Australian super funds are still organising their equity portfolios “like they did 10 years ago” when they enjoyed none of the scale they do today, said AustralianSuper chief investment officer Mark Delaney, as he announced a search for four new positions in his investment team last month. The $33 billion fund will search for its first dedicated head of equities, as Delaney vowed to “explore all the options” for implementing the share portfolios more efficiently. AustralianSuper has already gone 50 per cent passive (through Industry Funds Management which it part-owns) and halved the active manager list in its Australian equities portfolio.

Delaney said the fund would consider establishing an internal active equities team, and entertain “hybrids” of active and passive management such as alternatives to market cap-weighted indexing. Delaney is also searching for a dedicated head of infrastructure. Similar to the equities position, this was originally searched for during the 2007 bull market, but no suitable candidates could be found. “I’m confident that in a more bearish market we’ll get a lot of quality applications, added to which is the fact we’re a much stronger brand than we were three years ago,” Delaney said.

The infrastructure chief would help “shape” the fund’s increasingly complex infrastructure portfolio, where it was most commonly a general partner of Industry Funds Management vehicles, but increasingly also a direct co-investor in deals. AustralianSuper also seeks an ‘Asian investment expert’, with Delaney still undecided as to whether the successful candidate would be based with the rest of the investment team in Melbourne, or in one of the Asian regional hubs such as Hong Kong or Singapore. With 40 per cent of its international equities portfolio already invested in the emerging markets, Delaney said AustralianSuper had long recognised the importance of Asia from an investment perspective, but was mindful of the “horrendous experiences” that other ventures to the region had shared with him.

He said the Asian investment expert, who did not necessarily need to speak a local Asian language, would help the fund identify and assess opportunities and investment partners in the region, as well as contribute to the fund’s “big picture’ approach to the world’s pre-eminent growth area. Delaney guessed the Asianexpert vacancy would take the longest to fill of any of the four roles. That fourth role will be a governance specialist. Delaney said this person would “ensure appropriate governance of our investments, work to improve corporate behaviour in our investment vehicles, and integrate active investor considerations in our investment process”. He said governance was an important avenue of adding value to the fund’s passive Australian equity portfolio. The four new roles will be advertised, however at presstime Delaney was undecided on the use of an executive search firm.

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