The $10 billion Telstra Super has hired a private equity specialist from its asset consultant, JANA Investment Advisers, to manage its private equity portfolio as it recovers from the loss of former alternatives head Nicole Connolly.

JANA consultant Robert Talevski will join the big corporate fund in the new position later this month, Telstra Super chief investment officer Jim Christensen confirmed to I&T News. Talevski, who was a senior member of the private equity team at JANA, “will have primary day-to-day responsibility for running the private equity portfolio,” he said.

This means selecting and performing due diligence on managers to implement the fund’s private equity strategy, which will be developed in concert with Christensen and Australian equities portfolio manager John Eliopolous, whose previous nine years as investments chief of the Myer family office involved running a private equity portfolio. The strategy will require approval by the fund’s investment committee.

Talevski exited JANA last week, ending a term of more than three years with the consultant in which he became a senior member of the private equity team, led by unlisted assets boss Robert Day, and an advisor to a number of large super funds. In the 14 months since JANA was chosen as Telstra Super’s asset consultant, the fund did not enlist Talevski to provide any specialist advice on its private equity program, Christensen said.

He said the fund’s private equity program would continue to make direct investments with managers rather than through funds-of-funds, a strategic shift which had “been ongoing for a number of years” under Connolly and former investments boss Steve Merlicek.

It is understood that Telstra Super will soon announce a portfolio manager for its hedge fund investments to fully replenish its internal team after a series of departures in the past eight months, in which Merlicek and Australian equities head Dan Farmer moved to IOOF and Connolly left for Russell Investments. Christensen said a “rolling review” of the fund’s investments, initiated when JANA became the fund’s consultant, helped familiarise incoming staff with the fund’s portfolios and refine existing strategies.

Ian Patrick, chief executive of JANA, declined to comment on the redistribution of Talevski’s duties among the team, or on the company’s progress as it searches to replace Evan Reedman, its former head of portfolio construction, who joined Queensland Investment Corporation in March.

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