In a revolving-door style of exit, Chris Condon is leaving MLC as its CIO but retaining his link with the Golden Nest Egg because MLC will be the first major client of his new company, Chris Condon Financial Services Pty Ltd. Industry veteran Condon will focus on advice to instos for asset strategies, governance and investment product design. After 12 years at the helm at MLC, Condon says it’s time to “build something else, and it’s time to do it now”. [He was 52 in mid-February.] “MLC is one of the best places to do what I want to do – in Australia, if not the world. It’s a tremendous group of people and a very experienced team after 25 years in the business,” he says.

Condon leaves MLC on good terms, in fact so favourable that MLC will be his first client. When Condon broke the news to Garry Mulcahy, executive general manager of MLC’s asset management, Mulcahy’s response was to ask how they could keep working together. With a long background in investment, Condon sees this next phase as the logical development of his experience. After graduating with first class honours in finance from the University of NSW in 1979, he worked in finance with private clients and the Ford Motor Company before moving to Towers Perrin in 1984 where he was an actuary and founding member of the asset consulting team until 1990.

From there, he worked with Frank Russell Co until 1997, including two years in London in 1996-97. On returning, he moved to MLC as its CIO, where he described his approach as one of “finding holistic solutions to investors’ problems”. Condon eschews the suggestion that he’s one of the industry’s Robin Hoods, protecting investors’ rights against rapacious managers. “There’s so many moving parts in this industry now that sometimes people forget why we’re doing what we’re doing,” he says. “A lot of what we do as an industry doesn’t help.”

“Investment has a strong and noble purpose and a very important role to play. We have to get back to the basics: what is a person wanting to achieve with their investment?” Two big issues keep Condon awake at night. He is “extremely worried” that some investments are actually high-frequency and high-gearing trading. “Speculation is not a good investment,” he warns. “Speculation in itself is not necessarily bad: in fact, it can lead to price discovery. But, it’s not helping with investors’ problems.” The second issue that exercises Condon’s conscience is index investing. “There is a place for it, but it’s often taken to extremes,” he says. Condon finished as CIO at MLC’s Sydney office at the end of February – and re-enters the building this week as soon as he’s granted his AFSL from ASIC.

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