Neil-CochraneNeil Cochrane, chair of the $6.7 billion Commonwealth Bank Officers’ Superannuation Fund, will lead the investment committee of another not-for-profit fund in his second major appointment since retiring as deputy chief executive officer of Colonial First State Global Asset Management (CFS GAM).

Cochrane has joined the $5 billion AUSCOAL Super as the first independent chair of the fund’s investment committee, and has also become an independent director of the AUSCOAL Services board.

The appointments completed a series of governance changes instituted by AUSCOAL, in which the fund’s board and three sub-committee gained an independent director or chairman during the past 18 months, Bruce Watson, chief executive officer of AUSCOAL, said.

“There was a decision within AUSCOAL, which is three companies, to bring in independent chair positions across the whole organisation,” Watson said.

“It wasn’t done on the advice of our consultant; it was driven by the board and management.”

AUSCOAL Super, which runs administration business AUSCOAL Services and financial planning arm AUSCOAL Advisory Services, recruited a number of industry professionals to senior positions within this 18-month timeframe. Towers Perrin veteran John Crocker joined the trustee board as an independent director; Bill Wallace, a former partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, became independent chair of the fund’s compliance and risk committee; Dave Taylor, who runs FI Consulting, took an independent position on the advisory services board; and Cochrane was appointed to his positions on the investment and services committees. The board of AUSCOAL Super is chaired by Arthur Weston.

“We believe it brings independent thinking, and appropriate skills and experience to the fund.”

While accepting the AUSCOAL positions, Cochrane said it was important to ensure the fund, like the Commonwealth Bank Officers’ fund, was not a public-offer vehicle, thereby eliminating the potential for any conflicts of interest because the entities were not competitors.

In addition to the super fund positions, Cochrane is a member of the property and infrastructure advisory groups within CFS GAM, which aim to provide an impartial view on all transactions being undertaken by the manager and make sure that good governance standards are maintained.

Besides Mark Lazberger, head of CFS GAM, all members of the advisory groups are independent of the funds manager. Cochrane, who was deputy CEO and global head of business development, retired from CFS GAM in 2009.

He was appointed to the AUSCOAL positions in late 2009.

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