UniSuper’s chief investment officer, John Pearce, has hired one of Telstra Super’s asset class heads to his investment team, although he has played down the role played by Terry McCredden, the former Telstra Super CEO now running UniSuper, in the appointment.
Kent Robbins, one of Australia’s most experienced property funds managers, will start as UniSuper’s head of property in the second week of November, after five years with Telstra Super, which was preceded by a stint at Pinnacle Property Group and over a decade at AMP.
Robbins will replace Gordon Young, who left in July after about year one with UniSuper, having joined from nabCapital, where he’d been head of structured property finance, in 2008.
Pearce said McCredden was an “obvious point or reference internally” in the decision to hire Robbins, but that Robbins had simply made an application for the head of property position after UniSuper advertised it.
Pearce said he had run the recruitment process, interviewing about a dozen candidates.
Unisuper’s exposure to property is a “reasonably high” 10 per cent, according to Pearce, with Perth retail asset Karrinyup Shopping Centre, of which UniSuper holds 67 per cent, the biggest single exposure.
Pearce said an early job for Robbins will be to determine an optimal mix between listed and unlisted assets, pointing out that even though REITs were still trading at big discounts to NTA, UniSuper had just completed a big direct deal which showed there was “compelling value” on the unlisted side.
Meanwhile, Pearce said his stated ambition for UniSuper’s team to manage more money directly was progressing, under a policy of “logical incrementalism – so don’t expect any big-bang changes”.
Telstra Super CEO Martin Crowe could not be reached for comment regarding a replacement for Robbins. The big corporate fund is also yet to announce a replacement for departed CIO Steve Merlicek, which some industry observers are taking as a sign the replacement won’t be internal.