In a week of contrasts for Russell Investments, the first client for its post-IBM fund administration model was secured, Michael Triguboff’s former deputy was hired, but the 22-year veteran running the superannuation business resigned to join Mercer.

Steve Schubert, the ‘face of Russell’ for many after a career which began at Towers Perrin in 1988 and followed large clients like BHP Billiton over to Russell ownership in 2004, resigned on Friday, December 3.

At Mercer, Schubert will lead a new team liaising with major clients which use a cross-section of the group’s services.

The weekend immediately following Schubert’s resignation saw Russell officially “unplugged” from IBM Superlife, and 75 former IBM staff moved into Russell’s new headquarters on Sydney’s King Street. Client funds are live on Russell’s administration platform today, while the full service model, which also involves offshoring some backoffice functions to India, will become available to members from January 1.

Russell’s CEO for Australasia, Chris Corneil, acknowledged Schubert’s vast experience but said his loss was “more symbolic than substantive”. He said clients were satisfied that services to the 220,000 members of Russell-administered funds would continue as normal.

Those sentiments were echoed by Michelle Griffiths, the CEO of AvSuper, the 6000-member industry scheme which will join Russell in departing IBM Superlife’s platform (upon which it was administered by Towers Watson) and becoming the first client for Russell’s in-house model after the first quarter next year.

Griffiths said Siva Sivakumaran, Russell’s director of administration and consulting services, was the key contact for the fund leading into the transition. She said that transition would be made easier by the fact both IBM Superlife and Russell’s internal admin platform were built on Bravura’s Superb system.

She said AvSuper had switched administrators because while Russell was offering a similar bundle of services as IBM Superlife – indeed, the two organisations had worked together on most of them – Russell had promised they would get them all “in one hit”. Griffiths nominated the introduction of on-line functionality for its pension members as a service that would be welcomed under the new arrangement.

IQ Group assisted AvSuper in what was originally an administration benchmarking exercise, which will now culminate in a change of administrator.

Meanwhile, Russell has appointed Marian Carr, previously the deputy managing director of Michael Triguboff’s MIR Investment Management boutique, as the fourth independent director of its wholly-owned trustee company, Total Risk Management.

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