Mark O’Brien, an AMP Capital Investors veteran and until recently its chief investment officer, has left the big manager in pursuit of ambitions outside the investment industry and has been succeeded internally.

After “almost 30 years in the game”, O’Brien has left the investment industry to graze Angus cattle, lamb and prime-wool sheep on 5,000 acres of land across two properties in rural Taralga and Crookwell, south-west of Sydney, he told I&T News.

O’Brien planned his exit from AMP Capital with Stephen Dunne, the institution’s CEO, far ahead of his departure in late 2010 to initiate a “relatively smooth” transition to new CIO David Kiddie.

Kiddie joined the manager in November 2009 to lead its multi-asset group after an extensive career in the UK, which included tenures as CIO at ABN Amro Asset Management and as an investment advisor to pension funds with AllenbridgeEPIC.

O’Brien was confident that Kiddie had “the requisite skills” to lead AMP Capital’s investment operations, while Dunne was unavailable for comment as I&T News went to press.

O’Brien, who ran AMP Capital’s Future Directions Funds and other multi-manager products before becoming CIO, said he would remain open to professional opportunities in the investment industry.

For now, however, he was concentrating on developing a farm management strategy for his new ventures, which coincide with an anticipated upswing in the soft commodities cycle.

“Soft commodities, in particular wool and beef, haven’t done as well as hard commodities lately but there are early signs that things are starting to change,” O’Brien said, flagging that a decline in sheep stock, from 180 million to 70 million in recent years, meant it was a good time start grazing livestock.

O’Brien, who studied agricultural science and worked on farms before joining AMP in 1992, was strongly motivated by the new challenge.

“In a sense, it’s about keeping the learning curve relatively steep.”

He became a registered wool classer in his university days, but until now had not put these skills to use.

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