Hughes will become CIO of the $2.7 billion NGS Super, where he has worked part-time as an investment adviser for four years, after deciding to increase his commitment to the fund and not renew his contract with Catholic Super.
“I’ve basically been the effective CIO, and it’s likely to be formalised,” Hughes said.
Hughes had advised NGS Super on investment strategy, portfolio structuring and manager selection “in my own time” but now aimed “to devote significantly more time to doing that,” he said.
Catholic Super had begun searching for a new CIO and intended to make an appointment in the near future, Frank Pegan, chief executive officer of the fund, said.
“We are as quickly as possible looking for a replacement,” Pegan said.
Commenting on his tenure at Catholic Super, Hughes said: “I had a fantastic time. It was very challenging and rewarding to get results that were good. But seven years is long enough.”
In an email informing industry contacts of his move to NGS Super, he wrote: “Some lucky decisions have seen [Catholic Super] placed in the top decile over three, five and seven years, and I am realistic enough to know that there is only one way for performance to go from there!”
To implement NGS Super’s investment strategy, he will work with asset consultant JANA Investment Advisers, chief executive Anthony Rodwell-Ball, investment officer Ben Squires and analyst Megan Pham. No further change was likely in the immediate future, he said.
In September 2008, he recruited Bill Dwyer, Mercer’s then head of Australian equities manager research, to become NGS Super’s manager of investments “in the hope that he would grow over a couple of years into the CIO role”. But family concerns compelled Dwyer to move to WA in June 2006, where he continued working for NGS Super until July, when he decided to stay and take a job with GESB as an investment strategist.
Hughes, who before joining Catholic Super “failed” at retirement, was excited by the growing economic might of China and India, which he had observed in regular research trips to the countries throughout the past four years, and most recently in December and January, he said.
“We are living through the most important thing to happen to the world economy since the industrial revolution. It’s very hard for us to comprehend the scale of what’s happening in China and what it means for our economy in investment terms.