There were some differences of opinion, though, about who should be eligible to join FEAL. Michael Lillicrap, the influential interim board member who then ran REST, leaned towards exclusivity – a group for CEOs only was his preference. Vanessa Stoykov and her boss Ouma Sananikone, who were providing sponsorship support where required, leaned towards a broader church of all fund staff, including staff of commercial masterfunds. Inevitably, a compromise was reached.
Subsequent changes have favoured a broader membership base but there is still an exclusive element to FEAL. The annual Fund Executive Forum, for instance, is open to CEOs and direct reports only (the first one was only for CEOs). Most FEAL events have just one sponsor, which is the only service provider permitted to attend. The national conference, this year being held in Melbourne on August 13, is the only FEAL event open to everyone in the industry.
Dwyer believes that FEAL will continue to evolve and probably become more inclusive in future. “But we have to be careful to continue to harness the loyalty and the passion of the members we have,” he says. FEAL conducted a member survey last October, which showed that 80-90 per cent of respondents believed the association added value for its members. Howard Rosario, the current chair, who is CEO of Westscheme, says the other industry bodies have a much wider brief, including influencing policy, and do their jobs very well. “We try to identify the things which FEAL can do which others don’t,” he says. “Our training program is focused on delivering competencies for executives.”
The formal programs, of which there are now several including a Graduate Diploma (Organisational Leadership) with the prestigious Melbourne Business School of Melbourne University, involve partnerships with both learning bodies and sponsors. The program is an industry first in offering a customised post-graduate qualification with a pathway to an MBA from Melbourne Business School. Michael Baldwin, FEAL’s chief executive since 2001, sees his primary role as building lasting partnerships for the organisation.
“FEAL is here to support the leaders in the super industry. We do this so successfully because of the great partnerships we’ve forged with individuals and organisations that genuinely want to contribute to the professional development of fund executives.” Apart from Melbourne Business School, such partnerships involve the Centre for Investor Education (CIE), Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA) and Wharton Business School, with long-term sponsors attached to lighten the financial load.