Dr. Don Russell, the former senior adviser to Paul Keating and the chair of the giant NSW State Super defined benefit fund, will add the investment committee chairmanship of another not-for-profit super fund to his name.

Russell will become the next investment committee chair of the $2.5 billion Labour Union Co-operative Retirement Fund (LUCRF), replacing the Victorian secretary of LUCRF employee sponsor, the National Union of Workers.

Antony Thow stepped down from his LUCRF responsibilities in order to run for a Senate seat in Victoria, as the third candidate on the Australian Labor Party’s ticket.

At presstime it looked like he had been pipped for a seat by a Ballarat blacksmith representing the Democratic Labor Party, however LUCRF chief executive Gregory Sword said this would have no bearing on Russell’s appointment.

“Antony’s career is headed in a [Parliamentary] direction,” he said.

Once Thow made his intentions known prior to the Election, Sword said LUCRF’s board decided to search for its first independent investment committee chair.

“It’s part of a long-term program to have the fund become more self-contained in the investment area,” Sword said.

The head of investment oversight, David McCusker, has built up a team of six people over the last 12 months, split between strategy and operational responsibilities, which Sword said “ensures we can add value to what our asset consultant and our funds managers are telling us”.

However the chief executive said the fund was a long way from directly managing any of its own money.

Sword said Russell had been approached to chair the investment committee because the fund had worked with him previously, when he was the investment strategist for the Australian business of multi-affiliate BNY Mellon Asset Management.

Russell said that when he was retrenched from that role earlier this year, he had a choice between seeking “another big funds management role” or “a series of interesting cameos…I was keen to maintain my chairmanship of State Super [his term is due to expire around the end of 2012] so it helped send me in this direction”.

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