A Melbourne-based industry fund has appointed Brett Lazarides, the former head of private equity and infrastructure for UniSuper, to become its first new investment committee chair in 30 years.

The $450 million Combined Fund, whose employee sponsor base is Melbourne private schools, has also appointed Lazarides as the first ever independent director on its board, the result of a full strategic review of the fund and its constitution commissioned by the board last year.

Lazarides’ predecessor as Combined Fund investment committee chair was Terry Wills-Cooke, who also resigned his board seat on December 31 last year.

“Evolutionary” changes could be expected to Combined Fund’s investment strategy, Lazarides said, noting the fund had gone into “batten down the hatches” mode during the global financial crisis.

The fund, which also counts charities and other non-for-profit entities among its employer base, was an early victim of said crisis through its ill-fated exposure to Basis Capital’s Yield Fund.

As a “normalised” weighting to growth assets is sought, Lazarides said it should not be assumed his preferences would follow the sorts of asset classes which have defined his career, which has included stints as head of infrastructure for Perpetual, and head of alternative assets for National Asset Management.

“Funds need to assure their illiquid allocations aren’t creating a mismatch between the product they are offering members and the rate at which redemption are made from that product. A good manager should be able to give you an updated valuation quarterly,” said Lazarides.

Combined Fund currently has an exposure of roughly 1 per cent to unlisted infrastructure, not fully invested, through the Infrastructure Capital Group, the former ANZ Infrastructure funds recently bought out by a consortium including their portfolio manager, John Clarke.

Lazarides has an eponymous consulting company through he which he offers strategic and transactional advice to infrastructure managers, including the Lighthouse Group founded by former Hastings Funds Management director Mitch King.

“Infrastructure can be a chicken-and-egg game, it’s getting the transaction on the table which then brings the clients,” Lazarides said.

Lazarides also consults to Value Advisor Associates, a valuer of unlisted infrastructure assets, assisting them in determining risks to cash flow of specific infrastruture deals.




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