year, after finding no suitably qualified candidates for the position.

Russell said the lifting of the salary cap "made things a lot easier" but stressed the board had not "pushed the envelope" in setting a salary for Durack.

"We are now paying a competitive salary within our universe, which is the other State-based funds, whereas [the old pay scale] was way out of touch."

In SAS Trustee Corporation’s 2006/07 annual report, former CEO Don McLean was listed as earning $247,300, plus a $27,000 retention bonus.

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