The $10 billion Telstra Super fund has reached the shortlist stage in its first-ever asset consulting tender, a process which is likely to result in a less piecemeal approach to advice from the corporate fund.
Telstra Super has used Russell as its principal asset consultant for many years, and has supplemented that advice more recently with one-off projects for other consultants. For instance, Strategic Capital Management has provided Steve Merlicek’s investment team with research on non-traditional illiquid investments.
However Telstra Super chief executive, Martin Crowe, said the fund’s preference in future was for a "deep relationship" with a single traditional consultant, although he would "never say never" to retaining the multi-advisor model.
Crowe said that a few applicants had been culled from the tender, which is being run internally, and discussions with remaining parties were ongoing.
"It’s been a very worthwhile process," Crowe said, adding that the proposals from consultants had taken a ‘blank sheet of paper’ approach.
Observers of the tender process have speculated that JANA is a good chance to replace Russell, with Access Capital Advisers also seen as a strong contender.
Crowe would not comment on the tender outcome, but acknowledged that Russell had undergone "strategic shifts" over the years, and had also experienced some of the trend for asset consultants to move to jobs in funds management or internal super fund investment teams.
There had been few major investment changes at Telstra Super of late, Crowe said, although some mandates had been "trimmed" to deal with a move into cash by a "single-digit percentage" of members.