In the space of a fortnight last month, the $3 billion, Melbournebased Catholic Super lost chief investment officer Tim Hughes but was able to rapidly appoint Mercer’s global head of research and a former lead consultant to the fund, Garrie Lette, as manager of investments. It emerged in early February that Hughes, who had been CIO at Catholic Super for seven years, had left the fund to commit more time to advising the $2.7 billion Non- Government Schools Super (NGS Super), in addition to other funds, on investment strategy.

At the time, Frank Pegan, chief executive of Catholic Super, said the fund was “as quickly as possible looking for a replacement”. This came in the form of Lette, who had returned the previous October from his role with Mercer in London. Pegan said Catholic Super “had a two-week gap” between the end of Hughes’ contract and the appointment of Lette, which was expedited because the Mercer veteran “was being chased by other funds”. Lette already had a close history with Catholic Super. In his 18-year career in investment consulting and research with Mercer, he was lead consultant to the fund for five years in the mid-90s. “He knows the fund, and the fund knows him,” Pegan said. “And he was available.

Everything converged at the right time.” Pegan said Lette would implement Catholic Super’s investment strategy and co-ordinate the work of two internal investment professionals as the fund neared the 31 March completion date for its merger with the $665 million National Catholic Superannuation Fund. Pegan declined to comment on the executive-level changes that would take place during the merger. “At the moment we’re reviewing the whole structure,” he said. During his tenure as CIO of Catholic Super, Hughes said he advised NGS Super on its investment strategy, portfolio structuring and manager selection “in my own time” but now aimed “to devote significantly more time to doing that”.

He also aimed to advise other super funds on their investment strategies, he added. At NGS Super, he would work with asset consultant JANA Investment Advisers, chief executive Anthony Rodwell-Ball, investment officer Ben Squires and analyst Megan Pham to implement the fund’s investment strategy, he said. No further change was likely in the immediate future. In September 2008, Hughes 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 drew Dwyer to WA in June 2009, where he continued working for NGS Super until July, when he decided to stay and take a job with GESB as an investment strategist.

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