From CEO’s Union to Industry Pillar

The role of what used to be known as the fund secretary has grown enormously in the past 10 years.

Helping that growth, through the professional development of the chief and other fund executives, has been the Fund Executives Association Ltd, which marks its 10th anniversary year this month with its annual national conference and members’ dinner in Melbourne.

GREG BRIGHT, a former FEAL interim board member prior to its formalisation in 1999, traces the association’s history and looks at its likely future.

Associations, by their nature, tend to be a little amorphous. They are a bit like a political party. They aim to bring together like-minded people under an umbrella of common interests. Oftentimes, however, they’ll end up with more factions than a Labor caucus. Oftentimes, too, they will go to war with other associations within their industry, either over a specific issue or in prolonged battles for membership turf. But as imperfect as the reality may be, associations are nonetheless an integral part of any industry, in some ways even defining that industry or section of it, in the eyes of the wider world.

The one body which stands out in the superannuation industry, which from the outset sought to avoid such conflicts, is the Fund Executives Association Ltd (FEAL), which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. Perhaps because it was the last of the three major organisations representing super fund interests to be formed, FEAL has tried hard to differentiate itself from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST).

In the process FEAL has evolved from a luncheon club for senior fund executives to a professional development body offering access to the most thorough of hands-on and academic training available for super fund management. Michael Dwyer, FEAL’s inaugural chair who now runs the $15 billion First State Super, says that the people involved at the start were clear that FEAL should not be another lobby group “Mavis (Robertson, who then ran CMSF and sat on the AIST board – the two organisations having subsequently merged) and Susan Ryan (then chief executive of AIST) challenged the wisdom of splintering the industry’s advocacy voice,” he says.

“We went to some lengths to assure them that we were not replacing any existing services.” Dwyer says that no one at the time was looking after the professional development of the people who were actually running the funds. “We had nearly a year of informal meetings before we formalised the association. We got enough input in that time to see there was a need that wasn’t being catered for.”

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